It was a strong day for Ferrari on Friday, with Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc comfortably in the top four in both of today’s practice sessions on the streets of Baku.
It was a close battle between the Italian squad and Red Bull, with other teams – notably Mercedes – looking someway off the pace.
However Sainz was counselling caution and didn’t want to get carried away with today’s performance, pointing out that things were not always as simple and straightforward as they appear.
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“Today we were a bit quicker than we had expected,” he acknowledged. “However, the time sheets can be misleading, with cars getting tows on the straights – myself included – and others not finishing flying laps for various reasons.
“I got a couple of tows on my good laps,” he confirmed. “The long run, we didn’t quite clearly see the pace. So maybe the whole picture is not as clear as it can get.”
Sainz felt that Ferrari were not as on the pace this weekend as they had been in Monaco, where he claimed second place on the podium after Leclerc failed to make the start due to a driveshaft failure.
“Probably tomorrow will be a better indicator, but we’re definitely not as quick as in Monaco, that’s for sure,” he said. “Red Bull are both quicker in the short run and the long run.
“We just need to get our heads down and work out if we can find a bit more laptime,” he added. “Still, it was an encouraging first day for the team here in Baku.”
Leclerc’s afternoon session was interrupted by a close encounter with the barriers that stripped the front wing off his SF21. Although it cost him about 20 minutes of the one hour session, Leclerc shrugged off the mishap.
“I felt quite comfortable in the car today, especially in terms of braking,” he said. “Maybe even too comfortable, pushing a bit too much into turn 15.
“But in the end, that’s what free practice is for – testing the limits. I was on a good lap there and we will see what we can do tomorrow.
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“It was definitely a better day than we expected, but it’s only the first day of practice,” he pointed out. “The pace looked promising, and we will keep working overnight to be as competitive tomorrow.
“We have to make sure we do everything perfectly. We have to maximise our potential and hopefully we can have a good qualifying.
“Our main competitors are quick, even though they haven’t shown it yet.
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