After showing impressive pace throughout Friday practice, Sainz’s weekend unravelled in Q3 when an untimely red flag cost him provisional pole position ahead of teammate Charles Leclerc.

An issue with the start-up procedure on his car left him with limited time in Q3 to set a lap, leaving him down in ninth after his tyres weren’t up to temperature.

The Spaniard then dropped to 14th from ninth on the grid after encountering another technical issue. 

 

Explaining what happened at the start, Sainz said: “What was clearly not right today we again had issues with the steering wheel, we had to change the steering wheel one minute before leaving for at the formation lap and the steering wheel was not well positioned on some switches which meant at the start I was getting some anti-stall, which meant I started with hards and with anti-stall so was on the backfoot.”

With Sainz on the backfoot, he tried to make his way through the field quickly, attempting an ambitious move on Mick Schumacher into the tricky Turn 9-10 chicane.

He broke too late and lost control of his car, taking to the grass before pirouetting into the gravel trap on the left-hand side of the corner, ending his race on Lap 2.

“Being in a rush to overtake and come back clearly, I did a mistake on the hard tyre when the tyre was probably not ready to be pushed and ready to overtake people so not great,” he explained.

“We have not been perfect this weekend, it’s been a bit of disaster, so we need to learn from it and I was the first one to make a mistake today.”

Sainz was left to rue a weekend where he felt he should have been challenging his teammate for the race victory.

“This car in worse possible scenario today was to do top four with a good comeback,” he added. “Without the issues of yesterday, without the issues of today we should have been in the fight for a win so to go away with zero points is very disappointing. 

“As I said we need to be more perfect as a team and this weekend we clearly haven’t been.”

Charles Leclerc wasn't expecting Ferrari to dominate

It was contrasting fortunes on the other side of the Ferrari garage as Leclerc dominated from pole position to secure his second victory of the season to pull further clear in the drivers' championship.

Leclerc now sits 34 points clear of Mercedes' George Russell and has been in a league of his own so far this season.

After taking pole position, Leclerc controlled the race from the front as he built an eight-second lead over Max Verstappen.

Leclerc ultimately won the race by 20 seconds after Verstappen was forced to retire, promoting Sergio Perez up the order.

The 24-year-old admitted Ferrari's turn of speed compared to Red Bull was unexpected ahead of the weekend in Melbourne.

“When I say things on the Thursday to you guys [the media], it's what I am being told by the team and honestly on our paper, maybe we need to review our paper, but we were a bit behind Red Bull on this track but we were stronger than what we thought so it's a good surprise,” Leclerc said.

Ferrari’s impressive form this year comes after two winless seasons, including its worst campaign in over 40 years in 2020.

The Italian manufacturer has capitalised on the new regulations, while it has taken significant steps forward on the power unit side having been behind Mercedes and Honda.

“Last year was a very difficult year for us,” Leclerc added. “This year, the team has managed, because me, I am only giving the feedback on what I want from the car but it’s up to the guys in Maranello to do a stronger engine, a reliable engine, a good car and they’ve managed that this season. I am incredibly happy and incredibly proud to be driving for Ferrari.

“It shows how great they are because after the last two years it wasn’t a given we’d be back at this level and we are. We need to keep pushing. The season is long but it’s an extremely good start.”

Leclerc will look to win on home turf for Ferrari next time out when F1 heads to Imola for the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix in two weeks’ time.