Carlos Sainz makes admission about Red Bull and Max Verstappen

Charles Leclerc has never finished higher than sixth at the Japanese Grand Prix.

Both Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz ended the opening day of the Japanese Grand Prix in a positive frame of mind, despite neither topping FP1 or FP2.

Leclerc, who currently sits just two points ahead of Sergio Pérez in the battle for second in the Drivers’ Championship, ended FP1 in a strong P3, but ended FP2 lower down the pecking order in P11.

Both sessions were ridiculed by treacherous wet conditions, which actually saw a number of teams, including Ferrari, run out of full Wet tyres.

This saw a number of drivers complete less laps in FP2 than they did in the morning session, with Leclerc being one of those.

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He did have a slight scare during FP1, where he had a worrying trip through the gravel at the incredibly demanding Spoon corner.

Despite the scare and the lack of running in the afternoon, he was pleased by what was “quite a positive day”, with the data gathered in the wet likely to be vital, with the forecast being similar for Sunday.

“FP1 was fun! FP2, no tyres left, so less fun,” he said.

“But overall it was quite a good day, the feeling with the car is good, we just need to put everything together tomorrow, but the feeling is good, so that’s positive.

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“FP2 was very, very difficult because the tyres were just completely done,” he added, “but there’s plenty to learn from today for the race especially, so it’s a positive Friday and let’s see tomorrow, because conditions will change a lot, so FP3 will be all about adapting to those new conditions as quickly as possible and let’s see what possible.”

Carlos Sainz was also somewhat positive about his opening day, which was filled with driving in conditions he “loves”.

The Spaniard actually ended both free practice sessions above his Monegasque team-mate, after finishing FP1 in P2 and FP2 in P6.

Sainz was actually one of a few drivers to be towards the top of the timesheets in both Friday sessions, mainly due to so many drivers running a reduced schedule in the extended FP2 session.

The 28-year-old actually produced a strong number of laps in both sessions, despite a lack in fresh tyres, with the Spanish driver wanting to “learn something”.

He’ll be looking to better his best ever result of fifth at Suzuka this weekend, after what was an “interesting” opening day.

“Not ideal,” began Sainz, “but at least the conditions were pretty consistent out there today when it was wet; that allows you to do a couple of tests that we never get to run in these conditions, so we managed to get a couple of tests done which are always interesting.

“I always run in the wet because I feel you can still learn something and you can always learn something from the car, from the driving, especially after a wet Singapore.

“Yeah, I love it. That’s why it was important for me, after a difficult race in Singapore in these conditions, to really try and got back on top of the car today in these wet conditions and see if I could find my rhythm again, which was important, and we managed to do so: I was quick and I was back at home again.”

Whilst Sainz looked strong, he was quick to pinpoint Red Bull as the strongest team on the opening day.

Neither Max Verstappen nor Pérez topped either session but were towards the top of the timesheets across both sessions.

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The Spaniard is certain that the Austrians are once again the team to beat this weekend, who he hails as being “quick everywhere”.

“I think Red Bull are quick everywhere: wet, dry, slow, fast circuits, straights, slow-speed [corners],” added Sainz.

“They are quick everywhere with the package they have now. But we are also very quick, so it will be a matter of who nails the weekend and who has that last tenth, two-tenths advantage over the others.”