The Italian squad enjoyed a more competitive start to the season than last year with both Sainz and Charles Leclerc advancing to Q3 in Bahrain, but only after the former suffered a “stressful” engine shut-off in Q1.
After narrowly claiming a place in Q2, Sainz slowed down on his out-lap with an ‘engine stop’ message on his dashboard before his car briefly switched off. Sainz managed to crawl back to the pits, but feared his qualifying session was over.
“I’m happy to be here [in Q3], mainly because I thought that after that situation there the whole car switched off and I thought that was qualifying over for me,” Sainz said.
“It was stressful to say the least in that first Q1, with the team and what happened there. I think we reacted well, we pulled ourselves together after that shock.”
Sainz then set the fastest time in Q2, 0.001s ahead of teammate Leclerc but a poor Q3 lap meant he qualified down in eighth, four spots and half a second behind Leclerc.
“We had a very good Q2. When I saw myself there in first I was very happy,” Sainz told DAZN F1. “My Q3 lap didn’t go to plan. I just didn’t know exactly how to extract the last few times out of the car.
“But I’m not going to let that Q3 lap to spoil what has been up until now a very good weekend for me. I’m very happy with how things have gone.”
Leclerc impressed with a fourth spot on the grid, six tenths behind Red Bull polesitter Max Verstappen, despite “overdriving” his Ferrari SF21 earlier in the weekend.
“I was struggling with the car, overdriving a little bit,” Leclerc told Sky Sports F1. “Not driving very well in general.
“I knew inside of me I could make a good lap but until you do it you never really know if you can. So then arrived qualifying and the feeling was good, straight from the beginning I built up the pace and managed to do that lap in Q3 which I’m very happy with.”
Leclerc is hoping he can keep his more competitive 2021 Ferrari at the front but is wary of AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly behind him, who is starting the race on the more advantageous medium tyres.
“I’m quite impressed by AlphaTauri. They were very, very quick on the race pace yesterday and they are also starting on mediums tomorrow so it’s going to be tricky,” Leclerc explained. “Our goal is to obviously try our bit to keep our position, I think the top three realistically is not reachable yet.
“It’s only the first qualifying, so let’s keep the feet on the ground and keep working very hard. But it looks promising for now and I’m happy to be back a bit further up.”