Sainz aiming to 'put up a fight' from front row

Carlos Sainz Jr (ESP) Ferrari SF-21. 25.09.2021. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 15, Russian Grand Prix, Sochi Autodrom, Sochi
ยฉ XPB 

Ferrari hadn't been looking on course for a starring role in this weekend's Russian Grand Prix, but that all changed with an opportunistic tyre gamble at the end of qualifying which succeeded in putting Carlos Sainz on the front row of the grid for the start of Sunday's race

Sainz had been seventh in both of Friday's free practice sessions, and he only survived the cut at the end of the second round of qualifying by less then a tenth of a second.

But with the wet track at Sochi Autodrom quickly drying, Sainz was able to take a crucial gamble by switching from the intermediate tyres to a set of the slick soft compound for his final run of the day.

"Very tricky to be honest," Sainz told Johnny Herbert in parc ferme when asked how the session had gone. "Right from the beginning, very tricky qualifying.

"But right after Q2 I could see that there was a chance that the slick was going to come into play," he continued. "We had a very good strategy, pitting there two laps before the end, getting the slick up to temperature and pulled out a pretty strong lap."

While the track was improving minute by minute, it was still a matter of when the 'crossover' would occur - then the slicks would finally be faster than the inters the teams had been using up to then.

"Unfortunately I was one of the first ones to cross the line which didn't allow me to exploit the track conditions, but it was still a good lap on the limit."

Sainz' final time of 1:42.510s was half a second slower than his former team mate at McLaren who secured his maiden pole position as a result.

Lando Norris (GBR) McLaren MCL35M and Carlos Sainz Jr (ESP) Ferrari SF-21. 25.09.2021. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 15, Russian Grand Prix, Sochi

But his time was still more than enough to put him into second ahead of Williams' George Russell, another driver who had made an early switch to slicks.

And even though he wasn't able to take advantage of the slicks in a messy end to his afternoon, Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton will line up in fourth with team mate Valtteri Bottas in seventh and Sergio Perez set to start from ninth.

"Obviously there's the two Mercedes and the Red Bull of Perez that are gonna be much quicker tomorrow," Sainz acknowledged when asked about his prospects for the race and whether a win was possible.

"We expect them to go through, but we will put up a fight and try to have some fun," he promised. "I will try to overtake Lando straight away, or else I hope to get a good 'tow'."

"This weekend we're looking a bit stronger. Probably our weakest condition has been the intermediate," he added. "We still have some issues there to solve, but in the dry we've been competitive."

Sainz' team mate Charles Leclerc will have to start from the back after incurring a series of engine penalties, as has current championship leader Max Verstappen.

Finally, unbeknownst to many, Sainz is only the second Spaniard in F1 history to start a Grand Prix on the front row. And we all know who the other driver is...

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