Tomorrow it will be more difficult to repeat such a good result
Suzuka, October 7th 2016.- It is always pleasant to finish a Free Practice session within the Top 10 fastest drivers and that is precisely what Carlos Sainz accomplished today together with his Toro Rosso STR11 in the second session of practice for the Japanese Grand Prix. But still, Friday results are not a true benchmark of the potential of the cars, especially when rivals like Daniel Ricciardo were not able to complete their flying lap in normal conditions. So, today for Carlos the best news is not the Top 10 position but the fact that he was able to complete his working program without any major setbacks.
Clouds covered the sky while temperatures rose to 24ºC (air) and 31ºC (track) as the green lights went on. Carlos waited a few minutes before kick-starting his program. He began on hard tyres, completing a six-lap stint before switching to Pirelli's soft option to set his best time of the day in a three-lap run. Carlos clocked a 1'34"086 lap, his fastest one around Suzuka, faster than any lap he set last year. That result gave him the tenth spot in the standings.
After the first Qualifying simulation, the Spaniard picked up again the hard tyres he had equipped at the beginning of practice. He covered an eighteen-lap run on them, always trouble free. Finally, he returned to the softs to do six further laps as he made the most out of the remaining time.
After jumping out of his car, Carlos remarked that today's results were not relevant: "It was a quite positive Friday. We didn't have any major problems and despite our lack of Top Speed the feeling was good. Finishing today in the top ten is very nice and we'll do our best to maximize the potential of the car during the rest of the weekend, but it's better not to pay too much attention to Qualifying because today Ricciardo couldn't run on softs and there are some cars that have an edge in power. So Q3 is going to be very, very difficult. We have long working hours ahead with the engineers, because the mid grid is very tight and every tenth can give you a position or take it away from you”.
Carlos enjoys driving around Suzuka and today was not an exception. "Obviously a track like Suzuka is always defiant regarding the set-up and driver, but I've definitely enjoyed it a lot out there today. Driving here is one of the most exciting weekends of the year for me – I really enjoy every single lap, it doesn't matter if it's during a short run or a long run, it's just fantastic! I'm happy with today. We've been able to complete plenty of laps without any problems and, from a performance point of view, I think it's looking very similar to Malaysia: we look good on Friday, but we know it won't be easy to do the same all weekend long".
The Spaniard from Toro Rosso said he felt comfortable with his car in Suzuka. “I think we can be happy because the balance is there, at least we know we won’t have to change many things for tomorrow. The car is more or less there. Now we must wait to see how much our rivals improve for tomorrow, because we know what we have. In Malaysia we looked better in Friday tan in Saturday or Sunday, so I want to be a little bit more careful with what I think or what I say. But the balance is there. Sector 1 was very good, which means that I feel very confident in the car. It’s not easy to come to Suzuka and be spot-on with the car set-up and balance from the very beginning. This proves just how well the team has been working. I feel motivated, confident and comfortable. If the whole circuit was like the first sector, then this track would be perfect for us. Sadly, there are a few slow-turns and a few climbs. And on top of that, this is the fifth track in the calendar power-wise. But still we find ourselves in the Top 8 in the first sector, although we are not carrying with us all the downforce we have available”.
Strategy-wise, Carlos explained that there is nothing certain yet. “There's little difference between the hard and the medium tyre. The medium one is behaving quite well; it enables us to do a lot of laps. The soft one is the Qualifying tyre, but its performance was quite positive too. It didn’t wear-out as we expected. There are interesting things to analyze, our strategists are analyzing that right now to see which way is the fastest”.
Forecasts suggest rain is feasible both for tomorrow Saturday and Sunday. "It would help, but it wouldn't change things massively. It's not like I can fight for Pole Position if it rains. I'm racing against the best drivers in the world, probably also the best ones in the wet, and in the end the difference in performance among cars is also there. When it rains, there's more room to improvitzation. I would welcome it, but I don't think that would change things massively in the standings".
Carlos also discussed about the upcoming winter testing, which is set to be held in Barcelona or in Bahrain (or in both places). “I’m a supporter of Pirelli in this area, so whatever Pirelli says that should be, we should follow. It doesn’t matter if you apply 100 kilos more of load if the tyres are not working properly. But if Pirellis says to go to Bahrain, all the teams should go, not just a few. We should go all of us because otherwise some teams would have an advantage. I hope we all go to the same circuit and I hope that it is Bahrain, because of Pirelli’s demand”.
He also minimized he importance of the controversy regarding the photos and videos that Lewis Hamilton shared on his Snapchat during yesterday’s press conference. Carlos was one of the drivers the current champion photographed, yet the Spaniard says it was funny. “I understand that has been giving press conferences for over 10 years and press conferences are always the same. He already knew beforehand what he was going to be asked, he knew he would be asked about the engine failure from Malaysia and if he still trusts his team the same. I understand the two sides of the story”.
Action will resume tomorrow at the Japanese Grand Prix with the third and final Free Practice session, which will begin at 05:00 Spanish time. Qualifying will follow three hours later. We will follow them both via www.carlosainz.es and our Twitter account @carlosainzinfo.