“It was looking bad at one point” — Sainz reflects on “hectic” moment in F1 Chinese GP qualifying

Photo credit: Scuderia Ferrari
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It was certainly an eventful Saturday for Carlos Sainz. 

After a scrappy sprint race where he made contact with Fernando Alonso and engaged in a battle with his Ferrari teammate—a clash Charles Leclerc deemed to be over the limit—Sainz also had a tense moment in Q2.

Sainz ran wide in the final corner and touched the gravel, which sent him spinning across the track and into the barrier, triggering a red flag. Although it initially looked like it was game over for the Spaniard, he eventually got going again and managed to trundle back to the pitlane, missing a front wing. 

After assessing the car for damage the team ultimately sent Sainz back out once the session resumed. 

“Yeah, obviously very hectic moment there in Q2 with the crash,” Sainz commented afterwards.

“Just did a simple mistake, hit the inside kerb a bit too hard, that threw me a bit off line, touched the gravel on the exit, clipped the gravel and spun. Then right in the last moment before hitting the wall I managed to turn the wheel a bit and crash in a better angle than what I was, in the direction that I was going.

“Probably this saved the day because we were… it was looking bad at one point. From there on, did a very strong lap in Q2 to recover from that moment, got the confidence more or less back, if you can call it like that, and put together some decent laps.”

There was clearly no loss of performance on Sainz’s side as he posted a time that comfortably enabled him to advance to Q3. 

“We had to change the front wing and [it] was delivering a bit differently, so the balance changed a bit, every front wing behaves a bit differently,” he explained. 

“And obviously there was some taping in the car which for sure didn’t help, but still, even with all that, the moment of quali there and the adrenaline and the heart rate being quite high, to recover the way we did is a good thing. And yeah, we start P7 tomorrow.”

Performance wise, it’s been a mixed bag so far for the Ferrari duo.

McLaren’s Lando Norris qualified ahead of the Ferraris in both qualifying sessions, while Ferrari appeared to have the edge in race conditions. 

“I think the cars we had in front today anyway are quicker over one lap this weekend,” said Sainz. “Long corners, medium, high speed, long duration corners, which is where the Ferrari always tends to struggle. So hopefully tomorrow in race pace we’re better off.

“In the end it’s probably even worse than Suzuka, I would say, over one lap,” he continued.

“And that in combination with a weird surface that doesn’t seem to be giving us much grip this weekend just shows that over one lap we were nothing special.

“I don’t think there was much more in the car today. Hopefully [in] the race will have this one or two tenths turnaround that we sometimes see and we can get those cars tomorrow because it’s a long race.”

Sainz admitted that race pace will be key if Ferrari wants to fight for a podium finish.

“I think we need to focus on more than the Red Bull and just see how in terms of race pace we can overcome the two McLarens and the Aston. They’ve shown better pace over one lap this weekend. Over a full race distance I’m hoping we’ll get our chances.

“The problem is it’s three cars to overtake. Normally in a race, like if you look at me in Suzuka, to overtake Lando I had to extend two stints to get one car. To overtake three cars tomorrow, you really need to show proper race pace.

“To overtake all three will be tricky because you wear a lot the tyres while trying to overtake one car, then you need to overtake another. So let’s see. My feeling is we can come back but we need to show much better pace than today.”