After dropping out in Q1 at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz said some drivers deliberately cost others lap time in close qualifying sessions by being within a few seconds through certain corners.

A crash on Friday put Sainz behind heading into qualifying, and he duly was eliminated in 16th place after saying he struggled with traffic on his final Q1 run. The Spaniard says drivers know the distance that would prove tricky for a following car in quick corners and when the field is closely matched, it opens up the potential for some gamesmanship to try and impact others.

“It’s tricky, but there were cars out there today and between us drivers we know that if you do a corner within two seconds of another car — one or two seconds in front — then you’re going to make him lose a tenth or two in that corner,” Sainz said.

“I see people as the weekends have gone by relaxing a bit on that, and when it’s tight in Q1 or Q2 I see people giving some dirty air on purpose in some corners, to maybe make the others lose some time in those corners. Which we don’t consider impeding, but it’s not like (it’s obvious) but you know you’re giving him dirty air and you know you’re giving him a bad run in that corner. So by going out last, I did basically all of Sector 1 and 2 very close to the cars in front and found myself losing tenths in Turns 3 and 4.”

However, Sainz acknowledged he was already on the back foot even without any potential influence from other drivers, and that it will be tough to score points on Sunday.

“Clearly, the pace all weekend hasn’t been the strongest and we needed a perfect Q1 and Q2, given how tight the field is,” he admitted. “We had a very scrappy Q1 — we went out very late onto the l ast run, we had a problem with the front wing which meant we were the last car out and once I opened my last lap I found myself in a lot of traffic in Sector 1 and 2 and lost a couple of tenths there that probably cost me the spot in Q2.

“I’m hoping it will be better. I feel like for some reason this weekend we have struggled on the soft tire but the long runs haven’t looked too bad. We know what we need to do tomorrow, which is a good recovery, get back into the points and see where Mercedes ends up. We need a very strong day tomorrow if we want to score any points.”