Carlos Sainz concerned about McLaren and Mercedes

Carlos Sainz ended Friday at the 2023 Japanese GP in fourth, whilst Charles Leclerc finished in second.

Carlos Sainz has been left pleasantly surprised by Ferrari’s strong pace on the opening day of the Japanese Grand Prix, where the Italians were second in the pecking order.

Whilst the Maranello-based team were no match for reigning World Champion Max Verstappen, they appeared to be the second-best side at Suzuka.

Last weekend’s Singapore Grand Prix winner ended the opening session of the weekend in second, before ending the day in P4 after Free Practice 2.

Charles Leclerc did the exact opposite of Sainz, after being fourth in Free Practice 1 and second in FP2.

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Recent upgrades have certainly propelled Ferrari closer to the front, with Sainz believing that the Scuderia’s one-lap pace in particular looks very strong ahead of qualifying.

He is expecting qualifying to be “very tight”, along with McLaren and Mercedes.

“It was definitely a good surprise to see that [pace] over one lap, especially [when] we can be there or thereabouts with Red Bull and Max,” Sainz said, as reported by

“I think it will be a very tight fight with McLaren and Mercedes. I think it will be a very tight qualifying between us.

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“Six [cars] for that second row. I think if we do a good job and nail everything, we can put ourselves in a good position.”

Ferrari have introduced a developed floor this weekend which Sainz used for the first time in FP2, whereas Leclerc got to use it in FP1.

Sainz admitted that the new floor itself isn’t a “big step”, with it more being introduced to help fine-tune the SF-23’s aerodynamics.

The 29-year-old stressed that Friday was full of varied experiments by Ferrari but that they’ll put the “whole package together” on Saturday to push forwards.

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“I just got it in FP2, Charles ran it in FP1 and it seemed to work,” Sainz said. “It’s not a big step, it’s really just fine-tuning the aerodynamics of our car.

“We dedicated all of Friday to try different mechanical settings in the car, to try different set-ups.

“Just experimenting here and there and hopefully tomorrow we can put the whole package together and make a step forward.”