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Sainz ‘not surprised’ by Q2 exit in Qatar as Leclerc reveals qualifying issue

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The Sprint weekend format usually throws up some surprises – and Ferrari driver Carlos Sainz found himself one of its victims, after a shock Q2 exit for the Spaniard in Friday night qualifying.

Sainz had shown impressive pace in the weekend’s only practice session on Friday afternoon, taking P2 behind eventual pole-sitter Max Verstappen.

READ MORE: Verstappen dominates to take pole position ahead of Mercedes as he closes in on third world title in Qatar

But once the floodlights came on for Friday evening’s qualifying, the Ferraris appeared to struggle, with Sainz exiting in Q2 and set to start Sunday’s Qatar Grand Prix in P12, behind the AlphaTauri of Yuki Tsunoda.

“I had a very difficult quali, right from the beginning,” said Sainz after qualifying. “Just struggling with the balance. The rear was very, very loose, while in FP1, I managed to switch on the tyres and get decent grip on this new surface.

2023 Qatar GP Qualifying: Close call for Verstappen after dicing with Sainz in Q2

“When the track [temperature] dropped this afternoon, I just couldn’t find any grip out there, so I just struggled quite heavily, so I’m not surprised to be out in Q2.

“Hopefully we can turn it around for tomorrow, the Sprint, and have a better Saturday,” added Sainz. “But definitely Sunday’s going to be tricky, starting from so far back in a difficult track to overtake. But my main focus now is to try and see what we can do better tomorrow.”

Adding to Sainz’s Friday night worries, meanwhile, was a stewards’ inquiry into an incident of squabbling on track with Verstappen in Q2, Sainz meeting the stewards at 2200 local time.

READ MORE: Norris and Piastri reflect on disastrous double Q3 lap deletions in Qatar qualifying

Given Sainz's circumstances, you may have been forgiven for thinking Charles Leclerc would have been happy with P5 on the grid – once both McLarens had been penalised for track limit deletions.

But the Monegasque also cut a frustrated figure, as he revealed a technical issue that had held him back in qualifying.

“We had an issue in the high-speed on the fast lap, which made me downshift [when I was] flat-out, which wasn’t great," he said. "We lost quite a bit there, and then we struggled a lot basically with the first timed lap.

LUSAIL CITY, QATAR - OCTOBER 06: Charles Leclerc of Monaco driving the (16) Ferrari SF-23 on track

Leclerc struggled in qualifying

“I had to abort my first run in Q3 after running wide in a corner in the first sector and so I only had one lap left to set a competitive time. It was quite tough to get the tyres to work today: on the first flying lap the rears were not working as expected and the situation only improved when you continued to push, which is not ideal in qualifying.

“All in all we maximised with what we had, we just need to work tomorrow to try and find the pace straight away.”

READ MORE: 'It's a good start' – Verstappen says Red Bull 'did the best' they could as he seals pole position in Qatar

With a potential 59 points on the table across a Sprint weekend, Ferrari will be keen to bounce back across Saturday and Sunday, with the team just 20 points behind second-placed Mercedes in the constructors’ standings – George Russell and Lewis Hamilton set to start Sunday’s Grand Prix in P2 and P3 respectively.

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