The Spaniard recovered impressively from a difficult opening day of running in Miami to help Ferrari seal their first front-row lock-out in over three years, as he got within 0.190s of his teammate Charles Leclerc’s pole position lap. 

Less than 24 hours earlier, Sainz had been rueing his latest mistake in a string of costly errors as he spun into the unprotected concrete wall at Turn 13 during the early stages of FP2. 

After a promising start to the season, Sainz has endured a tough downward spiral of late. He dropped his Ferrari into the gravel bed on just the second lap of the Australian Grand Prix, crashed in qualifying at Imola, and was then taken out by Daniel Ricciardo at the first corner in the race. 

Sainz had already suffered a high-speed spin and puncture at Turns 4 and 5 in opening practice around the new street circuit in Miami prior to slamming into the wall in the afternoon session. 

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But Sainz, who recently signed a new contract with Ferrari until the end of 2024, bounced back in style in qualifying as he emerged as a genuine contender for a maiden pole that has so far eluded him. 

"I recovered a bit from a pretty heavy crash yesterday,” Sainz replied when asked how he had managed to turn things around. 

"It wasn't easy at all to get the confidence back at a difficult circuit like this new one at Miami. 

“But yeah, I kept it cool until Q3. I managed to pull out a couple of good laps, not quite enough for pole position, but given from where I was coming from, I will take it.”

Ferrari praise Sainz's mental strength 

Sainz went through a similar patch of accidents in 2021 but overcame his struggles with a remarkable show of consistency to ultimately end his first season at Ferrari ahead of Leclerc.

Ferrari sporting director Laurent Mekies credited Sainz’s mental strength for the way he was able to regroup in Miami. 

“He’s very strong mentally so he was back at work with us straightaway and we looked forward,” Mekies told Sky. 

“He knows he has a good support from the team. Nonetheless, you still lose running time, you still lose some confidence, and it’s still difficult to know how much you will push. He has done that magnificently today, so well done.”

The 27-year-old is certain his performances will continue to improve once he can finally get a clean weekend under his belt. 

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“If anything it shows that confidence is not a limitation because I wouldn’t be going out there and pushing as much as I did,” he explained. “I wouldn’t have gone out there yesterday and pushed as much as I did. 

“I’m still pushing myself to improve with this car and to challenge myself to drive differently in some corners and try to change the set-up here and there and put it more to my liking. 

“The confidence is there, it’s more a matter of putting everything together and putting in a clean weekend. I failed to do so in the last few races and this weekend is another good example. It will come. 

“It’s a long season and I am getting there. I think I’m driving better and I feel whenever I’m on track I’m more competitive. It’s just putting everything together that is so tough in this sport and I will be working on it for the future.”

Sainz still learning Ferrari's 2022 car

Sainz had been up on Leclerc during his last lap but lost time at the final corner after experimenting with a different line at a part of the circuit where he had been struggling compared to his teammate throughout qualifying. 

“It was a pretty good lap until there,” Sainz stressed. “I was still pushing a bit on the limit to try to find the right way to drive this car with the balance. 

“Up until that corner, everything was going well and then I tried a bit of a different line through the final corner because I was struggling through the whole qualifying, I was losing a tenth or so to Charles there, but it didn’t make it any better, by doing what I did on the last lap. 

“But I had to try something different because I was losing always there and it didn’t go in the right direction. So I know what not to do tomorrow.”

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Sainz believes the fact he was able to pose a genuine threat over one lap to early championship leader Leclerc, a renowned expert qualifier, highlights the progress he has made with Ferrari’s 2022 car. 

“I think I’m making progress,” he added. "I think the fact that I was out there doing some purple sectors is a good sign and means that in some corners I’m starting to understand the car and the way it should be driven. 

“Also we’ve done some changes in the set-up lately that is going in the direction that I want and that I needed. It’s not the best qualifying I’ve done because I did a pretty big mistake in the last corner, but it’s progress. 

“I’m still not there and I don’t think it’s going to be a matter of one more race, I think it’s going to be very progressive through the season. 

"But good progress even though I was carrying a bit of the weight of yesterday’s crash, I managed to still push the car to the limit in some of the corners and put together a decent quali, so I’m not going to complain.”

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However, Sainz’s troubled Friday does mean that he goes into Sunday’s race at a slight disadvantage due to the fact he was unable to complete any high fuel running. 

“I haven't done any long runs yet,” he said. “I haven't put the fuel on the car and tried it. So tomorrow laps to the grid will be the first time to have a feel, which could be quite challenging.

"But at the same time, I'm feeling confident with the car. The car is really good to drive around here, so I think we can do a good job."