Carlos Sainz Jr. admitted to being ‘pretty satisfied’ with his performance during Qualifying for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on Saturday, particularly on the back of an underwhelming Friday at the Yas Marina Circuit where he felt he was struggling to get the best out of his SF21.
The Scuderia Ferrari driver will line-up fifth on the grid on Sunday, and the result of Qualifying confirms the progress the Spaniard has made on Saturdays throughout his first season with the team in 2021.
Sainz says it is likely to be difficult to overtake during the final race of the season on Sunday, but he is eager to end his first year with Ferrari on a high and by taking fifth place in the Drivers’ Championship.
“I am pretty satisfied with my performance today, after yesterday was one of the most difficult Fridays in a long time and we’ve managed to recover well,” said Sainz. “We worked hard to put together a competitive car so my thanks to the entire team.
“This session confirms I’ve made solid progress in qualifying since the beginning of the year, so that’s another positive from today. Sector three was key: not pushing the tyres too much in the first two sectors and going for it at the end translated into a good lap.
“Looking at the timesheet, it could have been even better since Lando [Norris] is only a few hundredths of a second ahead of me.
“Tomorrow in the race it’s not going to be easy to pass but we will try our best to give him a good fight and gain some positions. I want to end my first season with Scuderia Ferrari on a high. Let’s go racing!”
“We had the potential to do better today” – Charles Leclerc
Team-mate Charles Leclerc will start seventh, but he was disappointed in his own performance in Qualifying, feeling he used too much of his tyres in the first two sectors that meant he was struggling with them in the final sector.
Leclerc believes he had the potential to match his team-mate in the session, but he lacked grip in the final sector, which meant he ended up 0.120 seconds behind Sainz, with Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team’s Valtteri Bottas splitting the duo.
The Monegasque racer says it is going to be tough to fight through the pack on Sunday, but he will be fighting to end the year on a positive note as he battles Sainz and McLaren F1 Team’s Lando Norris for fifth place in the Drivers’ Championship.
“We had the potential to do better today,” said Leclerc. “My first and second sectors were coming together very well, but I probably pushed a bit too much so that I had no grip left by the time I arrived at the last sector. It’s a shame, but that’s life.
“It’s going to be tough for us to fight back tomorrow, but we will do our best. We are strong in terms of our race pace, so hopefully we can put it all together one last time this season.”