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Hard work on starts paying off says Sainz after P3 in Sao Paulo GP Sprint

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Carlos Sainz felt he made something of a breakthrough with his race starts at Interlagos as a lightening getaway on softs catapulted him into second from fifth and ultimately yielded a top-three finish in the Sao Paulo GP F1 Sprint.

“[My start] was a really good one,” he said. “It’s been a point to improve for me since I joined Ferrari. I have always felt my starts weren’t as good as they were at McLaren and Renault. I have been working on them – and it was finally good to see it pay off today.”

READ MORE: Bottas wins F1 Sprint to claim pole for Sao Paulo GP as Hamilton fights back from last to P5

The Spaniard held off Verstappen for three laps before succumbing – but he protected his tyres enough thereafter to have enough tyre life left in the closing stages to keep the other Red Bull of Sergio Perez behind to take P3 on the grid for Sunday’s Grand Prix.

“I was calculating and I realised Max had a lot of pace, so I used the lap that Max was overtaking me and those after to manage my tyres as it was going to be tight to the finish on the soft and I wanted to use them later in the race.

Leclerc 'struggling' on mediums in Saturday's F1 Sprint in Brazil

“If I had used them to defend from Max, it would have been more difficult to keep Checo behind. I had to do my calculations inside the car.”

His team mate Charles Leclerc had a tougher afternoon and dropped one place to end up seventh, having struggled with the more durable medium tyres.

“I struggled quite a bit on the medium,” he said. “I struggled to make the front tyres work. I had quite a bit of understeer, a little bit of graining. We need to understand what I can do better and what we can do better as a team tomorrow to not have these options.”

HIGHLIGHTS: Miss the F1 Sprint? Catch up on all the action from the 24-lap dash at Interlagos

Conditions were cooler than expected on Saturday, with temperatures set to rise for race day, and Leclerc hinted the lower temperatures could have played their part in his struggles.

“The temperature will be quite a bit different tomorrow,” he said. “It was a standout today, the cooler it was getting, the more struggle I had with the front tyre.”

Leclerc will start seventh, four places behind team mate Sainz. When asked if he could keep the place and take a podium, the Spaniard replied: “With a one- or two-stop race predicted and higher track temps, Red Bull has plenty of pace and opportunities to pass us back but we will try.”

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