Carlos Sainz is expecting a potential five-way battle for pole position in the Singapore Grand Prix after he went quickest of all during Friday practice.
Marina Bay was not expected to be a Ferrari track, but the Scuderia topped both sessions with Charles Leclerc fastest in the first session before Sainz pipped him team-mate by 0.018s in the second.
George Russell was the closest challenger with Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton also lurking within half-a-second as Red Bull suffered an off-day, but Sainz expects all five leading teams, including McLaren with its sizeable upgrade, to be in contention for pole position.
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Five way pole battle?
"No, I don’t believe [Red Bull is in trouble]," Sainz explained when asked about the relative poor performance of Perez and Verstappen.
"When you look at their long-run pace, already they look like the strongest car, so I think once they sort out the one-lap pace they’ll be there fighting for pole.
"Hopefully we can be in that fight but it also looks like Aston Martin, McLaren, and Mercedes should also be in that fight.
"We are on for an exciting day and hopefully we can get the best out of it."
Sainz did admit that he, like team-mate Leclerc, was surprised to do the Friday double, but feels this was due to the team nailing the set-up on the SF-23 from the start.
"You always need to arrive in Singapore very open-minded," he said.
"We’ve seen in the past very weird performance swings at this track and so far it looks like it’s suiting our car well — it’s going well with the way that we hit the ground running in FP1 and we could just fine-tune the setup a bit for FP2 and be a bit quicker.
"So it looks good but I do believe the track is going to change a lot for [qualifying]— it’s going to ramp up the grip a lot and it’s all about who finds the perfect setup.
"We tested a couple of things on the setup that I wanted to try around this type of track and it looks like it worked and it’s going in the right direction, so let’s see if we can put in another good lap [in qualifying] and be on the front row."