It’s been a challenging start to 2023 for Ferrari, with the Maranello-based outfit having arguably gone backwards following the conclusion of 2022.
Second in the Constructors’ Championship last year was a strong indicator that Ferrari were heading back towards being real title contenders, with the Italians having been in the fight for the opening stages of the inaugural season of the new aerodynamic regulations.
They’ve gone concerningly in the wrong direction this season, though, with the famous side currently being fourth in the standings.
It’s really where they deserve to be, with Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc having both struggled to get amongst Aston Martin or Mercedes when it comes to the races, let alone Red Bull.
Sainz in his defence has fared better than Leclerc so far this season, with the Monegasque having made several driver errors.
Sainz has by no means been perfect, though, with him currently struggling with the SF-23’s “unpredictability”.
“It’s not an easy car,” Sainz told The Race.
“At the moment, we are struggling a bit with unpredictability, with a very tricky car, which makes putting laps together in qualy, race pace, changing conditions, tyre wear, wind, very, very tricky to predict and very tricky to adapt to.
“As a driver, leaving that aside, I feel like I understand how I need to drive this generation of cars, I understand how I want to set up the car to my liking, or at least this generation of cars to my liking. And that leaves me with less variables to think about going into a race weekend.
“It hasn’t been an easy start, as I said, but I feel like even if the car is possibly even trickier than last year, I understand that trickiness better. And I can set-up and drive the car in my way.”
Sainz currently finds himself fifth in the Drivers’ Championship and 10 points ahead of Leclerc, who’s claimed the team’s only podium of the season.
Whilst his and Ferrari’s current position in the championship “doesn’t hurt” the 28-year-old, what does bother him is how far ahead Red Bull are, both in terms of points and performance.
The Austrians are in a completely different league compared to Ferrari, with Sainz admitting that Red Bull’s pace has “struck us by surprise”.
“It doesn’t hurt me so much being fourth in Constructors’ or fifth or sixth in Drivers’,” Sainz insists. “It hurts me more the gap to Red Bull.
“If now we would be sitting fourth in the Constructors’, but we know that every weekend we have a chance to make a pole and win a race, it would be easier to accept.
“It’s just how fast the Red Bull has turned out to be this year. And how it has struck us by surprise. Not only us, I think Mercedes and Aston Martin would never expect to have the gap they do.”