Carlos Sainz said the complete change in conditions between FP3 and qualifying for the Russian GP did he and McLaren no favours.
Sainz finished the final practice session at the Sochi Autodrom in P3, but come qualifying the clouds rolled in and the wind changed direction, with Sergio Perez even reporting a few drops of rain at one stage.
Sainz went on to qualify P6 behind Perez and Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo, and the Spaniard believes his MCL35 didn’t react well to the change in conditions.
“I think we must be happy because the lap in Q3 was a very good lap,” he told reporters at the Sochi Autodrom.
“The only thing is after FP3 we had a very good feeling with the car, and as soon as Q1 started we saw a change in wind direction, we saw the clouds coming and the winds picked up massively, and it was very very difficult for our car.
“Immediately the car started reminding me of Mugello in Sector 1, and I had to reset my expectations, reset my references and go again.
“I think after FP3 I thought I could have outqualified Daniel and Sergio Perez, but as soon as Q1 started I realised it was going to be tricky.
“So I’m happy to be not so far away and in the fight tomorrow.”
Asked if he could take the fight to Perez and Ricciardo ahead in the race, Sainz replied: “I’ll let you know after the laps to the grid because our car changes a lot depending on the conditions.
“If the conditions go back to how they were in FP3, calm wind conditions, all of a sudden we can have very strong pace.
“But if it’s like today for quali, then it’s going to be different, so I’ll judge tomorrow.”
Qualifying ends in Sochi. ⏱️🏁 It's P6 for Carlos and P8 for Lando.
— McLaren (@McLarenF1) September 26, 2020
Sainz’s team-mate Lando Norris will start from P8 with the Briton feeling like his weekend has been rather scruffy.
“It’s not terrible. I think it hasn’t been the cleanest of weekends for myself, just with doing a lot of the aero running and a lot of my laps always having traffic,” he said.
“Not all of them, but some of the important ones. In Q1 I had to use two sets of tyres which compromised me in Q3 with only having one set.
“We’re fighting for hundredths and thousandths and tenths, so as soon as I don’t get those one set of tyres, there’s a decent amount to gain from having two sets.
“Especially on a track like this where there’s a lot of track improvement and you want to get in a good rhythm.
“I think with that in mind I’m not disappointed with P8, of course it could be better, but it’s still a good position for tomorrow.”
Sadly Norris doesn’t believe he will be able to make much of an impression on the cars ahead in the race.
“It’s going to be very tight, we have decent race pace, it’s not spectacular or miles better than everyone else or a lot worse than everyone,” he explained.
“I think to race past cars ahead of us is going to be very difficult.
“We just have to try and have a good start, stay out of mistakes an try to have a good strategy.
“But it’s not an easy track to overtake on and there’s not a lot of degradation, so it’s not the easiest of tracks all together.”
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