Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz both narrowly missed out on pole position at the Japanese Grand Prix by an unimaginable margin, with Leclerc being just 0.01 seconds off Max Verstappen’s pole time, and Sainz just 0.057 seconds behind the Dutchman.
Ferrari have carried their strong performance at last weekend’s Singapore Grand Prix into Suzuka this weekend, which has so far seen a variety of conditions.
The entirety of Friday’s running was completed under wet conditions, whereas all of Saturday was done in the dry; however, the race is looking set to feature both.
It’s safe to assume that the top three being separated by just 0.057 seconds makes Saturday’s qualifying session one of the closest in the sport’s history, with all three having been virtually level as they entered the first part of the Turn 16/17 chicane.
Verstappen benefitted massively from taking a better line than both Ferrari drivers, which gave the driver a much better exit out of Turn 17, allowing for a better drive to the line.
Leclerc admitted that he “lost the tyres” in the final sector of the lap, hence why he lost the minuscule margin of time.
“It’s a very tricky lap around here because whenever you are fast in the first sector you lose out in the final sector, and I tried to find that balance in the last lap,” said Leclerc.
“But I lost the tyres a little bit in the last sector and lost a little bit of time.
“It’s so close, though, with everyone, so that’s nice and we will try and have a good race from there.”
Leclerc looked okay in the wet running on Friday but is aware that there is “very limited” data on changeable conditions.
The 24-year-old is expecting a “fun race” and appears certain that it is “going to rain”.
“We have a very limited amount of data going into the race so that’s always a challenge,” the Monegasque added.
“But the feeling was good with the car so let’s wait and see for the conditions. It seems as though it’s going to rain a little during the race.
“It should be a fun race and hopefully we can give a good show tomorrow.”
Whilst Leclerc accepted that he didn’t have what it took for pole in the end, Sainz was considerably more frustrated.
The Spaniard has come close to pole the last few Grand Prix’s, with it starting to bother him that Verstappen and Leclerc continue to set a faster time.
Sainz pinpointed the final corner as where he lost the time that would’ve seen him claim a third pole position of the season, in what he labelled as a “very good lap” until that point.
“It was a very clean lap, a very good lap all the way until the last corner when I picked up quite a bit of wheelspin on my rear tyres,” explained Sainz.
“It’s a shame to be half a tenth from pole. It’s been so many qualis now with Max and Charles that we are always within half a tenth.
“And the last half a tenth tends to always fall to the other side [Leclerc]. Hopefully, over the end of the season, this half-a-tenth falls a bit more to my side and I get a pole position.”
Like his team-mate, Sainz is adamant that the “rain is going to arrive”.
With the likelihood of the race starting dry before turning wet, Sainz knows that “plenty of things could happen” in what is looking set to possibly be the best race of the 2022 season.
“The weather is going to play its part,” said a convinced Spaniard.
“The rain is going to arrive, and I don’t know if it’s going to arrive at two o’clock, three or four, which is after the race, so there are plenty of things that could happen tomorrow.
“There is always a great opportunity starting in P3, I’ve managed to save a set of softs in case we need it, so we are in a good position to fight Max tomorrow.”