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Sainz pinpoints main cause of Ferrari’s struggles in Sprint Qualifying as Leclerc rues SQ3 mistake

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Carlos Sainz has explained how Ferrari failed to “switch on” their tyres when dry conditions were replaced by rain during the closing stages of Sprint Qualifying at the Chinese Grand Prix.

Ferrari had been in the mix before the weather changed at the Shanghai International Circuit, with Sainz’s team mate, Charles Leclerc, putting the Scuderia as high as second in the SQ2 phase.

READ MORE: Norris claims pole ahead of Hamilton during frenetic wet Sprint Qualifying in China

However, when showers fell and intensified, forcing a move to intermediate tyres in the decisive SQ3 phase, the Ferrari pair had to settle for P5 and P7 on the Sprint race grid – Sainz holding the edge over Leclerc.

SHANGHAI, CHINA - APRIL 19: Carlos Sainz of Spain driving (55) the Ferrari SF-24 on track during

Drivers faced tricky, slippery conditions as Sprint Qualifying reached its climax

Asked to reflect on his outing and the ‘lottery’ in the wet conditions, Sainz said: “As you say, a bit of a mixed session. We made it well through SQ1, SQ2 and then in SQ3 the rain arrived and we didn’t manage to switch on the tyres.

“We were struggling a lot with the rear tyre. We dropped the tyre [temperature] a lot queueing [in the pit lane] and then the tyre never came up so I couldn’t really push. Two or three seconds off the pole is P5, which just goes to show in these conditions, you either switch on the tyre or you don’t.

AS IT HAPPENED: Follow all the action from Sprint Qualifying at the Chinese Grand Prix

“Anyway, it seemed that both [Ferrari] cars struggled with tyre temperature and warm up, so if it is wet tomorrow we will need to find something. If it is dry, we are more or less in the mix.”

It was a dramatic run to seventh for Leclerc – three-and-a-half tenths down on Sainz – after an off at Turn 8 that saw him tag the barriers with the front and rear of his car, and left him with some damage.

2024 Chinese GP Sprint Qualifying: Leclerc spins off as rain hits Shanghai

“To be honest, the very first out-lap was extremely tricky,” he commented. “It was very difficult to switch on the tyres. I tried to be a bit aggressive, but obviously I lost it out of Turn 8 and that compromised a little bit our quali, because then the steering wheel was a little bit bent.

“All in all, I don’t think there were any miracles [possible], there wasn’t much more we could have done. Obviously on my side again I didn’t maximise qualifying, which I’m not happy with.

READ MORE: Norris delighted as ‘all or nothing’ final lap nets P1 during Sprint Qualifying in Shanghai

“If I have to look to the positives it is that I think in the dry I did some big steps forward, and on that I’m happy because I’ve been working a lot on the preparation of the tyres in the dry and it seems to be paying off for today at least. But let’s see tomorrow, the race will be long.”

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