Carlos Sainz Jnr, Ferrari, Suzuka, 2023

Sainz blames late set-up change for qualifying performance at Japanese GP

Formula 1

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Carlos Sainz Jnr believes a late change to his car’s set-up compromised his qualifying result for the Japanese Grand Prix.

The Ferrari driver who took pole position for the last two rounds qualified sixth at Suzuka. His Q3 lap time was almost a second slower than that of pole winner Max Verstappen.

After finishing Friday’s practice sessions second and fourth, Sainz attempted a different set-up for Saturday which affected his preparation on a circuit where he expected Ferrari would struggle.

“We knew before coming here that this track would expose us a bit more with the high-speed characteristics,” said Sainz.

“It was never going to be easy. I took the approach yesterday and this morning to try different things on the car.

“By quali I saw it was not quite working, and we had to go back to a more basic set-up which in the end probably ended up compromising my quali preparation and my weekend in general.”

Sainz was three tenths of a second behind team mate Charles Leclerc who qualified fourth, and last weekend’s race winner believes the different set-ups may explain the gap.

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“Charles must have done a very good job but also I didn’t get a clean sector one in my last lap, which probably accentuated a bit the difference,” added Sainz.

“But, I’d say he’s been a tenth or two quicker all weekend and probably me being a bit distracted trying so many set-ups and never really getting into a rhythm didn’t help.”

Leclerc was relatively upbeat about his qualifying performance having come within one tenth of a second of taking a place on the front row.

“I’m happy with my own performance because I think it was a really good lap,” said Leclerc. “I don’t think there was much left in that lap, so that was great, but it’s only P4 so that’s a bit of a shame.”

He was in a battle with both McLaren drivers for second on the grid, but was left astonished by Verstappen’s gap of six tenths over the rest of the field knowing exactly where Ferrari lost time.

“It’s crazy,” said Leclerc. “They’ve been really on it straight from FP1. We understood that there was quite a bit of work to do especially in sector one because in sector one we are basically losing most of the time around the lap.

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“Also if you look compared to the McLaren, that’s where we’ve been struggling. In Q3 I did a really good sector one and we’re still far off.”

Leclerc thinks overtaking Oscar Piastri and Lando Norris tomorrow will be a struggle, and is also wary of Red Bull’s Sergio Perez who starts in fifth.

“I think the two Red Bulls will be very quick,” he said. “As much as there was quite a big difference between Max and Checo in the low fuel, I think in the high fuel they were much closer together.

“So I expect Checo to be quick tomorrow. The McLarens, we are much closer to them in terms of race pace but they will probably have free air so it’s going to be difficult to overtake.”

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Author information

Ed Hardy
In 2019, Ed started working on Formula 1 writing articles during race weekends. Alongside that, he also built up experience in football working on...
Claire Cottingham
Claire has worked in motorsport for much of her career, covering a broad mix of championships including Formula One, Formula E, the BTCC, British...

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One comment on “Sainz blames late set-up change for qualifying performance at Japanese GP”

  1. Too bad, Carlos, you are probably getting the wrong end of Fezza’s strategy tomorrow

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