Carlos Sainz Is Not Sure of Winning the Race in Japan After Reality Set In During Qualifying

Carlos Sainz Is Not Sure of Winning the Race in Japan After Reality Set In During Qualifying
Credits: IMAGO PanoramiC

Ferrari kept the progress trajectory steady as they extracted a perfect 1-2 result in Australia. Experts and fans expected them to keep the momentum going as F1 moved to Japan this weekend. However, the darts have landed far from their target as Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc failed to impress in qualifying. The Spaniard has, therefore, curbed his expectations of a race win and will instead concentrate on getting a P3 finish.

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Formu1a.uno quoted Sainz as saying, “Honestly, we are perhaps stronger in the race than in qualifying, but not as it seems in the long runs because I think the Red Bull was fully fueled. We will fight with Lando [Norris, starting P3] if he allows us because in qualifying he was two-tenths faster. Realistically, third place is the goal. We will compete for the podium with McLaren.”

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Carlos Sainz managed to register a respectable P4 starting position on Saturday. His teammate, Charles Leclerc, however, struggled a lot more and managed a lowly P8. Therefore, a target of P3 against Lando Norris seems like a realistic target for Sainz. Leclerc, on the other hand, will need a stroke of luck to aim for a podium finish.

However, Ferrari’s gap to Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez is alarming. Sainz was close to half a second slower in one-lap pace to leader Verstappen. Meanwhile, Leclerc had another tenth of a second between him and the Dutchman. So, considering Ferrari’s lack of pace this weekend, what could be a realistic finish for them at Suzuka?

Can Carlos Sainz beat Lando Norris’ McLaren?

If Max Verstappen’s DNF in Australia is put aside, Ferrari put up a dominant display to register a perfect 1-2 result. Carlos Sainz successfully overtook the reigning champion before the latter suffered a race-ending brake issue.

Similarly, Charles Leclerc did his part in surviving the pressure from the two McLarens and Sergio Perez’s Red Bull by finishing second. However, during this weekend’s Japanese GP, Ferrari just do not seem to have had the pace to fight Red Bull.

The Prancing Horse will need to evaluate where they lacked pace, with Leclerc himself having admitted that he is clueless about why was he so poor during qualifying. While Ferrari lacked pace on a one-lap, their race simulations seemed promising as the SF24 looks to be just one-tenth off the pace of the RB20.

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Then, why is only a P3 finish a realistic target for Carlos Sainz? The Suzuka circuit, despite its cult following among F1 drivers, is infamous for the lack of overtaking opportunities. Perhaps, that is the reason why Sainz chose Lando Norris as his realistic target for the race.

But the Papaya outfit looks to be on an upward trajectory as well. After having subpar performances in the first three races, Norris gave positive feedback about the car’s performance in Japan. Therefore, it seems that Sainz will have his work cut out on Sunday if he is to overtake the McLaren of Norris.

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