Carlos Sainz is aiming to secure his first podium finish of the F1 2023 season at the Spanish Grand Prix after admitting he “needed” a breakthrough result in qualifying in Barcelona.
After Ferrari unveiled a major upgrade – including a more conventional sidepod concept – on Friday in Spain, their two drivers experienced wildly contrasting fortunes in qualifying.
While team-mate Charles Leclerc suffered his first Q1 elimination in four years, Sainz was inspired en route to a front-row start at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya.
Despite leading Leclerc in the points standings, Sainz has had an inconsistent start to the new season and was widely criticised after falling from fourth on the grid to eighth at last weekend’s Monaco GP.
With Sainz also incurring a costly time penalty for speeding in the pit lane during the race in Miami last month, the Madrid-born driver acknowledged that a return to form at his home race is very timely.
Put to him that P2 on the grid represented his best qualifying performance of the season, he responded: “Yeah – and I needed it.
“It was super tight, very, very tricky conditions out there today and even getting through Q1/Q2 without any issues and putting [together] a good lap only with one set in Q3 was probably one of the most tricky qualis I’ve had here in Barcelona in terms of conditions.
“But we did it. I think we are in the best possible position going into tomorrow and now we can focus in trying to get that podium tomorrow.”
Although Sainz’s time for second on the grid was half a second slower than the lap for pole position set by Max Verstappen, the Ferrari driver was pleased to emerge on top of the highly competitive group of drivers lagging behind Red Bull in Barcelona.
He added: “I was very good today. I felt like I was driving very well.
“It’s always one tenth here, one tenth there, but I was pushing everything. I didn’t leave anything on the table today. I was pushing flat out.
“It was very tight even with McLaren, with Alpine, with Mercedes, Aston [Martin] – we were all in the same group basically this weekend.
“So I think P2 is as far as I could make it today and that 12.7 [was] a pretty good lap.”
Sainz has routinely excelled at his home race over the years and qualified P5 in just his fifth grand prix appearance for the Toro Rosso team in 2015, and ran as high as third in the early stages of the 2016 race.
However, he has never finished higher than fourth in nine previous starts in Barcelona.