Carlos Sainz was feeling upbeat after he succeeded in making it through to the final round of qualifying for the Monaco Grand Prix.
“It was a very tight one today,” said the Renault driver after securing eighth place on the grid for Sunday’s race.
He admitted that the pace hadn’t been in the car at the start of the session, and that the team had needed to scramble to get the R.S.18 up to speed.
“After Q1 we had to react and we changed a few things on the car to try and get closer to the 1:12 mark,” the 23-year-old reported.
“We got closer still in the second session,” he continued. “And then in Q3 we did a good job, taking eighth, even though the out lap in run two was not the best.
“My 1:12 lap was the fastest and most stressful lap of all my life!” he confessed. “A lot of work going on in the cockpit, everything coming in so fast.
“Everything is so close around here,” he told Sky Sports F1 later. “But it’s super fun. I’ve had a lot of fun during that qualie session!
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“A bit too stressful in my opinion,” he added, referring to his close battle with his midfield rivals to make it through to the final round. “I had to give 110 per cent in Q2 to beat one of them.
“This year you have to push always 100 per cent because the midfield is so tight,” he continued. “Esteban, Fernando, me, Perez – we were all inside one tenth.
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“Every time you do a very good lap, you look at their screens and see yourself P12 – not in the top ten. ‘I need to find another two tenths and I don’t know where to find them!’
“Next lap you go and push a bit more and find them, and relief. And then they beat you again! It’s like that all the time in Q1, Q2 in this midfield pack.”
His success in Saturday’s qualifying means he will be starting the Monaco race alongside his compatriot and childhood hero Fernando Alonso in an all-Spain fourth row.
Renault’s sporting director Alan Permane felt that Sainz had done all he could do on the day.
“Carlos pretty much got everything he could out of the session and the car. We were pretty happy with that,” he said.
Sainz admitted that tomorrow’s race was likely to be a gruelling one for anyone starting in the midfield on the new pink hypersoft compound tyres.
“We have some things to think about overnight but I feel very positive,” he said. “Tomorrow will be a tough race. A one-stop strategy on the hypersoft won’t be easy with tyre degradation.
“It might be one of the hardest Monaco races in recent seasons. The undercuts and overcuts will play a big part, and so will traffic.”
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