Carlos Sainz admits he and Toro Rosso were surprised to crack the top ten in qualifying for the Bahrain Grand Prix, saying he wasn't entirely convinced he would even get beyond Q1.

The Spaniard rose towards the front of a competitive mid-field pack by squeezing into Q3 and going on to secure ninth position on the grid as he seeks his third points' finish of the season in Bahrain.

Well ahead of team-mate Max Verstappen in 15th, Sainz says top ten pace on a single lap was unexpected as he anticipates the car will be stronger in race trim.

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In FP3 it looked like we would struggle to reach Q2," he said. "We were all a bit shocked with that... we did a couple of set-up changes and the track cooled down, which helped us.

"It is probably our least expected Q3 of the year. Up until now our race pace was always a bit better than our qualifying pace, but here everything is up and down and weird things are happening from one session to another!

"Our long runs were positive considering we turned the engine down, but I have a set of options I can play with and hopefully we can use it to go forward."

Looking ahead to the race, Sainz is hoping he can break away early on so as to negate the Toro Rosso's relative lack of straight line pace.

"We need to make sure we have a clean first three laps, that we get the straight line speed guys out of the DRS zone because we know the lack of power we have, so even if they are a second behind they will pass us. We know that in battles we will suffer because there are long straights and two DRS