Carlos Sainz believes he and Ferrari are “on the right track” to be in the hunt for pole around Monaco this weekend, after showing promising pace on Friday.
The Spaniard topped FP1 and was a tenth off Max Verstappen’s benchmark in FP2 later on Friday afternoon, with team-mate Charles Leclerc only 0.065s behind the Red Bull driver during qualifying simulations.
There have been hopes among the congested chasing pack behind Red Bull that the unique Monaco layout, the slowest on the calendar, would level the playing field somewhat, with the RB19 unable to utilise its standout straight-line speed to as great a degree around Monte Carlo.
And the gaps between the drivers in free practice would indicate that other teams are in the mix, with only seven tenths of a second separating the top 10 drivers in FP2.
Sainz prompted the red flags to be brought out in the session when he collided with the inside wall at the second part of the Swimming Pool section of the circuit, but the 28-year-old was quick to brush off concerns around the contact he made with the wall.
“It was a very small crash, to be honest,” Sainz told reporters in parc ferme after the session.
“I just clipped the wall on the inside of [Turn] 16, typical Monaco miscalculation.
“A shame because I just gave the mechanics some extra [working] time today, but in terms of confidence and in terms of lap time, I’ve been on it the whole day, and just a small miscalculation in one corner isn’t going to affect it.”
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And when it comes to the all-important qualifying session around the streets of Monte Carlo on Saturday, the Spaniard acknowledged Red Bull are still arguably the team to beat, but believes he will be in the hunt for pole position.
“I think we’re on the right track to at least challenge for it,” Sainz said when asked if a challenge for pole was on the cards.
“I think the Red Bull is still quick, they’re still leading after today but we’ve been closer than any other weekend and we hope that we can at least give them a run for the money, but I think it’s going to be tricky.”