Sainz: Red Bull on a different level at Japan GP

Red Bull’s dominant display in Saturday’s qualifying sessions at the Japanese Grand Prix proved they are in a different league, Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz said as he vowed to fight for a spot on the podium in Sunday’s race.

Formula One championship leader Max Verstappen took pole position just ahead of his Red Bull teammate Sergio Perez, with McLaren’s Lando Norris in third.

Ferrari’s Sainz and Charles Leclerc, who were among the fastest drivers on Friday, could not recover from a disappointing showing in the final practice session and will start in fourth and eighth place, respectively.

“I hope we can fight with them in the race because in the qualifying it was impossible. In the race it would be nice to have a fight for the podium. I think it should be an interesting battle for the podium,” Sainz told Sky Sports.

“I think the Red Bulls are, unfortunately, in a different league around rougher tarmacs, medium, high speed — they are just ahead on downforce.”

In the second qualifying session, Sainz was forced to contend with a throttle issue, with the Spaniard saying he tried to block it out of his mind. “It was just a soft pedal. There was no risks involved [but] just that weird feeling.”

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Sainz’s teammate Leclerc, who is Verstappen’s closest title rival and trails the championship leader by just four points after three rounds, admitted that he had had a bad day at the office.

“We can always improve a little bit, but like in every qualifying, if I rely on the feeling at the end of the lap I’m like ‘Okay, this is a good lap’, and then you look at the board and you are a second off,” Leclerc said.

“The positive thing, if we have to find one, is that our race pace should be stronger, but on a track like this, the qualifying position is extremely important. And today we didn’t do a good job.

“I just hope we have the opportunity to overtake because on a track like this it’s going to be very, very difficult to overtake, so I’ll do my best.”

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