Qualifying for the Portuguese Grand Prix turned out to be very close, as has been the case so far this season, with around a dozen cars all capable of fighting for a place on the third row of the grid. Saturday’s performance matched our expectations, with Carlos Sainz fifth and Charles Leclerc eighth and when analysing the result, there are a few positives to consider.
For the second time in three races, Scuderia Ferrari Mission Winnow managed to get both drivers into the final part of qualifying. Today, only the two teams fighting at the front also managed this. Conditions were difficult, with low grip, constantly changing, because of the wind that varied in intensity and direction from minute to minute.
Charles produced a great lap in Q2, managing to make the cut on the Medium compound tyres, matched only by the drivers from the two top teams. However, in the final part, the Monegasque immediately posted a reasonable time of 1`19″306, but was unable to improve on his second run. Starting on the Mediums, probably the best choice for the race, should give Charles an advantage, given that his nearest competitors will have to pit earlier than him.
For the first time this season, there will not be a Ferrari on the second row, but it’s equally true that in the first two races, at least one of the drivers from the best performing teams had made a mistake, leaving fourth place up for grabs. That didn’t happen in Portimao and Ferrari was thus the third ranked team this Saturday. It was Carlos’ turn to shine in the final minutes, emerging as the best of the midfield pack on both his two runs and his time of 1’19″039 was good enough for fifth on the grid.
Carlos Sainz: It was a very hard qualifying out here in Portimão due to the gusty wind and the tricky conditions but I’m happy with my session. When I was out on track I could feel I was driving well and we have been taking good decisions on the setup of the car all weekend.
The biggest positive for me is that my approach seems to be working fine and the feeling with the car gets better with every session. There is still a lot of room for improvement, but I think today was a good step and I’m happy about that, though I would have preferred to make it into Q3 with the mediums. My pace was good with that compound and if it hadn’t been for the traffic with an other car on the second push I think I would have been in a better position to make the cut. However, since I had saved one set of softs after a strong first run in Q1, we decided to avoid unnecessary risks and qualified to Q3 with softs. Once in the top ten, a good couple of laps gave us P5 for tomorrow.
Despite the tyre disadvantage for the race, I’m confident that with a strong start and tyre management from my side we can fight for good points. Lets race! Hasta manana.
Charles Leclerc: My performance in Q3 was just not good enough today and I wasn’t at the level I wanted to be. Everyone was struggling in these conditions and I think I pushed a little bit too hard. Once you do that, the rear of the car starts to move a lot and that’s what happened on my fastest lap.
On the positive side, I did a good job going through on the mediums in Q2, which I think will be a strong point in the race tomorrow, especially at the start. We saw more graining on the softs during free practice, so I hope that this will give us an advantage with those around me all starting on the red tyres.
We are all really close so in the end, the one who makes the least mistakes will be the one to get ahead.
Laurent Mekies, Racing Director: All in all, qualifying more or less matched our expectations after what we saw yesterday. Track conditions were very difficult to assess, with an annoying wind, but we secured a good result, getting both drivers into Q3, which only two other teams managed to do. Carlos did a great job today, especially in Q3, when he got everything out of the car.
Charles could not quite match that in the final part, but his good performance in Q2 means he can start the race on the mediums which, on paper, is a significant advantage in terms of strategy, compared to our closest rivals.
In this first part of the season, on all three tracks so far, in very different conditions, we have consistently been at the top end of the midfield, always getting at least one of our drivers ahead of the others. That was our goal in terms of outright performance and we have achieved it, even though we know we have to work hard to repeat it at each and every Grand Prix. Now, tomorrow’s objective is to convert today’s potential in the race.
Check out our Saturday gallery from Portimao, here.