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P2 was the maximum says Sainz, as Leclerc delivers damage limitation in Sao Paulo Sprint

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SAO PAULO, BRAZIL - NOVEMBER 12: Carlos Sainz of Spain and Ferrari prepares to drive prior to the

Carlos Sainz reckons second in F1’s third and final F1 Sprint of 2022 was “the maximum” possible, the Ferrari driver making three overtakes to follow winner Mercedes’ George Russell across the line at Interlagos.

The Spaniard pulled off an audacious pass on former team mate Lando Norris into Turn 1, made short work of pole-sitter Kevin Magnussen and then was late on the brakes in passing champion Max Verstappen.

“I managed to make all the positions at the start, or the first couple of laps and get in the fight with Max and George,” said Sainz. “I had to be aggressive because obviously tomorrow I am taking the penalty [of five places, for a new internal combustion engine] and, in the end, I think P2 was the maximum today.

READ MORE: Russell beats Verstappen in Sprint thriller to secure P1 grid slot for the Sao Paulo GP

“I was happy with the race, happy with the pace, it’s just that the Mercs look like they’ve picked up the pace a lot recently and they are very quick in the race.”

Sainz got very close to Verstappen as he passed him through Turn 1, the duo making contact and damaging the latter’s front wing endplate.

‘The pace is there’ says Leclerc after P6 finish in Sao Paulo Sprint

“It was on the limit for sure,” said Sainz. “[The Red Bulls] are so difficult to pass, and I had to really go tight into Turn 1 in order to pass him.

“With the Red Bull you are either aggressive on the braking or you don’t pass them because they are so are so quick on the straight that you really need to go for it on the braking.

“Sorry if I had a bit of contact but that is racing and sometimes you need to go for it to make it stick.”

READ MORE: ‘Mercedes look unbeatable’ says Verstappen as he reflects 'way more difficult than expected’ Sao Paulo Sprint

Sainz will start tomorrow’s race from seventh, courtesy of his five-place grid penalty, and he appreciates it’s a tough ask to expect Ferrari to beat Mercedes and Red Bull.

“We have decent pace,” said Sainz. “It’s just that the Mercs maybe have a bit more pace. It will be interesting to see tomorrow what happens when we all try the medium like Verstappen today, to see how that medium behaves.

“Obviously, we would need to pass them on track tomorrow because I’m starting P7, I think Charles is starting P4, P5, so we are going to need a good race if we want to beat them.”

Sprint Highlights: 2022 Sao Paulo Grand Prix

His team mate Charles Leclerc recovered from a difficult qualifying, where he was caught on the wrong tyres for the conditions to leave him 10th on the grid, to cross the line sixth. That’ll become fifth courtesy of Sainz’s penalty.

While he’s wary of Mercedes’ strong pace, he takes heart from the fact his Ferrari felt like it had good performance.

“That’s all we needed, really – just take no risks, bring the car to the end, gain some positions for tomorrow, and try to finalise everything tomorrow,” said Leclerc. “The pace is there overall; we just need to put it all together tomorrow.”

He added: “I haven’t watched the race from the outside – Mercedes I’ve heard are quite quick. It’s going to be tricky, but the feeling was good; obviously it’s always tricky at the beginning, when you need to overtake cars and with the tyres we suffered a little bit at the end, but tomorrow should be better.”

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