Sainz Reflects on ‘Weird’ Qualifying: “I think I managed to extract the maximum from the car”

by Paul Hensby

Carlos Sainz Jr. earned a reprimand from the stewards at the Autodromo Nazionale Monza for his part in the debacle at the end of Q3, although the Spaniard was one of the two drivers to actually make it to the chequered flag as drivers fought over track position.

With the tow around Monza worth a lot of lap time, drivers were looking to be towards the back of the pack on their final runs, but such was the desire not to be at the front, everyone slowed everyone else, with seven drivers failing to make it to the line before the chequered flag fell as a result.

Sainz, along with Nico Hülkenberg and Lance Stroll, were handed reprimands after the session, with the McLaren F1 Team driver setting the seventh fastest time, which he felt was the best he could have hoped for in the circumstances.

“It was quite an eventful qualifying for everyone,” admitted Sainz.  “A weird last run we aren’t used to seeing. Anyway, I think I managed to extract the maximum from the car and, as a team, we executed a very solid quali, so we should be happy with our overall performance today.

“P7 is a good starting position for tomorrow and it gives us a good fighting chance for the race and for points. The weather might play a big role, so we’ll be ready for different scenarios.”

Team-mate Lando Norris played a key part in getting Sainz through to Q3, with the Briton giving the Spaniard a good tow down the front straight at the end of Q2. 

With Norris already knowing he would be starting at the back of the field thanks to a Renault power unit change, the 2018 FIA Formula 2 runner-up did everything he could to aid Sainz and ensure he qualified ahead of the other drivers with grid penalties for engine changes, Pierre Gasly and Max Verstappen.

“It’s been a reasonable day,” admitted Norris.  “I was already on the back foot from yesterday. Even in FP3, because I was still a bit more race-focused, when it comes to the qualifying laps, the more situations you can be in to prepare for that, the better.

“I feel what I did today was what I needed to do. I qualified ahead of Verstappen and ahead of Gasly, the two other drivers who have penalties. I also helped Carlos into Q3. Everything we could do, we did – so a good day.”

Team Principal Andreas Seidl said McLaren achieved the primary targets they were aiming for in Qualifying, which were to get Sainz into Q3 and Norris ahead of Gasly and Verstappen. 

He feels the performance in Italy has been much stronger in free practice and Qualifying than it was seven days ago at Spa-Francorchamps, and there is hope that this strong pace can translate into good points on Sunday afternoon.

“In Belgium, last weekend, we struggled on Friday and Saturday, so coming to Monza the aim was very much to improve our performance in low-downforce trim,” said Seidl.  “Our specific targets for qualifying were to get Carlos into Q3, and ensure Lando could start the race tomorrow in front of Gasly and Verstappen – the two other cars with penalties.

“We achieved both targets, and yesterday in practice we saw good long-run pace, so we’re optimistic we can fight for good points.  The performance in qualifying saw great teamwork from the drivers and the car crews, getting the cars out at precisely the right times in Q2, ensuring Carlos could benefit from Lando’s tow.

“Obviously Lando’s starting position is compromised by his PU penalties, but we’re here to fight and we’re very much looking forward to an exciting Italian Grand Prix.”

Lando Norris went into Qualifying knowing he would start at the back of the grid following an engine change – Credit: Octane Photographic Ltd

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