Carlos Sainz admits Max Verstappen is ‘better’ than him and Charles Leclerc

Carlos Sainz finished fifth in the 2022 Drivers' Championship, 208 points behind World Champion Max Verstappen.

Ferrari driver Carlos Sainz is certain that Red Bull and double World Champion Max Verstappen are beatable in 2023, if himself and the Scuderia can produce a ‘perfect year’, something he labels as “the target”.

Sainz endured a mixed 2022 campaign, which tended to feature a whole heap of inconsistency from the Spanish driver.

He did, though, claim his first ever Formula 1 victory during his second season as a Ferrari driver, at the British Grand Prix.

As a team, Ferrari were incredibly strong; however, it was their own errors which resulted in Red Bull claiming 17 victories, with the Maranello-based outfit having won just four.

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Ferrari’s strategic and reliability woes ultimately allowed Verstappen and Red Bull to clinch both World Championships with relative ease. But Sainz is quietly optimistic that the Italians aren’t “far away” from beating them.

The Spaniard believes “more power” and “more downforce” is needed to challenge Red Bull more often on the circuit, with their strategic planning also needing to be addressed.

Based on reports from various Italian publications, Sainz is set to get more power in 2023, with Ferrari having found an additional 30hp after solving their power unit’s reliability issues.

This will fill Sainz and Charles Leclerc with confidence that they can push their Austrian rivals all the way in the upcoming season, with Sainz convinced that they are almost equal on “pure performance”.

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“Unfortunately we couldn’t keep up with them (Red Bull),” said Sainz to Spanish publication Mundo Deportivo.  

“They had a better package and the driver at the moment was better.

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“I think with a perfect year, it is possible to beat Max, and also by improving in the first part of the season and in the races. That’s the target. There are possibilities. Red Bull have dominated, but they haven’t been clearly ahead in qualifying or race pace.

“I don’t feel we’re that far away in terms of development and performance, because for example in Austin I was on pole, we were 1-2, we’re not that far away, we need a little bit more power, a little bit more downforce, and another step more in strategy and race execution.

“In terms of pure performance, we are not far away.”