Carlos Sainz says he was “shaking” after taking a lot of risks toward the end of the lap that secured his third place in qualifying for the Italian Grand Prix.
McLaren has looked quick throughout the weekend at Monza and Sainz was in a close fight with Sergio Perez and Max Verstappen for the title of best of the rest behind Mercedes, but sat fifth after the first runs. On his final lap, Sainz pulled out an excellent effort to take third but says he had to gamble after an earlier error.
“I’ve been feeling very strong since the start of qualifying, since Q1,” Sainz said. “I managed to go through with only one set, with a very strong lap. Since then it was just chipping away and trying to put, what was it, a 1m19.6s on the board, which I knew would have given me top five, so I was chipping away.
“The last lap I nearly messed up. I had a big moment in Lesmo 1 and I nearly lost it… I’m actually shaking a bit, because in Ascari and Parabolica I had to really go for it.
“I felt I was like nailing Q1 and Q2, and in Q3 in run one I didn’t quite nail it. I was waiting for Q3 run two and the lap didn’t start very well. I was needing some very strong final corners and I really went for it — I risked a lot and it paid off. As you can see, after the dive I did into Ascari, I was a bit like, ‘Wow, that was way too late.’”
With McLaren able to outqualify the likes of Red Bull and Renault — the latter having looked particularly strong last weekend in Belgium — Sainz admits he’s not sure where his team’s performance has come from at Monza.
“It’s a very good question, actually. I would like to be able to answer that specifically, but at the moment I can’t. We’ve just been very quick today. Honestly, since Q1, I felt like we had the upper hand on the rest of the midfield and I just need to put some clean laps together.
“We’re running very low downforce, which on our car last year didn’t work — our downforce was just falling off whenever we ran very little rear wing. This year, somehow, our car is a bit more robust running lower downforce levels and in Spa it started to pay off. Here in Monza we have a strong car under braking — we feel we can brake late and we have a strong car in the Parabolica and Ascari, which obviously helps, you know; but exact reasons, honestly I don’t know.”