Sainz: No regrets about taking a risk in Baku qualifying

Carlos Sainz Jr (ESP) Ferrari. 11.06.2022. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 8, Azerbaijan Grand Prix, Baku
© XPB 

Ferrari's Carlos Sainz came tantalisingly close to picking up what would have been his maiden Formula 1 pole position on Saturday in Baku, during a tight qualifying for this weekend's Azerbaijan Grand Prix.

Sainz had been vying with his team mate Charles Leclerc and Red Bull rivals Sergio Perez and Max Verstappen throughout a close-fought session.

When it came to the final top ten pole shoot-out round, Sainz drew first blood in the initial sequence of flying laps, and was on pole position with a time of 1:41.814s.

"We progressed well through the sessions and I found myself quickest before the last run. It was extremely close at the top and I knew I had to take that extra bit of risk on the last attempt."

But when it came to that crucial final push lap, Sainz made a mistake as he started his run and only just kept it out of the wall. Having lost too much time, he backed off and headed for pit lane without improving his existing benchmark.

"Sometimes it goes well and sometimes, like today, you miss out on a better result," he sighed.

Instead he had to watch on as Leclerc set a string of purple sectors to take the top spot for tomorrow's race. Both Red Bulls also improved on their times, and by the end Sainz found himself relegated to fourth place on the grid.

Ferrari team mates Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz in qualifying for the 2022 Azerbaijan Grand Prix. June 11 2022

© Ferrari

Although understandably disappointed, Sainz said that he still felt justified in going go for it.

“It’s what happens when you push to the limit," he explained. "Sometimes you take P1 like I took in Q3 run one; and sometimes you overstep it, which clearly I did overstep it [in the final run].

"It’s a pity, but at the same time you know I think we’ve made some progress throughout the day," he told the media in the paddock after the end of the session.

"I was feeling in contention for pole," he added, pointing out that this still represented a big step forward for him in terms of qualifying performances this season. "After the last couple of races, especially prior to Monaco, I wasn’t.

"So it was quite a positive day on my side despite the final result. I felt better in the car and more comfortable when pushing the limits."

It's still a solid second row starting spot for the race and means he'll be very much in the mix when the lights go out, with a part to play in Ferrari's strategy for outwitting the Red Bull drivers.

Carlos Sainz Jr (ESP), Scuderia Ferrari. 10.06.2022. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 8, Azerbaijan Grand Prix, Baku

"Having Carlos right up there with the Red Bulls means we can fight them on equal terms," commented Ferrari racing director Laurent Mekies. "At all tracks it’s important to always be able to count on having both drivers at the front, and here we can expect a very tactical race."

"Everything to play for tomorrow," agreed Sainz. "Unlike other circuits, the starting position is not that critical here in Baku and anything can happen tomorrow.

"It’s difficult to predict right now," he replied when asked whether he thought he and Leclerc could bring an end to Red Bull's recent run of four back-to-back race wins, which has put them into the lead of the both the driver and constructor standings.

"It’s been neck-and-neck with the Red Bull," he continued. "Long runs on Friday are never long enough to tell us that, but with a good start and smart strategy and driving I think we can still be on the podium or winning.

"The team gave us a great car again today so congrats to everyone and to Charles," he added. We’ll try to attack and gain positions during the race to bring home a strong result."

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