Sainz predicts very close Red Bull duel after 'interesting' Suzuka practice

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Carlos Sainz expects a very close battle with Red Bull after an "interesting" practice at the Japanese Grand Prix.

Persistent rain led to wet running in both sessions as Formula 1 took to the track at Suzuka for the first time since 2019 on Friday.

And the Spaniard enjoyed a better day in his Ferrari, outpacing teammate Charles Leclerc and regaining confidence after an underwhelming performance last weekend.

“Not ideal, but at least the conditions were pretty consistent out there today when it was wet," Sainz said analysing his Friday via

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"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.

“That’s why it was important for me 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, and we managed to do so: I was quick and I was back at home again.”

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Sainz ended the day sixth overall, but deciphering any pecking order is near-impossible due to the weather.

Even so: “I think Red Bull are quick everywhere: wet, dry, slow, fast circuits, straights, slow-speed [corners]. They are quick everywhere with the package they have now," he admitted.

"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.”

As for teammate Charles Leclerc, he endured a tougher Friday as Ferrari opted to use just one set of intermediates in both sessions.

Indeed, after a solid third in the morning, the Monegasque slipped off the track and down to 11th in the afternoon.

“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.

“FP2 was very, very difficult because the tyres were just completely done, but there’s plenty to learn from today for the race especially, so it’s a positive Friday.

"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.”