As the Formula 1 paddock gears up for the 2023 Italian Grand Prix, Carlos Sainz is optimistic about Ferrari’s prospects, asserting that they will reclaim their “normal position” and contend for podium finishes.
This declaration follows a challenging outing at Zandvoort, where the Scuderia grappled with issues and struggled for competitiveness.
At Zandvoort, Sainz secured a fifth-place finish while his teammate Charles Leclerc was forced to retire due to floor damage.
The weekend’s difficulties were further compounded by Leclerc’s crash during qualifying, a testament to the unpredictable handling of the SF-23 machine on the limit.
Both drivers expressed their struggles, citing that they had “zero idea” how the car would react.
Ferrari has committed to a comprehensive overhaul of their car design for 2024, believing they have a firm grasp of the underlying problems.
As a result, Sainz emphasises the importance of persevering with the current car for the remainder of the season, while focusing on the specific tracks that suit its characteristics.
In an interview with Sky Sports, Sainz elaborated: “Don’t get me wrong, we have started to understand what it is [with the handling] but there is very little margin to correct it now that the car is built and the car is pretty much done and developed.
“We know we need to change things for next year but for this year, circuits like Zandvoort and windy conditions and high downforce tracks, we are simply going to be slow.”
Sainz, although acknowledging the pace deficit compared to frontrunners, draws encouragement from the team’s performance in the rain-affected race at Zandvoort.
Despite the inherent challenges, both Ferrari drivers showcased their mettle, holding their own against faster rivals.
Sainz reflected, “We were fighting with cars that were a lot quicker than us the whole weekend.
“It was just a whole race of fighting through, getting the calls right… our pace was nowhere near that [to earn fifth place].
“It means we executed the race well; we did everything well.
“I’m happy with the result, not happy with how much I struggled and how difficult it was out there for us.”
Looking ahead to the upcoming Italian Grand Prix at Monza, Sainz expressed optimism about Ferrari’s performance on the low-downforce circuit.
Anticipating a return to form, he stated, “For Monza, I expect better things because in Spa, we were a lot quicker than we were [in Zandvoort] and I think honestly, at low-downforce tracks, we should be better and we should be back to our normal position.”
Team principal Fred Vasseur emphasised the unpredictability of the current competitive landscape, noting that the order between the second and twelfth positions is highly dynamic.
He highlighted Ferrari’s strong showing at Spa and remained positive about their potential to contend, explaining:
“With this kind of convergence of performance, every single detail on the approach – driver management, tyre management and so on – can make a difference bigger than the difference of the package.”