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Sainz admits he was 'struggling a lot' in Saudi qualifying as Leclerc targets fightback from P12 on grid

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Carlos Sainz wasn't content with his qualifying on Saturday at Jeddah as the Spaniard secured fourth on the grid and couldn't fight for pole – but his Ferrari team mate Charles Leclerc was happy to at least be in the scrap for P1, even as he weighed up his chances with a 10-place grid penalty on Sunday.

Sainz qualified on the second row alongside Mercedes' George Russell but said he had a "strange" sensation in Q1, which hurt his chances in Q2 and left him "exposed" with just one set of new soft compounds for Q3.

"I was struggling a lot, mainly sector one I had a bit of a strange feeling with the tyres, with the car, I just couldn’t put that sector one where I wanted," said Sainz.

READ MORE: Battling Perez for victory ‘not the target' says Alonso despite qualifying on the front row at Jeddah

"It meant I lost a lot of confidence in Q2 having to use another set of tyres and leaving myself exposed for Q3, which wasn’t ideal. Clearly I didn’t have my best day, but tomorrow’s race day and tomorrow is where points count."

He added: "I was expecting myself to be in the fight and for one reason or another that I still need to analyse, I wasn’t. so, a disappointing day but still, tomorrow is the day."

Carlos Sainz

Sainz qualified behind Russell on Saturday night

Leclerc meanwhile had mixed feelings on Saturday night in Saudi Arabia. The Monegasque driver was 0.155s off Sergio Perez's pole time but ended up 12th on the grid for Sunday's race with a 10-place grid penalty for taking engine parts beyond his allocation.

"On the one hand I’m really, really happy with my lap, it was really on the limit, so on that I’m very happy," said Leclerc. "On the other hand it seems that Red Bull is really on another planet right now so we really have to work to catch up because even on a track like this, they seem to be much quicker than we are.

"But tomorrow we have 10 grid places’ penalty which puts us a little bit on the back foot. But I’ll try to do a good start. It’s going to be tricky as everyone has more or less the same race pace, apart from Red Bull again that is in another league, but yeah, I will do absolutely everything to come back [to the] front."

READ MORE: ‘I don’t feel connected to this car’ – Hamilton upset after ‘miserable’ Jeddah qualifying

JEDDAH, SAUDI ARABIA - MARCH 18: Pole position qualifier Sergio Perez of Mexico and Oracle Red Bull

Leclerc fought for pole but has a 10-place grid penalty to contend with

With Leclerc starting well behind Sainz, he was asked whether he could help his Spanish team mate in the quest to score points on Sunday.

"Yes, if there’s the opportunity to do so I will," replied Leclerc. "On the other hand I also need to score some good points so I will do absolutely everything to come back in front. Then if there’s one opportunity during the race where I can do something for him to gain some points for him I will, obviously."

FACTS AND STATS: Perez matches Alesi, as Alonso grabs best Aston Martin start since the 1950s

As for Aston Martin's pace, which saw Fernando Alonso qualify second and Lance Stroll fifth for the race, Leclerc was not surprised.

"It’s just a 'thing' now. They are just really quick. So yes, not a surprise," he summarised.

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