Polesitter Sainz expects Russell to be on “our tail the whole race with the race pace they have”

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The Spanish driver secured his fifth career pole position, the second in a row after the Monza start in front of the Tifosi with a very dominant display throughout the weekend, going fastest in FP2, FP3, Q2 and Q3.

Starting from the very front of the grid in Singapore will definitely aid in Sainz in his mission to score the first non-Red Bull race win of the year, especially on a track historically positive for Ferrari drivers.

Sainz explained how he achieved his P1 start, highlighting the good form and performance he has been sporting since the Italian GP, where he scored his first pole and podium of the season:

“Again, a bit like in Monza, really hitting the ground running from FP1 and feeling very confident all through the sessions and putting it together in Q3.”

In spite of the chaos of the traffic-packed qualifying, which also featured a red flag and saw championship leader Max Verstappen not advance to Q3, the Spaniard was able to have a clear session.

“Just focusing, not doing any mistakes in that lap, keeping it clean around here in Singapore, normally it pays off. It was a bit of a messy session for everyone, but we kept the focus, put a good lap in in the end and pole position.”

However, the Ferrari driver warns that holding on to the top spot during the race won’t be as easy as the practice and qualifying pace might imply, as it has been a struggle for both drivers for the whole season in race trim, compared to the other top teams:

Again, a bit like in Monza, we know our weakness is always the race pace and it’s where we always pay the price, but I think the team has been doing a great job the last couple of weekends to understand the package, understand the car.”

Sainz will try to score his second Formula 1 win tomorrow, targeting that elusive top spot that had seemed close enough in the early stages of the Italian GP on a track that “has always suited Ferrari quite well”, adding that it would be even more special to be the one to break Red Bull’s very impressive record series of wins:

“That would feel amazing, and that’s the target: to try to get the win tomorrow, I’ll give it everythintg like I did in Monza and hopefully tomorrow it’s enough,” he concluded.

Joined by front-row starter George Russell, he was asked about his expectations for the race start and what in his opinion could happen between the two of them at Turn 1 while battling for the lead.

I don’t know, hopefully nothing. I create a good getaway and I lead him into Turn 1 and have a relaxing day in the heat of Singapore, but I know that that is not going to be the case and that they are going to be on our tail the whole race with the race pace they have.

It’s going to be a long day. But I think we can hold them off – perfect,” he summed up.

Photo credit: Scuderia Ferrari

Ferrari’s Team Principal Fred Vasseur commented on the strong qualifying session of his team, especially praising the consistent speed and pace throughout every session Sainz has been showing in the last two rounds.

The Frenchman admitted he wasn’t “expecting” such a positive performance on the particular track in Singapore as well after Monza, a track he was sure would suit the SF-23 better:

“Different tracks and different feelings, Monza was very important for us at home and in front of the Tifosi. I don’t want to say it was expected, but we were in good shape so far at high speed tracks, in Canada, Australia and so, we were expecting good pace in Monza but it was a bit less expected in Singapore. It’s a good feeling.”

Asked if any upgrades or modifications to get Sainz’s car more to his liking had been made ahead of the Asian race, Vasseur denied, focusing on the very tight gaps between the top ten drivers- including Sainz’s teammate Charles Leclerc missing out on a front row start by only 0.007s:

“Not too much, but I think that into the group, – I don’t want to speak about Max this weekend, but between P2 and P10 so far, for one or two tenths you can move from the top to the bottom.”

Scoring his first podium of the year at Monza of all places, he added, must have been a confidence boost for the Spanish driver, in his third season with the Italian Scuderia:

“Proof that the extra confidence after Monza is helping us. From the beginning of the weekend we were always there, Carlos was always at the top of the field, and it’s also like this that you are building up the pace and the confidence.”

Another key factor in his back-to-back strong driving displays is the consistency throughout the weekend, as Sainz has been able to find the right tweaks very early in the track time allotted:

“The big difference for Carlos, I think, it’s that, if you compare the first part of the season and after Monza, is that he has been into the pace from lap 1 in FP1, where he was struggling a bit more at the beginning of the season and sometimes he had to put on another set in Q1.

“From Monza he has been there from FP1, and I think he did a very good job in the preparation of the weekend as well,” he concluded with more praise for the polesitter.