It might have been a Ferrari one-two in qualifying for the 2022 Formula 1 season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix, but Carlos Sainz was not able to extract from the F1-75 what teammate and pole-winner Charles Leclerc could do when things got serious.
Sainz has struggled to find the same sweet-spot Leclerc found this weekend in Bahrain, but the Spaniard did get better as qualifying progressed but . in the end, he was 0.129s down on the pole-winning time and a mere 0.006s (!) shy of Max Verstappen’s best effort and an all red front row.
Speaking afterwards in parc ferme, Sainz said: “I’m quite happy with the progress I’ve done throughout the weekend. I’m really struggling with the car and how to drive it.
“I’ve been more than half a second behind all weekend, to be even fighting for pole position was good news for me. The problem is I’ve never been so far behind. This weekend I’ve had to fight a seventh to eight tenth deficit from FP1.”
“Charles was ahead all weekend and deserves pole position. The gap at the top has been super narrow all session, so overall I cannot be too disappointed with this first qualifying of the year.”
Sainz: It’s a promising start!
In the Ferrari team report, he later added: “Congrats to Charles for this result and to the entire team for giving us such a competitive car. It’s a promising start! Looking ahead to the race, I think there’s still a bit of work to do from what we saw during the long runs in practice, but we will definitely give our maximum.”
Ferrari appear to have a winning package and have hit the ground running with their two cars a match for Red Bull for now as team boss Mattia Binotto was pleased to point out: “We are extremely pleased with today’s performance: we were convinced the potential was there to do well.
“The fact that both our drivers were in the fight for pole says a lot about the strength of our package – the car, the drivers and everyone who gives their all every day both at the track and back in Maranello,” added Binotto.
For the race on Sunday, with Leclerc and Verstappen on the front-row, Sainz has the best seats in the house for the hustle and bustle into Turn 1 at the start.
Surviving the inevitable first lap melee will be key and, should the stars align in his favour, the Spaniard could be set-up for his first-ever Grand Prix victory (notably of the top six on the timesheets, he is the only one not to have won a race) in what will be his 141st F1 start.
Has victory been closer for Sainz? Probably not but tune in for the answer on Sunday evening Bahrain time…