Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz Jr does not believe the practice pace deficit to Red Bull’s Max Verstappen is real at the Formula 1 Belgian Grand Prix.
The Red Bull driver finished a blistering 0.862s clear in second practice at Spa-Francorchamps with Charles Leclerc slotting into second place – the only driver within one second.
Sainz could only manage fifth place on his Soft tyre run – behind Lando Norris and Lance Stroll.
However, while admitting that Verstappen seemed to be “on it”, Sainz, who topped FP1, believed that it was only down to Ferrari’s experimentation in the second 60 minute session
Sainz – Give me FP1 car
“Honestly today I was comfortable and happy with the car – I know the end result is P5 and not looking very competitive,” Sainz explained to media following FP2 at Spa.
“I was very happy with the car in FP1, and in FP2 we did some changes that went not in the right direction, but if you give me the car from FP1, we can be on the pace tomorrow.
“In the long run, we were closer, but [he] Verstappen seems to be on it this weekend, and we are going to have to extract the maximum out of it.
“We could match it [Verstappen’s pace] in FP1, if we get the settings right, we will match that pace, but you never know.
“I just need to keep my head down and see where that will take us.”
Leclerc will be carrying a grid penalty into the race on Sunday, with Verstappen set to join him at the back of the grid.
The Monegasque driver confirmed that the team had factored this into its practice programme.
“We didn’t put as much attention as we normally do on the qualifying pace as it would be useless,” he explained.
“So more attention on race pace to try and get to the front as quickly as possible. Low fuel pace seems to be poor, but high fuel seems to be ok, so we’ll be working to try and do a step overnight.
“Overall it wasn’t too bad of a day. We tested quite a lot of things, I think everybody was on a different programme, so very difficult to compare coming back from the holidays.”