The Spaniard endured a difficult start to the 2022 season as he suffered several crashes and struggled to match the pace of teammate Charles Leclerc, who won two of the opening three races.
After benefitting from a late Safety Car, Sainz hounded Max Verstappen for the final 15 laps of the Canadian Grand Prix but was unable to get close enough to mount an attack as the Red Bull driver held on for the win.
When asked after the race if he now feels capable of challenging Verstappen and Leclerc on a more regular basis, Sainz replied: “I hope so, but as I said a few races ago, I want to take it a bit more race by race, you know, not thinking too much about the championship or anything like that.
“I really want to focus in getting to a track and see if I can get myself in a good window of performance and comfort inside the car. I think this weekend I did that, right since FP1 I looked very quick, both in qualifying and race pace.
“In the race I was pushing flat out without any fear of losing the car, like I had, for example, in Barcelona.
“Some good progress being made; we’ve changed a bit of things on the car to try and make it a bit more to my liking, and they seem to be working. But at the same time, I think I need more circuits, I need more different kinds of corners to have a proper feel for that.”
More confident Sainz ‘now a contender for wins’
Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto felt Sainz’s performance in Canada demonstrated a new-found level of confidence that he believes can push the Spaniard on to become a contender for wins.
“I think race by race he’s gaining confidence, improving his driving and being faster and faster and he is happy, he’s more relaxed,” Binotto said.
“I’m pretty sure that he will prove in the next races now that he is a contender as well, for the win on a single race. I’m pretty happy the way he drove and it’s important for us as the Scuderia that we can count on him as well, to know that he can be very fast.”
Sainz is yet to score a pole in F1, while Leclerc has taken six this season. Binotto conceded that qualifying is the area Sainz can make the biggest improvement in.
“To win with such a close fight with Red Bull and Max, you need to be perfect on the entire weekend,” he added.
“And if anything, maybe the qualifying was not perfect from Carlos. That cost him a bit maybe because being ahead or chasing certainly it’s a different matter.