Sainz: Qatar track ‘surprised everyone’ in practice

Date published: November 19 2021 - Henry Valantine

Ferrari driver Carlos Sainz in practice under the floodlights. Qatar November 2021.

Ferrari drivers Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc both enjoyed the challenge of Qatar, with Sainz saying the sheer speed of the layout has “surprised everyone”.

The majority of the drivers on the grid have spoken of their enjoyment of driving a new circuit to Formula 1, as well as the high-speed layout proving to be both challenging and enjoyable up and down the field.

But after a difficult FP2 session that saw the Ferrari duo rank P10 and P13 respectively in what were representative conditions under the floodlights, both drivers admitted they need to find improvements overnight on Friday.

“The first day on an unknown track is always exciting and challenging, as it’s obviously a completely new experience,” Sainz told reporters in Doha.

“To be honest, I think this track has surprised everyone with how fast it is and the speed we are doing around the corners. That translates into having to work harder on the set-ups we originally had in mind and having to adapt throughout the day.

“We are not exactly where we want to be, so we need to improve the car overnight because the competition is very tight.

“I have full confidence that we can manage it and hopefully tomorrow we will be further up the order.”

Leclerc added that he has enjoyed the opportunity to “mix things up” by heading to a new country and circuit, and feels that tyre degradation could be a tricky challenge to negotiate this weekend.

“I really like the track here at Losail, it is great,” said Leclerc. “It’s always interesting to mix things up and see a new venue on the calendar.

“We put in a good number of laps across our two cars today, getting to know the characteristics of the circuit and gathering as much data as possible.

“Our main focus will probably be on qualifying preparation because our long-runs were already quite good.

“What will be key is balancing the first and last sectors, due to tyre overheating that is caused by the high temperatures here.”

Ferrari brand ambassador and former test driver Marc Gene voiced his concerns surrounding the overall speed of the car on Friday, with a “difficult day” of practice running between both cars.

While the drivers enjoyed taking on a new circuit, the former Minardi driver feels there is still a lot of time to find between the Scuderia pair for the remainder of the weekend.

“We have something to understand, most of all. I can say that we did not optimise the potential of the car today, so don’t look too much at the times on the soft tyre,” Gene told Sky Italia.

“To give you an example, at the end Charles wanted to do even more laps, but we have to do the long runs too.

“So a difficult day because for me the track is changing a lot, the drivers struggle to understand how to exploit this soft tyre with a colder track. So you’ll see more tomorrow the potentials of the cars.”

Additional reporting by Luca Brambilla