No “crisis” at Ferrari but “clearly we are not happy” with reliability – Sainz

2023 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix

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Carlos Sainz Jnr has dismissed suggestions Ferrari is in “crisis” after the opening round of the season but admits the team were unhappy with the result in Bahrain.

He finished fourth in the opening race of the season after being overtaken by Fernando Alonso in the closing laps, missing out on the final podium place as a result.

Sainz’s team mate Charles Leclerc was on course for third until he retired from the race with a power unit failure. The consequent repairs mean he will take a 10-place grid penalty for exceeding power unit components for the season.

Speaking ahead of this weekend’s Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, Sainz admitted it had been a difficult start to the season for his Ferrari team.

“It was a tough first weekend for the team, but, in general, I think we got out of it with the maximum that we could have done,” Sainz said. “Obviously, the penalty of Charles coming into here is not ideal, but it’s only the first race.

“If 2022 told us [something], it’s that it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish. So we are going to try and build up from there, especially now, keep the developments in and try and improve the car as much as possible from where we started.”

After Ferrari’s 2022 season was marred by reliability problems and retirements for both their drivers, Sainz admits they are “relatively concerned” to have been struck with a power unit failure in the first race.

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“It’s not the way you want to start a season with a penalty [from] race one,” he admitted. “Breaking the battery, the ECU in the first weekend – clearly we are not happy with that and we identify it as a weakness. But this is the first time we’ve seen this failure in a very, very long time, so it caught us by surprise.

“We are putting things in place to fix it. I’m pretty sure that we are capable of fixing that in the short term. So, yeah, it’s a bad situation, but now we can only look forward and improve it and make sure that we are also more competitive this weekend.”

Despite the failure and the disappointment of finishing nearly 50 seconds behind winner Max Verstappen, Sainz said claims the team is in “crisis” were wide of the mark.

“It is a lot better than what the news makes it sound like,” Sainz insisted. “When you look back at this last week and how many rumours there have been around, it’s seems like the place is not in a great moment.

“But I can tell you it is so clear to us what we need to improve, how we need to do it and what are the short, medium and long term targets that I actually am very surprised how some people back at home have been trying to destabilise a bit the team. Some call it a ‘crisis’ – we’ve only done one race. It’s impossible to judge a team’s performance in this race.

“We are the first ones that are not happy with how this first race went and we are the most bothered about it and we are the most affected by it and we are going to try as much as possible to try and improve it. So I’m pretty calm about it and I see people at home committed, focussed and with a very clear target in mind and I include myself in it.”

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Sainz insists Ferrari have made significant progress as a team since he joined them in 2021 and expects that to continue under new team principal Frederic Vasseur.

“I think it’s simply a sign that there’s someone out there just doing a bit of a better job than us and that we need to raise the bar. But while we are raising the bar every year and becoming a stronger team, the others are doing the same.

“It’s not only how much you can progress from one year to another, it’s how much you can progress relative to the rest of the field. I’ve been in Ferrari three years and the progress I’ve seen inside the team from 2021 to 2023 is huge. It’s just, so far, it hasn’t been enough to beat either a Red Bull or a Mercedes.

“In ’21, we were P3. Last year, we were P2. Now obviously the start of the season has been tough and we’ve faced issues with race pace and reliability that we honestly didn’t expect to face. It caught us a bit off-guard but we’re putting everything in place to make sure it doesn’t happen [again].”

One area Sainz expects the team to show it had improved is in how it develops its car over the course of the season, having been forced to stop bringing updates to last year’s car due to the limitations imposed by the budget cap.

“I think the right exam has to be done a bit more later in the year and towards the end of the year, because one other area where I think it’s important is development and the capacity to improve the mistakes that you do,” Sainz explained. “I think we’re going to do a good job this year on development. We have a very clear targets of what we need to improve from the car. The car is responding exactly the same as in the wind tunnel, so we know where the car is weak and what we want to do.”

Ahead of this weekend in Saudi Arabia, Sainz says he expects the SF-23 to fare better around the fast, tight street circuit.

“The track is completely different to Bahrain,” he said. “The Tarmac, the high-speed nature, the wing level that we will run – everything is just a bit different compared to Bahrain.

“I have the feeling that we’re going to be a bit more competitive. Enough to beat the Red Bulls? Given how competitive and how strong they were in Bahrain, it’s going to be extremely difficult. But I want to be more optimistic after Bahrain and I feel like this weekend we have a good chance to get back on the podium.”

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2023 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix

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Author information

Will Wood
Will has been a RaceFans contributor since 2012 during which time he has covered F1 test sessions, launch events and interviewed drivers. He mainly...
Claire Cottingham
Claire has worked in motorsport for much of her career, covering a broad mix of championships including Formula One, Formula E, the BTCC, British...

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2 comments on “No “crisis” at Ferrari but “clearly we are not happy” with reliability – Sainz”

  1. Well, maybe they don’t see it as a “crisis”, but they certainly started on the back foot with new reliability issues AND being off the pace. With Leclerc now certain to face grid penalties and limited development, we can only hope the car will be more competitive at different tracks than Bahrain.

    1. The most crisis like action is Leclerc passing his team and vasseur and requested a meeting with the powers that really run Ferrari.

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