Carlos Sainz believes different car setups during the Japanese Grand Prix weekend led him to be distracted behind the wheel during qualifying.
Sainz ended qualifying in sixth place, one second down on pole-sitter Max Verstappen, and 0.308s down on team-mate Charles Leclerc, who would be fourth.
The Spaniard prevailed in both qualifying and the Grand Prix last time out in Singapore, but has struggled to find a comfortable balance throughout practice, leading to the sizeable gap between himself and Leclerc.
Sainz knew that Suzuka would be a troublesome track for the Scuderia, but could not settle in the SF23.
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“We knew before coming here that this track would expose us a bit more,” Sainz told media including RacingNews365.
“Probably with the high-speed characteristics but also the long corners, and high winds like we're having today, it was never going to be easy.”
"I think the approach [on Friday and Saturday morning was] to try different things on the car.
“We tried to change the balance quite a bit and try different things in set up to try and put the car up in a different place and by the time of qualifying I saw that it was not quite working.
“We had to go back to a more basic set-up which in the end, probably ended up compromising my qualifying preparation and my weekend in general.
“I’m happy to try those things, so now focus is [on the race] to see if we can do a good race.
“I don't think we could have done much more because obviously the McLarens and the Red Bulls are much quicker.”