Carlos Sainz said he enjoyed the challenge posed by the soaking wet conditions during qualifying for the Styrian Grand Prix, as he secured a career-best third place on the grid in Austria. He admitted though, that he felt he was “risking everything.”
Formula 1 is holding its second consecutive race at the Red Bull Ring as part of the delayed season start, and Sainz followed teammate Lando Norris’ impressive performance in last week’s race to take third in qualifying behind Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen. The Spaniard was understandably delighted with his result but admits the treacherous track conditions made for a nerve-wracking afternoon.
“I’m very happy to come back, on back-to-back weekends and be P3 for the first time in my career,” Sainz said. “Second row feels amazing, especially because this qualifying was probably one of the toughest I’ve done in my Formula 1 career and putting it together.
“On the last lap I had a really good lap, but there was so much aquaplaning. It was crazy on the straights — you’d put your foot down and you’d be sliding. It’s something that I enjoy — I was talking to Max and Lewis and they were also quite excited about it.
“I’m very happy and a very good day for me. I’m quite pleased that my best qualifying of the year is coming in these conditions, because I love driving in the wet and I’ve always enjoyed myself a lot.
“Today, I did enjoy myself but I must say it was a very stressful qualifying session. It would be good for you guys to see what we are actually going through in a Formula 1 car towards the end of Q3 with the amount of standing water, with the aquaplaning, not seeing anything and just keeping your foot flat, trusting that the thing is going to grip, and putting a lap together towards the end and risking everything. So, very happy, very stressful but at the same time really looking forward to tomorrow for my best starting grid position.”
While qualifying took place in the wet and Sunday is forecast to be dry, Sainz is confident that McLaren’s race pace means he will be able to fight to retain his position, even with Alex Albon and Valtteri Bottas starting behind him in faster cars.
“The car has been better than we thought in race trim, after testing in Barcelona. We are quite confident going into tomorrow but, at the same time, we saw again on Friday the Red Bull, the Ferrari, the Racing Point… I actually don’t know where they are starting from, but it’s good. I’m sure I’m going to have Alex, I’m going to have Valtteri behind me; it’s going to be a tough few laps but hopefully after that I’ll be able to settle into my own pace.”