Sainz expecting a ‘fun’ start against Norris

Henry Valantine
Carlos Sainz and Lando Norris after qualifying in Russia.

Carlos Sainz and Lando Norris embrace as they line up on the front row at the 2021 Russian GP.

Lining up alongside his friend on the front row in Russia, Carlos Sainz reckons his battle off the line against Lando Norris will be “fun”.

An enthralling qualifying session at Sochi saw Norris take his first Formula 1 pole position in changing conditions, with his former McLaren team-mate Sainz set to join him on the front row of the grid.

Despite it being a long run down to the first braking point on Sunday, Sainz is expecting his grid slot off the racing line to be a factor that hampers him, even though he is on the front row, but is excited for the challenge nonetheless.

“It’s going to be fun,” he smiled. “Hopefully I can get Lando at the start or, if not, just get a good tow because starting P2 here, dirty side, is really penalising.

“I’ll need to make sure I do my homework overnight to make sure we don’t lose too much off the line on that dirty side and then see if I can get into a tow, or why not pass him into Turn 2?”

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After third practice was cancelled due to driving rain in Russia, the weather cleared up in time for the drivers to set their flying laps to decide the grid.

With the tricky conditions on track, Sainz admitted it was tough going – particularly when the moment came to swap to dry tyres.

“It was very tricky, to be honest,” said the Ferrari driver. “It was right from the beginning a very tricky qualifying, but right after Q2 I could see there was a chance the slicks would come into play.

“We did a very good strategy, pitting [with] two laps to the end, getting the slicks up to temperature and then pulled out a pretty strong lap. Unfortunately, I was one of the first ones to cross the line, which didn’t allow me to exploit the whole track conditions, but it was still a good lap on the limit.”

While the McLaren comfortably outpaced the Ferrari last time out at Monza, Sainz is hopeful that if the weather stays dry he should be closer to the pace on Sunday – but does not expect to keep the Mercedes cars behind him during the race.

“This weekend we are looking a bit stronger,” he added. “Probably our weakest conditions have been the intermediates. We still have some issues there to solve. But in the dry we’ve been competitive.

“Obviously, there’s the two Mercedes and the Red Bull of Perez that will be much quicker tomorrow and we expect them to go through, but we will put on a fight and try to have some fun.”