Carlos Sainz Jr says a wind direction change caught out the McLaren Formula 1 team in qualifying in Sochi – and similar conditions on Sunday will make for a difficult race.
Sainz was an encouraging third fastest in FP3 on Saturday morning, behind only the Mercedes duo of Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas.
However in the afternoon’s qualifying session he slipped to sixth, with cars from Red Bull, Racing Point and Renault all jumping ahead.
McLaren has suffered more than rivals with wind sensitivity issues in 2020, and Sainz says a change of direction between the two sessions made life difficult.
“I think for us it depends a lot on track conditions and the situation,” Sainz said.
“If you would have asked me after FP3, I would have been confident that we would be in the fight in qualifying with the Renaults, the Racing Points and the Red Bulls.
“But then after FP3, the track conditions changed a lot.
“The wind picked up, we had a lot of tailwind in Sector 1, and all of a sudden our car was not anymore in the sweet spot. And we were suffering a lot more with car balance issues.”
He added: “I don’t like speaking a lot publicly about the issues that we have in our car. We do know we have a wind sensitivity, and we do feel like it affected us quite a lot in Mugello.
“It was one of the causes for loss of performance, and I do feel like the 180 degree change that we had from FP3 and qualifying affected us quite a lot.
“But I don’t want to put the blame on it. I don’t want to say it is the main cause, or it is affecting us more than others, because everyone is affected by the wind and I’m sure everyone was affected by it in Turn 2 and Turn 5 like I was.
“But I can just tell you that in FP3 I was happier with a car, the wind changing to qualifying and going into the race depending on the conditions that I will have I will re-set my expectations.”
Sainz says if the wind direction is similar to qualifying, McLaren will struggle to make progress.
“In general, I would say that if the track is like in FP3, we might have a chance to move forward in the race,” he said.
“If the track is a bit more like if it was in qualifying then I think we’re pretty much starting where we can finish.
“I’ll do the laps to the grid tomorrow, I’ll see how the car is, and then I’ll adjust my expectations depending on the feeling in the car on the laps to the grid.”
Sainz also cautioned that his even-numbered side of the grid might be problematic.
“I think here there is a dirty side, particularly this year offline, it looks very dirty,” he added.
“Today in the out laps, whenever I was trying to overtake a car or get out of line, the dirty side or the offline, it was particularly dirty, a lot of stones, a lot of dust coming out of the car in front.
“So I do feel like it’s not the ideal place to start. And I like starting P6, I think it’s a good place to start, it’s just this side of the grid looks particularly dirty. So let’s see what we can do.”