Sainz Jr. 5th in qualifying in front of Spanish fans
GRANOLLERS, Spain (AP) Although Fernando Alonso continues to struggle, home fans got something to cheer about at the Spanish Grand Prix as Carlos Sainz Jr. qualified in a season's best fifth place for Sunday's race.
The 20-year-old Spaniard is the son of two-time world rally champion Carlos Sainz, and has started his Formula One career with Toro Rosso in confident style.
''It won't be easy to finish the race in the top five, but it's free to dream,'' said Sainz Jr. who had a previous qualifying best of eighth at the season-opening Australian GP. ''I could see all the fans cheering, it was a great feeling and I'd like to thank them.''
He has considerably more chance of getting a first career podium than Alonso, who will start the race from 14th place as McLaren continues to struggle for speed since changing to Honda engines before the season.
''Fernando is still the biggest. He will always be the biggest in Spain,'' Sainz Jr. said. ''But today is my day.''
Toro Rosso has the youngest lineup in F1 history. Sainz's teammate Max Verstappen became the youngest driver to get points in F1 history - at 17 years, 180 days - when he finished seventh at the Malaysian GP.
Verstappen also did well on Saturday, qualifying in sixth place to match his season's best, also in Malaysia.
''I'm not 100 percent happy with my lap as I was struggling a bit with the balance compared to this morning's practice,'' said Verstappen, whose father Jos Verstappen competed in over 100 races and secured two podium finishes. ''There's a fantastic atmosphere right now in the team. The most important thing is for both of us to score points and that's what we'll fight for tomorrow.''
Before the start of the season, team principal Franz Tost confidently said Toro Rosso should aim for a top-five finish in the constructors' championship. The team is in sixth place with 12 points, level with Lotus, after four races.
Both drivers face a stern test on Sunday, with Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen right behind them on the grid in seventh place.