Sainz returns to F1 racing in Australia after appendix surgery



MELBOURNE, Australia — Turns out Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz didn’t need to “raise his hand” and have another driver take his place during the first two practice sessions for Sunday’s Australian Formula 1 Grand Prix.

Sainz was eighth-fastest in the first session and improved to third quickest in the second on the Albert Park circuit on Friday.

Earlier in the week Sainz said he felt he was ready to return to the cockpit but wasn’t feeling 100% after surgery for appendicitis that ruled him out of the March 10 race in Saudi Arabia.

“It’s been a couple of tough weeks leading to today, and to be honest I’m very happy I could complete both sessions with reasonable comfort,” Sainz said, adding that he’d continue with caution so that he reaches qualifying on Saturday and Sunday’s race “in the best form possible.”

“I’m confident tomorrow will be better and, overall, the car seems to be in a good place this weekend. We’ll try to maximize everything from body and machine!”

The 29-year-old Sainz finished third behind Red Bull’s Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez at the season-opening Bahrain GP.

Sainz has two F1 wins — at the 2022 British Grand Prix and 2023 in Singapore — and 19 podium finishes. His first F1 race was at the 2015 Australian GP.

The Spanish driver, who is out of contract at the end of the season, with Lewis Hamilton set to take his drive from 2025, said earlier in the week there was a chance he may have to be replaced for the second straight race by Ferrari’s standout reserve driver Oliver Bearman.

The 18-year-old Bearman is in Melbourne racing in F2, so could have been available. Bearman qualified in 11th and finished seventh in Saudi Arabia.

“I’m not stupid, and if I don’t feel good tomorrow — I will be the first one to raise my hand and say that I need another two weeks until the next race,” Sainz said Thursday.

But on Friday, Sainz didn’t show any post-surgery rust as he finished his fastest lap in 1 minute, 17.707 seconds. His Ferrari teammate Charles Leclerc was quickest in 1:17.277 and series leader Max Verstappen was second fastest in 1:17.658.

Ferrari said Sainz completed his run plan without any setbacks, with long runs and short stings on both the medium and soft tires, and would continue to be at the wheel over the weekend.

“I feel okay, obviously a bit tired after a day of practice and not being 100% physically, but I felt like I had a good day,” Sainz said. “I managed to complete the whole program. Obviously I need a good night’s sleep and a good recovery for tomorrow.”

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AP Formula 1: https://apnews.com/hub/formula-one



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