‘It was a long time coming!’ – Sainz revels in COTA pole as Leclerc plots fightback after grid penalty
Carlos Sainz expressed delight over his qualifying performance at the United States Grand Prix as he overcame recent near misses to beat Ferrari team mate Charles Leclerc and Red Bull’s Max Verstappen to top spot.
Sainz’s late lap of 1m 34.356s was enough to edge out Leclerc and Verstappen for his third pole position of the season – having claimed P1 on merit at Silverstone and inherited it at Spa-Francorchamps after Verstappen’s grid penalty.
Speaking after qualifying, Sainz said: “It was a lot of fun. It was very tricky out there with these winds; it’s so gusty that every corner is a bit of an adventure with these cars and you don’t know how much grip you are going to get or how much grip to expect.
“I managed to put together a good lap without mistakes and [claim a] pole position that was a long time coming after a few qualis in the dry getting very close to it, but not getting there.”
As for his race day prospects, Sainz added: “I’m not going to lie, for tomorrow Red Bull are still favourites. They normally get us in the race because Max does a good job and Red Bull have a very good car in race trim. But we are going to do everything we can to try and stay ahead tomorrow and win the race.”
Although he qualified second, Leclerc will not join Sainz on the front row of the grid, with the Monegasque taking a 10-place penalty due to Ferrari fitting out his car with multiple new power unit elements.
As such, he is braced for a fight back from the midfield, commenting: “I did my best, [but] the last lap wasn’t the best. Carlos did a better job today and deserves to be on pole. I’ll be starting a bit further back because of the penalty, but the goal is to try and come back at the front as quickly as possible.
After the disappointment of dropping out of contention for the 2022 title, Leclerc is now focused on securing second in the drivers’ standings, with Red Bull rival Sergio Perez – who will drop from fourth on the grid with an engine penalty of his own – currently holding a one-point advantage.
Asked about his approach in the circumstances, he said: “I will give my best, as always. Again, we are starting 12th or 11th with the engine penalty that we have. No crazy risks, but if there is opportunity, I will be there to take it.”