Carlos Sainz Jr. will start the Qatar Grand Prix from seventh on the grid, with the Spaniard admitting the decision to qualify in Q2 on the medium tyre was a big gamble.
The Scuderia Ferrari driver only just made it into the top ten in Q2, but once inside the top ten, Sainz showed he had the pace to be fighting at the front of the midfield.
Sainz will be surrounded by drivers on the soft tyres at the start, which he believes will make the opening of the race a little tricky, but he believes that he will have the advantage and be in the fight for good points on Sunday evening under the floodlights at the Losail International Circuit.
“P7 is a good qualifying result, given where we were yesterday and it shows the progress we’ve made today with the car,” said Sainz. “In Q2 we took a big risk running twice with the Medium and thankfully it worked after a very strong first attempt.
“On Softs it would have been easier to get into Q3, but given our tyre degradation, we believe the Medium tyre is the best for our race, although I’ll be surrounded by Soft runners at the start and that is going to be extremely challenging. In Q3 I was able to put together a good lap but didn’t manage to improve on that P7.
“The start on the clean side of the track is good news for tomorrow and we’ll try to strategically play our different tyre choice to maximise the result.
“I feel like the huge effort made by the entire team yesterday to understand what we needed to address today has paid off, and that is another positive to take from this session. Now let’s focus on the race!”
Cracked Chassis leaves Leclerc Outside the Top Ten
Team-mate Charles Leclerc admitted he was surprised to find himself eliminated in Q2, with the Monegasque racer ending only thirteenth on the grid.
Post-session, the team identified a crack to the chassis, which will be changed before the race, but the problem meant that Leclerc struggled for performance in Qualifying and left him outside of the top ten.
“This was definitely unexpected,” said Leclerc. “If I am ever off the pace, I know if it was due to the balance not being right, or down to me making a mistake. But neither was the case today.
“I never felt that the tyres were in the right window and I was sliding around all the time, limited by the lack of grip. On top of that, the damage to the chassis caused by the kerbs in Q1 certainly didn’t help!
“So, I have to sit down with the team and carefully analyse all the data to see if something significant was not working properly or can be improved. We have lots of work ahead of us, especially for our mechanics and it won’t be an easy race tomorrow.
“Hopefully we can take advantage of starting with a free choice of fresh tyres.”