Just 12 months ago, Charles Leclerc qualified 13th, while Sebastian Vettel didn’t make it out of Q1.

For Saturday’s sprint race, Sainz is set to start from seventh, just ahead of Leclerc in eighth.

While Ferrari was behind its main rivals McLaren in qualifying, Sainz was happy with the progress compared to 2020.

“It’s good progress compared to last year,” Sainz said. “You need to remember last year, one car was out in Q1, the other one was in P13, so in a matter of a year, we’ve progressed in this sort of track that we know it doesn’t suit the characteristics of the car. But we still want more and we will keep working for it.

“Unfortunately since the beginning of Q1, we saw that we were a bit too far away from the top five, and unfortunately in a track like this where we want to do so well in front of the tifosi, we were going to struggle to be in the top five.

“But we managed to keep improving throughout the session. We managed to put together some good laps. Very close between Charles and me, there or thereabouts, so it shows that the car is where it is. We want more for the future, but today it’s what we have.”

Leclerc was left to rue a power unit-related issue that plagued him throughout qualifying.

“Today for me was a very difficult day,” Leclerc added. “We had an issue in qualifying, during the whole qualifying… but we are looking into it for tomorrow – and hopefully fixing it because otherwise, it could be very difficult to do the race like this.

“I won’t go into details but [it was] something on the power unit that was happening. I don’t really know what was it, but it was very difficult to drive.”