Carlos Sainz may be starting from pole position for Ferrari in Singapore, but the Spaniard will still be watching his mirrors for a fightback from Max Verstappen.
Sainz stormed to a second consecutive pole position by just pipping George Russell’s Mercedes in Q3, with Red Bull out of the equation after both Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez were knocked out in Q2.
Neither Max Verstappen nor Sergio Perez made it through into Q3, with no extraneous circumstances or misfortunes, and the Red Bull RB19 has looked far less assured on track than the car that has claimed victory in every single race so far this year.
Carlos Sainz still wary of Red Bull’s race pace
With Friday’s practice pace still suggesting that Red Bull’s race pace will be better than their qualifying showing, some of the leading drivers are wary of Verstappen being able to recover from a lowly starting position.
For now, the reigning World Champion is set to start the Singapore Grand Prix from 11th, but he faces three separate stewards investigations which could result in a grid drop to move him even further back in the order.
Overtaking is far more difficult in Singapore than at many other venues, but Sainz says it’s impossible to rule out the Dutch driver at this point.
“I don’t think you can ever discard Max and Red Bull, no, they might turn up tomorrow with the race pace they’ve had all season, and still manage somehow to make it through the field,” he said.
“But, for sure around here, they have a much more difficult task and it’s a much better opportunity than Monza.
“I think, tomorrow, the race is going to be between the top five starting cars.”
With Red Bull knocked out at the end of Q2, Sainz said he had suspected Verstappen wasn’t going to be in the battle for pole position anyway – but the win may be a different story.
“My engineer told me the two Red Bulls were out and, obviously, it was not bad news to have!” he said.
“More looking into tomorrow than today, as qualifying anyway was always going to be a battle with Max, but also with Lando [Norris], George [Russell], and Charles [Leclerc] – I think we were all very tight since practice and it was very tight again in quali.
“I thought the battle for pole position was not going to be affected too much, but the battle for the win, probably. Yeah, it was decent news to receive, for sure.”
‘Best opportunity of the season’ to end Red Bull’s domination
Speaking in the post-session press conference, both Sainz and Leclerc said the poor showing from Red Bull in qualifying, combined with the circuit layout, means this weekend is the best chance all season for another team to put an end to their relentless winning.
“Until now, for sure, because they’ve never been as far [down] as where they are starting now,” Leclerc said, a statement both Sainz and George Russell agreed with.
“On a street track, also. But we cannot discard them, so let’s see. But it’s the best opportunity since the beginning of the season, for sure.”
With Sainz snatching pole position last time out in Monza, only to immediately come under pressure from Verstappen through the opening phase of the race, the Spaniard says he’s aiming to bring home the win this weekend – particularly with the Red Bull driver out of the way.
“It feels very good, I must say,” he said, after snatching pole position by less than half a tenth.
“FP1, P2, P3, building it up and, again, I got another clean lap in Q3 with no mistakes – I knew I had the pace, I knew I could do it and just putting a clean lab together in Q3 gave me pole position again, which is an incredible feeling. More than ever, it’s true that tomorrow, I want to get it done and get that win.”