Carlos Sainz in a ‘good place’ despite Friday deficit to Max Verstappen

Michelle Foster
Carlos Sainz heading up the hill at Spa. Formula 1 Belgium August 2022

Ferrari driver Carlos Sainz heading up the hill at Spa. Belgium August 2022

Carlos Sainz reckons he’s in a “good place” ahead of Sunday’s Belgian Grand Prix despite Max Verstappen dominating Friday’s practice.

The reigning World Champion laid down a 1:45.507 to blitz the competition in Friday’s second practice, his time 0.8s up on Charles Leclerc’s best.

Sainz, who finished fifth fastest, was 1.142s off the pace.

But the good news for the Spaniard is that no matter what happens in Saturday’s qualifying, he’s guaranteed to start the grand prix ahead of three of the four drivers who beat him on Friday.

Verstappen, Leclerc and Lando Norris are all facing grid penalties for exceeding the limits on various engine parts and will make up the back three rows of the grid along with the other three penalised drivers.

That means Sainz could be one of the favourites for the win, the Spaniard saying he believes he’s in a “good place”.

“Overall it was a good Friday,” he said. “I know the end result was not looking very competitive, [but] honestly I was happy with the car.

“In FP1 I felt comfortable with the balance of the car. For FP2 we tried some changes which didn’t really work as expected and we lost the feeling a bit.

“But if you give me back the car from FP1, I’m pretty sure we can be on the pace.

“The long run pace was okay, so I believe we are in a good place for the rest of the weekend.”

But while the Ferrari driver concedes Verstappen’s pace was impressive, he reckons Ferrari can pull it back on the longer runs.

“It is true that Verstappen looked pretty quick, especially in FP2,” he added. “In the long run we were closer, but he seems to be on it this weekend.

“I’m confident we know where to find the lap time [but] we’re going to have to extract the maximum out of [the car].”

Carlos Sainz still believes a first title is on the cards

Sainz will line up on the grid P5 in the Drivers’ Championship with 156 points. That’s 22 behind Leclerc in second place but 102 behind championship leader Verstappen.

The 27-year-old says he’ll keep believing he can win the title until such a time that it is mathematically impossible.

“Statistically, anything is possible. That’s why my intention hasn’t changed,” he says. “I’m still going into every weekend trying to win the race.

“It’s a crazy year we are doing. If you see how consistently the top-two teams are on top, it should be an easy championship where one wins, one finishes second, but it’s not like that.

“There are a lot of points swings, which makes me believe everything is possible. It’s a very different year to anything before as the racing is better, more things happening in the race, and I’m going to believe that until it’s over.”