Sainz plays favoritism to Verstappen in promising US GP

Carlos Sainz had been hitting the beam in pole position disputes for some races, and in a classification with complicated conditions at the Circuit of the Americas, he won the third pole of his career. His Ferrari teammate Charles Leclerc set the second fastest time, but will start 12th after having changed the engine and turbo. With that, Sainz will share the front row with Red Bull’s Max Verstappen.

Verstappen’s teammate Sergio Perez also changed the engine and was punished. He goes in ninth place. But Sainz believes that the two drivers who are starting out of position could even fight for victory. “Everything depends on a Safety Car. If there is an intervention, the grid will come together and they will enter the fray. Otherwise, it will be a battle between two cars”, explained the Spaniard, who is very clear about the size of the challenge of seeking his second career win in the race that starts at 16:00 Brasilia time.

While confident in Ferrari’s pace, Sainz knows that Verstappen’s Red Bull tends to consume less tyres, so while they manage to stay ahead in the first few laps, it’s difficult to hold Verstappen afterwards. “If I have a perfect race, I can win. But Red Bull remains the favorite mainly because we know that from lap 8 or 9 their car starts to have a stronger pace due to the degradation of the tyres.”

On Verstappen’s side, there is the extra motivation to win for the memory of Dietrich Mateschitz, co-founder of Red Bull, who died this Saturday after a long battle with cancer. “He was a big fan of motorsport and he cared a lot about everyone. That’s why it was a very difficult day for everyone. We will try to honor his memory by winning the race and winning the constructors’ title,” said the two-time world champion. To take the title, Red Bull needs to prevent Ferrari from scoring 19 points more than them.

The Dutchman recalled that, last year, he started from pole position and lost the lead to Lewis Hamilton in the first meters. And yet he won the test. “It doesn’t matter which side you start on, you have to come out well and it’s not a race that is defined in the first corner.”

Riders expect a busy race

In fact, races in Austin are often busy. The loss of time at the pit stop is relatively small, and overtaking is not difficult. This encourages strategists to look for different solutions and leaves the proof more open. And having cars out of position due to penalties (in addition to Leclerc and Perez, Alonso and Zhou also changed the engine) also helps the race to have more action. “It won’t be a boring race, it will be busy and with many overtaking options. You can overtake here”, bets Alonso, who will start in 14th.

A race with a lot of overtaking is also the hope of Leclerc, who says he wants to make his way through the field “as quickly as possible”. And then using Ferrari’s strong pace to “make something special.”

Some drivers and teams may be surprised by the performance of their cars for a combination of reasons. The schedules for the US GP are different, with the first and third free practice at race time and no representative session, as this year a test of the 2023 Pirelli tires was carried out at qualifying time. It is played at dusk, with the track much less hot than the drivers will find in the race. So the car can change a lot in behavior.

There is also the issue of wind. He was very strong during the third free practice, when several riders were having a hard time especially in the last few corners. And the forecast is also for quite strong wind during Sunday’s race.

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