The Turkish Grand Prix hasn’t got off to the start Carlos Sainz was expecting, instead it was the “strangest Friday” of his life.
The last time Formula 1 visited Istanbul Park was back in 2011, several years before Sainz became a part of the grid.
But it wasn’t what he or anyone was expecting.
Having not been in use by Formula 1 for nine years the surface was relaid ahead of the series’ return, but the extreme lack of grip meant that it was more a case of who could keep their car on the track on Friday instead of who could find the extra tenth.
Sainz said it was the strangest Friday of his life after finishing the afternoon session in P14.
“The strangest session I’ve done in my life, the strangest Friday,” he told reporters at Istanbul Park.
“You need to think that [ahead of the weekend] we were thinking of 1:22s/1:23s lap times and this morning we were doing 1:45s…
“So you can imagine how difficult it was and how tricky it was. So very strange but at the same time a good challenge for ingenious drivers, a different challenge that I’m ready to embrace and see what happens.”
Sainz’s FP1 was cut short by what appeared to be an issue related to the power unit, and the Spaniard admitted that it wasn’t ideal considering how tricky the track is proving to master.
“Not ideal to lose all those laps in the morning, mainly because it’s a new track to me and it’s very tricky conditions,” he said.
“So it’s definitely something we need to look into to make sure it doesn’t happen again, but at the same time I could recover some laps in FP2 and I feel ready for tomorrow.”
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Sainz’s team-mate Lando Norris described Friday practice as a “drift school” present on his 21st birthday.
“It was a fun day, drift school today, that was my birthday present,” he said.
“It was nice, tricky in a Formula 1 car, a lot of power, downforce and big snaps so most laps you’re crapping yourself a bit, especially the high-speed Turn 8.
“It’s fun to push the car and be on the limit like that all the time trying to build tyre temperature which is the difficulty of it, to get the tyres into the window.
“Also in the window things feel a little bit better, it’s just very difficult to do that in the first place.”
McLaren find themselves locked in a fierce battle with Renault and Racing Point over P3 in the Constructors’ Championship, so whoever gets their tyres working the fastest will have a huge advantage.
But Norris highlighted Ferrari and AlphaTauri as huge threats going into the Turkish GP.
“There are other things in play which we need to look after too, but at the same time it’s a chance where we can make a bigger impact than normal,” he explained.
“But we still have Ferrari who are a lot quicker than us and AlphaTauri who are a little bit quicker, so if we make some improvements I think we can fight AlphaTauri a little bit more but they were convincingly ahead for the whole day today.
“It’s not going to be easy but we have a chance to score some good point this weekend if things go smoothly, but it’s very tricky to do that.
“The weather could play a big part too, it’s meant to be raining tomorrow. It was slippery today so I don’t know what it’s going to be like tomorrow. Maybe we’ll have more grip.”