Sainz hails McLaren engineer in "stressful" Styrian GP qualifying

Carlos Sainz Jr says the wet qualifying for the Styrian Grand Prix was "very stressful" but credited his McLaren engineer for guiding him to his best Formula 1 qualifying result

Sainz hails McLaren engineer in "stressful" Styrian GP qualifying

The Spaniard's late effort put him third on the grid for the second race in as many weeks at the Red Bull Ring, bettering his previous best effort of fifth at the 2015 Spanish Grand Prix, 2018 Hungarian Grand Prix and 2019 Russian Grand Prix.

Sainz admitted that the poor visibility and aquaplaning towards the end of Q3 meant he was driving "completely blind", but credited race engineer Tom Stallard for aiding him through "one of the most stressful qualifying sessions of the year".

"Today I did enjoy myself, but I must say it was quite stressful, it was a very stressful qualifying session," Sainz said.

"It would be good for you guys to actually see what we go through in a Formula 1 car, just keeping your foot flat and trusting that the thing is going to grip so you can put a lap together towards the end.

"I was talking to Tom my engineer before the session and let him know he was on for one of the most stressful qualifying sessions of the year.

"He agreed with me that the wet qualifying are the most difficult from a race engineer point of view and I think he did a tremendous job.

PLUS: Why Sainz can handle the pressure of Ferrari

"We are completely blind in the car as we cannot see anything in front or at the back.

"We don't even know who is pushing and who is not and you don't want to disturb someone, but you want to keep track position, so they are our eyes in these conditions.

"It was very, very difficult with a lot of front locking and a lot of rear locking and a lot of improvisation on the car.

"These are the conditions we as drivers enjoy the most, because it is the most natural instinct that comes to you as the first thing to do."

Sainz added that he was "glad" race director Michael Masi allowed Q3 to continue amid the worsening conditions after an initial 46-minute delay due to heavy rain.

"Towards the end of the session it was definitely getting really, really tricky but I am glad that they left us out there because these cars generate so much spray and we evaporate so much water," he explained.

"There was a very thin line where you could put your tyres and there was a small amount of grip to actually run.

"I think if the session would have been stopped the track would have been worse and worse, so it would have been very difficult to get back on track.

"These cars do a good job of drying out tracks and keeping the water off of it so I am pleased."

With dry conditions forecast for Sunday's race, Sainz hopes his work focused on long runs during the Friday afternoon practice session will allow him to defend his starting position.

PLUS: Red Bull edges closer to Mercedes as rain threat clouds order

Last weekend, McLaren's Lando Norris scored his first F1 podium while Sainz finished fifth.

"I don't know how we are going to do tomorrow, I just know that we were focused a lot in FP2 on the long runs to see how the long compounds behaved and try to make the right decision for tomorrow," he said.

"It is very tricky because if you don't know the fuel or engine modes that everyone is running.

"I wouldn't say that we were particularly that far off in the race last weekend, we just went back to our normal position or where we deserved to be.

"So let us see what we can do tomorrow but I am definitely excited about it."

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