Sainz enjoys racing again in his last F1 season with Ferrari after overtaking his teammate Leclerc

SAKHIR, Bahrain (AP) — Carlos Sainz Jr. is having fun driving for Ferrari again.

Sainz said he was relieved to be able to tap into his aggressive side with a series of overtakes, including two close moves on teammate Charles Leclerc, on his way to third place at the Bahrain Grand Prix on Saturday.

Sainz’s first podium finish since October starts his last season with Ferrari on a high. The record 24-race season means it will be an extended goodbye before Lewis Hamilton takes over his seat next year. Sainz is still seeking a team for 2025.

“It wasn’t a straightforward and an easy race, but I enjoyed it a lot,” Sainz said, adding it was his first race since the Austrian Grand Prix in July where he felt free to attack for positions without fear of his Ferrari ruining its tires while following closely behind another car.

“I love going racing, and I love going overtaking, being aggressive, attacking. And with last year’s car, it was simply impossible to do that,” Sainz said.

Bahrain is a stern test of how well the drivers and cars manage their tires, Sainz said, so to “do an overtaking, attacking race for me is a relief and it gives me a feeling that we will be able to do this more often this year.”

“It doesn’t mean we will do it every race at all, because I still think one of our strongest parts of our car is qualifying, so I think we will still qualify ahead of what maybe our true position is. But at least we’re not degrading (tires) and defending like crazy like we were doing last year.”

Sainz was the only non-Red Bull driver to win a race last year, but his Singapore Grand Prix victory was all about taking care of worn tires on a rare off day for Max Verstappen. It was one of just three podium finishes all year for the Spanish driver.

It wasn’t all good news for Sainz in Bahrain, though. Both Ferraris struggled with brake problems that Leclerc called “dangerous”. Even in cool conditions in the desert night, Sainz said his brakes overheated too when following other cars but he “tried not to panic”. Despite that issue, he said he made sure overtaking Leclerc was never too risky.

“It never felt close inside the car,” he said. “Whenever I do an overtake on my teammate I will always try and leave as much margin as possible. I try and do it whenever I feel like I’m fully under control and I’m not putting any car at risk.”

Ferrari was the closest rival to the dominant Red Bulls in qualifying too. Leclerc set a time in the second of Friday’s three sessions that would have been good enough for pole if he’d managed it in the final shootout. He started second but couldn’t challenge Verstappen for the lead in the race.


AP auto racing:

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