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Sainz ‘pleasantly surprised’ by ability to keep up with Red Bull as he clinches podium in Bahrain

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BAHRAIN, BAHRAIN - MARCH 02: Third placed Carlos Sainz of Spain and Ferrari celebrates on the

Carlos Sainz hailed a “solid start” to his 2024 season after claiming the final spot on the podium in the Bahrain Grand Prix, with the Spaniard also taking the margin between himself and second-placed Sergio Perez as a “pleasant surprise”.

It looked to be a difficult start to the race for Sainz, who slipped backwards from fourth on the grid during the opening lap after being overtaken by Perez. The Ferrari driver looked increasingly competitive as the race progressed, though, and overtook cars including team mate Charles Leclerc en route to third place.

READ MORE: Verstappen storms to victory in action-packed season-opening Bahrain GP

Asked after stepping out of the car about his “feisty” performance, Sainz spoke positively about his race, in which he finished just under three seconds back from Perez while Max Verstappen took a dominant victory up ahead.

“I felt really good out there today,” Sainz explained. “The start wasn’t ideal but from then on I just managed my tyres as well, and then from there I could do my pace, overtook two or three cars on the way to the podium.

2024 Bahrain Grand Prix: Sainz comes out on top in key battles with team mate Leclerc

“Then keeping up with the Red Bull there at the end, which was a pleasant surprise. Still not enough, not where we want to be, but [it’s] good steps forward compared to last year and a solid start to the season.”

Sainz and Perez were running different compounds as the former tried to close the gap to the latter in the final stages of the race, with the Ferrari using hard tyres while the Red Bull was running the softs.

FACTS AND STATS: Red Bull tie Williams’ win tally in first-ever retirement-free season opener

The tyre call was part of a strategy to exploit the strengths of the SF-24, according to Sainz, who elaborated further: “We had a very clear plan using soft and then two hards. With the hard in our car we feel more a bit comfortable because it overheats less, it degrades less.

“It is a bit of a trickier tyre with warm-up, front locking, but then once we get it working in our car you can push on it. In the Red Bull you can see different traits, different strategy choices, but I think also that is the beauty of F1 and we could play around a bit with strategy today.”

BAHRAIN, BAHRAIN - MARCH 02: Carlos Sainz of Spain driving (55) the Ferrari SF-24 on track during

Sainz recovered from a difficult start to claim third place in the Bahrain Grand Prix

Now all attentions turn to the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, which takes place in less than a week’s time at the Jeddah Corniche Circuit.

In terms of whether the high-speed track can be a good one for the Ferrari, Sainz is hopeful that the squad have made a step forward at these kinds of venues.

DRIVER OF THE DAY: Sainz gets your Bahrain vote with superb podium drive

“Let’s see. It’s the first different circuit that we go [to] with these new 2024 cars, so it will be a bit of a surprise for everyone to see where we are,” the 29-year-old – who is racing in his final season for Ferrari, with Lewis Hamilton taking his position for 2025 – commented about the Scuderia’s prospects at the next race.

“I expect the cars like the McLaren and Red Bull – that, last year, they were very good in high-speed circuits – to be competitive there, but our car has also improved in the high-speed so hopefully we can be also strong there.”

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