Ferrari's Carlos Sainz feels he still has a lot of pace to unlock after driving conservatively in tricky conditions on Friday in Bahrain.
Despite this conservative approach, Sainz finished three tenths away from the fastest time overall and finished in fourth position just behind Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton. It was an encouraging display of pace from the SF21, but Sainz said he didn't feel particularly hooked up throughout the day.
"In FP1, everything felt fairly normal," Sainz said via a Ferrari press release. "Suddenly, there was a big change in wind and track conditions going into FP2, and it made the cars and the balance a lot more on the edge. It brought the field a bit together and it was actually quite tricky out there.
"I think the long runs show a bit better where everyone is, you can see clearly the Merc and the Red Bull having a bit of an advantage on the rest of the field. But I'm also surprised with how tight the short runs were, in terms of performance."
Asked to explain where he felt he could extract improvements from himself, Sainz said that understanding his car more would lead to better times.
"Just knowing how the car is going to react to the different conditions," the Spaniard explained.
"So if you compare this to the McLaren [from 2020], when the wind changed, you perfectly knew what the car was going to do, so I could anticipate myself and extract, always independently of the conditions there, 95 to 100 percent of the car.
"When you switch teams, switch cars, as soon as the conditions change, you don't know how the car is going to react. So you're always under driving a bit because you don't want to do stupid mistakes. You want to stay a bit below the limit of the car because you don't know how the car is going to react."
Sainz went on to say there's no replacement for experience, and that it's important to maintain focus despite any negative feeling from the car.
"I always say you need races, you need experiences, you need to go through different conditions to know how the car reacts to the wind, to the temperatures, and build a base of experience to know how to adapt to the conditions," Sainz added.
"You need to stay mentally disciplined because you don't want to give too many comments regarding balance because you know you are also probably under driving a bit. Today I managed to adapt well, in between the sessions I managed to feel reasonably at home in the car.
"But tomorrow could be a completely different story. As soon as the wind changes again tomorrow and it picks up like it's picking up now. It could be a completely different story. I could be starting from scratch again and trying to find my feet so, little by little, and the trick here is to just let the sessions go by and let the experience build and be patient."