Lewis Hamilton says he is happy with a fifth-placed start for the Bahrain Grand Prix after struggling to tame his Mercedes W13 during pre-season testing.
The seven-time World Champion does not appear to be blessed with a car capable of competing at the front following the first qualifying session of 2022, having placed fifth, with teammate George Russell down in ninth.
Charles Leclerc took pole position behind the wheel of his Ferrari under the lights in Sakhir, with Red Bull's Max Verstappen qualifying second.
Carlos Sainz will start third, ahead of Sergio Perez in fourth, both armed with cars that will be far quicker than the Mercedes on race day, according to Hamilton.
Hamilton happy with fifth position on the grid
Hamilton has described the Ferrari and Red Bull cars as being "in another league", as he looked ahead to Sunday's race, and is expecting an afternoon spent watching his rivals disappear into the distance.
"I'm genuinely really happy with today, given where we have been the last few weeks," Hamilton told Sky Sports after qualifying.
"The struggles that we've had and the problems we have had with the car... it's been a bit of a nightmare to drive.
"We've just kept our heads down and kept working away, so I'm really proud of everyone for staying positive.
"The guys ahead of us are in another league. I'm happy with where we are. It's not the front row, but we will make improvements and we'll do the best we can tomorrow."
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Hamilton: Ferrari and Red Bull are a second faster than us
Hamilton is expecting to be fighting with the cars behind more so than the cars ahead on race day, even after vowing to do everything he can to upset the qualifying order.
Haas, Alfa Romeo and Alpine all made it to Q3, with Valtteri Bottas, now in the Alfa Romeo, out-qualifying his Mercedes replacement Russell.
"Red Bull and Ferrari will be going away; we're not in the fight with those – they were a second ahead of us [in practice] yesterday on race pace," added Hamilton.
"My battles are with the guys behind, most likely. I'll try to be as fast as I can and get ahead, but their performance is quite a bit ahead of ours."
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