Sainz was sixth in qualifying in Sao Paulo, one place ahead of Leclerc on the grid for tomorrow’s sprint.

The Spaniard now feels at home at the Italian team after going in his own direction with car setup, leading to improvements over one lap.

“I think there were some good laps in the quali,” Sainz said. “Second consecutive quali where I managed to feel the car well underneath me and I get to drive it exactly how I want.

“Also finding a bit my direction with setup which seems to be also working in the right direction. Very happy.”

Both Ferraris were once again beaten by the AlphaTauri of Pierre Gasly in qualifying.

However, Sainz wasn’t too surprised by the Frenchman’s impressive pace at Interlagos

“It’s been there all year, it’s no surprise for us,” Sainz added. When they put a lap together, that car, it’s as quick or sometimes quicker than us.

“That’s why as Ferrari we are not entirely happy with it because we know that we need to do better and push to be better. This time it was half a tenth but we need to remember they’ve always been quick in Brazil since’ 19. It will be a good fight with them.”

It was also an important session for Ferrari in the battle for third in the constructors’ championship with Lando Norris and Daniel Ricciardo only managing eighth and ninth.

Reflecting on his own qualifying performance, Leclerc was unhappy with his final lap in Q3 but was pleased to be ahead of the two McLarens.

“In Q3 it was just not great,” Leclerc said. “We obviously did the first run on used tyres, which wasn’t great for my rhythm and then I didn’t a good enough job on the second lap in Q3. AlphaTauri was probably just too quick today, but it’s like this.

“That has definitely been the positive of today.  But I was there was a better result for the team.”