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Carlos Sainz

Sainz fears 'bogey' Suzuka will again haunt Ferrari

Carlos Sainz believes Suzuka is a poor circuit for Ferrari's SF24 after qualifying fourth for the Japanese Grand Prix.

Sainz Qualifying Japan
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To news overview © XPBimages

Carlos Sainz has conceded that Suzuka is a "bogey" circuit for Ferrari, where Red Bull and McLaren are a "clear step ahead".

Sainz was the best Ferrari driver in qualifying on Saturday and secured fourth on the grid, albeit five-tenths of a second behind Max Verstappen on pole.

Ferrari has been Red Bull's biggest threat so far this season but that is not the case in Japan, with McLaren appearing to be stronger than the Maranello-based outfit.

Suzuka consists of almost entirely long high-speed corners, an area Sainz recognises as a key weakness of the SF-24, a leading factor in why he was already wary heading into qualifying.

Throughout free practice though, Ferrari's race pace has looked more promising than their one-lap performance, giving Sainz hope that a podium is possible.

"I think we said it before coming into this weekend, last year I was one-second off pole here, this year I'm half a second more or less," Sainz told select media including RacingNews365.

"So I think their is a step and the progress is there, it's just that this is probably our bogey track in terms of pure performance.

"It's clear that in the sort of long high-speed corners, Red Bull and McLaren are still a step ahead of us, a clear step ahead of us.

"Hopefully tomorrow we can fight for the podium, I think in the race Red Bull are still out of reach."

Matching McLaren 'impossible'

Sainz's former team-mate Lando Norris was particularly impressive for McLaren and was just over two-tenths of a second quicker than the Spanish driver.

The duo will be alongside each other on the second row at a circuit where track position is vital, due to there being minimal overtaking opportunities.

McLaren were just "impossible" for Ferrari to match over one-lap, although Sainz is confident that with a positive strategy they can be beaten in the race.

"McLaren were out of reach in quali," conceded Sainz. "Two-tenths around Suzuka is a lot. If you find a tenth, half a tenth, you see between me and everyone behind this within a tenth.

"When you see someone two-tenths [ahead] in quali, it's impossible to beat them. So hopefully tomorrow they can balance out.

"Track position at Suzuka is important but with strategy, hopefully we can put them a bit under pressure and fight them."

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