Carlos Sainz Jr says he is aware that the current “hype” surrounding McLaren’s promising start to the 2019 Formula 1 season could quickly fade if the team’s performance drops.

A strong early showing during the opening two rounds of the campaign has left McLaren sitting fifth in the constructors’ championship as it bids to continue its recovery effort back up the F1 pecking order this year.

Sainz, who replaced two-time world champion Fernando Alonso in the British squad last winter, has been left encouraged by McLaren’s early progress, though he remains cautious about getting carried away with expectations heading into this weekend’s Chinese Grand Prix.

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“I think we are happy with where we were in Bahrain,” Sainz said.

“We cannot be disappointed with that but I think it could be that we turn out to be [the] eighth or ninth fastest [team] in China and Baku if we don’t do things right, or if the car is not performing as well as it did in Bahrain.

“Then suddenly all that hype surrounding McLaren comes down a bit. I think we need to manage a lot those expectations because we’ve just gone to two different race tracks. We need more [different] kinds of tracks to really evaluate our performance.

“The team is encouraged but we are McLaren, we are not happy still,” he added. “We still have a lot of areas of improvement and some weaknesses in this car that we will need to address as soon as possible if we want to be more competitive.

“There’s still a lot of things to improve; a lot of things to get better at, a lot of things to develop, a lot of things to adapt the car, and we cannot relax.

“We had a good weekend in Bahrain so OK, congratulations to everyone and we are on the right path, but we need to keep pushing ourselves because this sport evolves very quickly and within two races you can be the ninth fastest car or the fourth fastest car.”

Sainz has targeted reliability as a key area for improvement after the Spaniard encountered issues in both Australia and Bahrain. An MGU-K failure saw Sainz become the first retiree of the new season in Melbourne, before his race in Bahrain was hampered by gearbox issues prior to his second consecutive DNF.

“I think the potential is there,” Sainz said. “I think we had a decent weekend in Australia, a very good weekend in Bahrain from a performance point of view, but from my side two very weak weekends in terms of reliability.

“Even if Bahrain had gone a bit better I wouldn’t have finished in Bahrain and we would have lost a lot of points - we lost points in Australia because of reliability. I think we need to be proud of how the car is performing these first two races. We need to improve reliability as we want to finish more races and have less issues.”

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