Leclerc and Sainz rue ‘lost time’ in final sector after Verstappen narrowly beats them to Suzuka pole
Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz felt they could have edged out Max Verstappen during qualifying for the Japanese Grand Prix, had the last sector of their respective final laps been stronger.
Both of the Ferrari drivers improved on their second Q3 runs at Suzuka, while provisional pole-sitter Verstappen failed to find gains in his Red Bull, but Leclerc wound up 0.010s adrift, with Sainz 0.057s off the Dutchman.
With Verstappen’s initial lap proving strong enough for pole, Leclerc pondered where the time went begging, as he explained how he attempted to balance tyre management over the course of the lap.
“It’s a very tricky lap around here, because whenever you are fast in the first sector, then you lose out in the last sector. I tried to find that balance in the last lap, but lost a little bit the tyres in the last sector and lost a little bit of time,” said the Monegasque.
Turning his attentions to the race, Leclerc said: “[There’s a] very limited amount of data going in, so that is always a challenge, but the feeling was good in the car. Let’s wait and see [what happens with] the conditions. It seems that [there] is going to [be] a bit of rain somewhere in the race, so it should be fun.”
Sainz echoed his team mate’s comments as he expressed frustration at falling just short in another close battle for pole – the Spaniard eager to add to his P1 results at Silverstone and Spa-Francorchamps earlier this season.
“It was a good lap, clean all the way until the last chicane, [but] there I probably overcooked a bit the tyre and it cost me quite a bit of lap time. [With] another half a tenth we could have got there, but yeah... [I’m] a bit fed up of being half a tenth off from pole!” Sainz commented.
“I think it’s been a few qualis now consecutively since Zandvoort, also before the summer break, where we are all three very tight with each other, but somehow it tends to fall into Max or Charles’ hands instead of mine. Hopefully towards the end of the season, I will end up getting one and get it out of the way.”