Carlos Sainz explains difficulty with the bumps was responsible for him being unable to match Charles Leclerc’s pace across the weekend at the Circuit of the Americas.

While Leclerc stormed to pole position in Friday’s qualifying hour, Sainz could only wound up fourth and was beaten once again in the Shootout ahead of the Sprint race.

The Spaniard would trail his team-mate by over 10s come the end of Saturday’s 19-lap encounter, albeit having been the only driver to run the unfavourable Soft compound.

Sainz was able to usurp Leclerc to finish two spots ahead in Sunday’s race, but the latter was hindered by a rueful one-stop strategy call that left him struggling on ageing tyres.

Prior to that, Leclerc had been running comfortably ahead of the sister car but dropped to sixth before he was disqualified. Meanwhile, Sainz utilised the conventional two-stop to earn a surprise podium once Lewis Hamilton was also disqualified.

Although Sainz accepts that Leclerc was able to contend with the SF-23 being more on edge across COTA’s notorious bumps, he rued the Sprint denying him the chance to make set-up changes to combat his woes.

Asked about Leclerc’s evident advantage in Austin on Saturday, Sainz said: “For me, it’s mainly track characteristics. The car here is bouncing around a lot and jumping around a lot and when that’s the case normally Charles copes with it a bit better than I do.

“And this time I didn’t have time to change the setup to improve it, to put it a bit more to my liking, and go into the race weekend a bit more comfortable with the car to extract more and more performance.

“In Sprint weekends that’s the problem, that you’re stuck with the baseline set up more or less that you can run and the amount of bumps again this year surprised us being even bumpier than last year. I’m just not coping very well with it in the high speed. Not a lot of confidence.

“I feel like the car is going to snap on me at any point in time, and I’m having to drive one step under the limit, which is never ideal in quali.”

Carlos Sainz Jr (ESP) Ferrari in parc ferme. 22.10.2023. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 19, United States Grand Prix, Austin, Texas, USA, Race Day.

Despite being satisfied with his race, Sainz admitted he must investigate the regression in his qualifying performance that has handed the initiative back to Leclerc.

“Something to look into in qualifying, the last couple of races my quali has been nothing special but in the race I’m quick,” he noted. “I was quick in Suzuka, quick here.

“Now I need to focus on getting my quali pace back and keep doing a good job in the race because the pace is definitely solid. I was pushing hard out there along with good tyre management.”

The two-time grand prix winner is optimistic that the smoother asphalt present at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez this weekend in Mexico will boost his prospects.

Sainz is also wary of the issues Ferrari encountered last year when the Italian marque were forced to turn down the engine on both cars amid reliability concerns.

“Smoother, no, Mexico? It’s just the kerbs, kerb riding sector one, sector two it’s a lot to get right,” he explained. “Hopefully we can put the Singapore [where Sainz converted pole into victory] setup on and be quick, and let’s see how the engine behaves this year.”

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