Carlos Sainz has vowed to be more aggressive in the opening laps of races after admitting he was too cautious on his first Formula 1 start for Ferrari in Bahrain.

The Spaniard had a solid yet low-key debut for Ferrari as he finished eighth and two places behind teammate Charles Leclerc at the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix, helping the Italian outfit to record an encouraging points haul.

Sainz had to recover lost places following a deliberately cautious approach to the first few laps to avoid picking up potentially race-ending damage. For future races, Sainz has pinpointed the start as an area he can make significant gains.

“Overall it’s been a good weekend for me,” Sainz said. “Maybe the result itself is nothing special, I think the pace over the weekend has been stronger than what the result shows.

“I was a bit on the back foot after the first few laps, probably taking a bit of a cautious approach into my first few laps with Ferrari. I just wanted to make sure I finished this race.

“Once I managed to clear two slower cars - the Aston and the Alpine - and I managed to get into clean air, I was actually very happy with the car. I felt like I could extract the race pace of the car and we were quick.

“So it was a good first weekend. There will be time in the next 22 races to get a bit more aggressive at the start and to be a bit better in those first few laps.”

Sainz caught McLaren’s Daniel Ricciardo at the end of the race but ultimately ran out of time to launch an attack on the driver of the car he drove last year.

After a woefully uncompetitive 2020 campaign, Ferrari’s competitiveness relative to current P3 holders McLaren was a source of great encouragement for Sainz.

“It is encouraging because last year I remember I passed Charles pretty easy, so I remember how big was the difference between the McLaren and the Ferrari," he explained.

"I was close to overtaking the McLaren at the end, and I had much better pace than Daniel towards the end of the race. We were catching by half a second per lap.

"So there's positive signs, there's encouragement, and there's a big step compared to last year. Now it is a matter of fine tuning the details, keep working hard back in Maranello and keep improving."