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Carlos Sainz

Sainz fires Red Bull a warning amid ‘positive signs’ in Japan

Teams had just a single practice session to collect data in Japan as FP2 was impacted by rainfall, but Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz is nevertheless encouraged by his squad’s potential.

Sainz Japan FP1
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Carlos Sainz has stated Ferrari is closer to Red Bull than he originally expected in Japan following the opening day of practice.

With the second practice session at Suzuka seeing little on-track action due to rain, FP1 was the more meaningful outing of the two on Friday.

Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez ended FP1 in first and second respectively while Sainz was third, two-tenths down on Verstappen.

Sainz was left buoyant by the gap but understands the Milton Keynes-based outfit is still the team to beat.

“FP1 was a bit closer to the Red Bulls than I anticipated or expected, so positive signs from five months ago [in Japan] to now,” Sainz said.

“Still obviously, it’s FP1 and you don’t know what fuel loads and engine modes they’re running.

“Last year we were eight-tenths off in qualifying and here, to be two-tenths off in FP1 is a good feeling and a good starting base.

“But they are going to be difficult to beat this weekend.”

'Strong start began at testing'

Sainz enters the weekend in Suzuka after winning the last race in Melbourne, emerging victorious ahead of team-mate Charles Leclerc.

According to the Spaniard, Ferrari’s strong start to the year has stemmed from an ability to understand the challenge during pre-season testing.

“It looks tight again with the McLarens and Mercedes. Red Bull is a step ahead but maybe a smaller step ahead than I thought,” he said.

“It should be an interesting fight out there.

“I was confident in Bahrain, confident in Jeddah and confident in Australia. I hit the ground running here.

“So after a good winter test, we understood the car well and found a good set-up that more or less seems to work everywhere. The car is just better this year, which helps.”

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