Carlos Sainz says he was delighted to recover to P6 in qualifying for the Hungarian Grand Prix after he and Toro Rosso were “absolutely nowhere” in the third and final free practice session in Budapest.
The Spaniard was a lowly 16th and nearly 2.2s off the pace in FP3, with team-mate Daniil Kvyat down in 18th and a tenth adrift.
But Sainz managed to deliver a strong performance in a wild, wet-to-dry qualifying to vault his STR11 as the best of the rest in Q3, slotting in behind the Mercedes, Red Bulls, and Sebastian Vettel’s Ferrari.
“It was definitely a lot a lot a lot better than what we expected because after FP3 we were the last team in the midfield, even behind the Renaults, we were absolutely nowhere,” Sainz said. “Then we saw the rain coming, which could only make things better.
“But then we were afraid that as the track dried out we were going to fall back again under normal conditions. Still, we managed to keep a very good pace.
“I think we improved the lap time from FP3 by 1.5s. That shows the massive improvement that happened for quali. I’m really happy. It was a tough session but an amazing result.”
Sainz admits Toro Rosso is still at a loss to explain this sudden upturn in performance
“I don’t explain it. I really can’t explain it because I think we don’t even know how it happened. What I know is that quali was handled very well. We moved the right tyre at the right time. We used the tyre that we had to use at the right time.”
“We did the lap time when it counted, when the track was at its best. All this put together makes a very good result so I cannot be more pleased.”