Carlos Sainz has revealed surprise over Ferrari’s pace during practice in Suzuka following the first day of running at the Japanese Grand Prix.
Sainz ended the second practice outing in fourth place, with team-mate Charles Leclerc classifying in second behind Red Bull’s Max Verstappen.
Last time out in Singapore, Sainz secured pole position before going on to seal Ferrari’s first victory of the year.
While the Spaniard does not believe he will be in the hunt against Red Bull this time around, Sainz has said he expects a close fight with McLaren and Mercedes.
“It was definitely a good surprise to see that [pace] over one lap, especially [when] we can be there or thereabouts with Red Bull and Max,” he said.
“I think it will be a very tight fight with McLaren and Mercedes. I think it will be a very tight qualifying between us.
“Six [cars] for that second row. I think if we do a good job and nail everything, we can put ourselves in a good position.”
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Sainz calms expectations over new floor
Ferrari has arrived at the Suzuka Circuit with a revised floor, the impact of which was played down by Sainz.
“I just got it in FP2, Charles ran it in FP1 and it seemed to work,” he said. “It’s not a big step, it’s really just fine-tuning the aerodynamics of our car.
“We dedicated all of Friday to try different mechanical settings in the car, to try different set-ups.
“Just experimenting here and there and hopefully tomorrow we can put the whole package together and make a step forward.”
When asked what he needs for the rest of the weekend, Sainz said: “Just to put everything together with the setup.
“We’ve tried so many things, it was a bit difficult to get into a rhythm that session because we were changing a lot of things in the car.
“We did it on purpose. Hopefully tomorrrow I will choose the car I want to run this weekend and put together everything I want to do.”