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Against post-surgery odds, Sainz returns to F1 racing with 2nd place in qualifying in Australia

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Carlos Sainz has gone from a hospital bed a few weeks ago to the front row of the grid for the Australian Grand Prix on Sunday.

Ferrari driver Sainz was forced to miss the last F1 race in Saudi Arabia due to appendicitis and, despite undergoing surgery, he attempted a swift comeback for the third round of the season in Melbourne.

It was a successful return to the cockpit. He finished second-fastest Saturday behind Max Verstappen, who has won the first two races this season, during qualifying on the temporary street circuit at Albert Park.

“It’s been a tough couple of weeks, a lot of days in bed waiting for this moment to see if I could be here today," the 29-year-old Sainz said. “To make it to this weekend and then obviously to put it on the front row after leading through qualifying I was almost not believing it, especially after how tough it’s been."

It wasn't all smooth driving.

“I was a bit rusty at the beginning yesterday but then I got up to speed and I could finally find the pace and I’m feeling good with the car," he said.

“I’m not going to lie I’m not in my most comfortable state when I’m driving out there, but I can get it done," the Spanish driver added. "And as far as I can get it done without pain… obviously a lot of discomfort and weird feelings, but no pain, so it allows me to push flat-out.”

In Saudi Arabia two weeks ago, Sainz was replaced by Ferrari’s standout reserve driver Oliver Bearman. The 18-year-old Bearman is in Melbourne racing in F2. He finished seventh in Saudi Arabia.

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