A provisional fourth place on the grid is a result Carlos Sainz Jr would’ve happily signed up for at any other race of his shortlived Ferrari career so far – but in Monaco he described it as “the most painful thing of all”.
The Ferraris have been a revelation this weekend on the streets of Monaco, and Sainz – while perhaps aided by Charles Leclerc missing virtually the whole opening practice with a gearbox problem – has been every bit a match for his team-mate from session to session.
This meant he went into the final segment of qualifying with a genuine shot at pole, but after lapping a quarter of a second off Leclerc on his opening attempt Sainz felt he was robbed of an opportunity to improve when Leclerc clobbered the barrier and brought out a session-ending red flag. Sainz had been 0.246s off his own previous best in sector one at the time, though.
Much like Leclerc, Sainz was coy after Thursday’s running over just how much Ferrari could’ve hoped for – but the Spaniard made it clear after qualifying that he felt this was a very real chance at pole position and the win.
“It’s a difficult thing to accept, to digest,” Sainz said. “It’s not like every day of your life you have the opportunity to put it on pole in Monaco. Today I definitely had the pace to do so.
“And you don’t even get the chance to do it, due to circumstances. So, yeah, you can imagine that today is a very frustrating day for me.
“I’ve been on it all weekend, I’ve been having the pace to win, to put it on pole. So… yeah, I’m starting fourth, it’s not even close to that.
“I went into quali thinking that the pole position and the win could be possible this weekend, and now I’m lining up fourth, which is very far away from where I think I could’ve been.”
“I cannot be angry with Charles. We are brushing walls in pretty much every single corner. It’s the fastest cars in history. And these things can happen” :: Carlos Sainz Jr
Sainz said he lost “two or three tenths in the last sector compared to my best lap” on his initial Q3 lap, and therefore believed he a lot of laptime in the bag – potentially a “1m10.2s, 1m10.1s with the track evolution” – even despite believing he was impeded by Sergio Perez early in his final Q3 attempt.
Sainz was not alone in thinking the late Leclerc crash cost him a great chance at pole – indeed, Max Verstappen let out a very loud string of expletives once informed of the red flag – but he reckoned it’s his “circumstances” that made his situation particularly galling.
“I cannot be angry with Charles,” he said when asked about any ill-feeling towards Leclerc. “We are all here at the limit.
“We are all pushing these cars like you cannot imagine. We are brushing walls in pretty much every single corner. It’s the fastest cars in history. And these things can happen.
“But the circumstances, I’m just very upset with life, or the circumstances right now, that having given me the opportunity to, for the first time that I fight for pole in my life, around Monaco for Ferrari, I didn’t even get the chance to do a lap.
“I think I’ve had the pace to – look at my long run on Thursday, I have the best pace and I’m very competitive. So, at least if you told me ‘you start P2’, maybe I have a chance to win.
“But I’m starting fourth, which is the most painful thing of all. And that second row, dirty side, it’s a place that is not very good going into Sunday.”
Sainz could yet move up the grid if Leclerc requires a gearbox or chassis change due to damage and is penalised, but the Spaniard did not entertain such a possibility.
“I’m sure when I digest this weekend and I look back at it, my brain will be much more happy.
“My fifth race with the team, around Monaco, high-confidence track, I’ve been pushing one of the fastest guys I’ve ever driven against, that is Charles, all weekend, I’ve been pushing him hard. And I think I’ve had a lot of points during the weekend I’ve been quicker.
“To have that feeling with the car so early in the season in such a difficult track is something to be proud of, because it’s not like the other new drivers to teams are doing that well around here.
“So, I mean, I have to be happy, but my brain right now is not happy at all.”