Carlos Sainz Jnr, Ferrari, Jeddah Corniche Circuit, 2023

Ferrari drivers confident their race pace will be “better than Bahrain” after practice

2023 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix

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Ferrari’s drivers are confident the team will be more competitive in Sunday’s Saudi Arabian Grand Prix than they were in the season-opening race two weeks ago.

Carlos Sainz Jnr, the only Ferrari driver to reach the chequered flag in Bahrain, finished 48 seconds behind winner Max Verstappen. But after the opening day of practice yesterday he was cautiously optimistic.

“I personally feel a bit closer than in Bahrain,” said Sainz, who was 10th fastest after Friday practice at the Jeddah Corniche Circuit.

“Obviously engine modes and the position today doesn’t reflect our true pace. In the long runs we definitely look a bit more competitive. So I’m more positive going into the weekend knowing that Red Bull is the clear favourite and Aston Martin and Mercedes are there with us.”

Sainz lapped just under three-tenths of a second slower than team mate Charles Leclerc in second practice. According to Sainz’s race engineer Ricardo Adami he gave away a tenth of a second each in turns four and 27 to his team mate, and a further tenth when his power unit de-rated on his quickest lap.

Leclerc ended practice seven-tenths of a second off Verstappen. In Bahrain he qualified less than three tenths of a second behind the Red Bull driver, despite forfeiting his last run to save a set of tyres for the race.

Speaking after finishing practice in ninth place yesterday, Leclerc said “I don’t think we are that bad.”

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“Honestly the feeling is pretty good, but it’s very difficult to read into the performance because everybody’s doing very different things with power, weight, et cetera. Probably more different than other years.

Esteban Ocon, Alpine, Jeddah Corniche Circuit, 2023
Analysis: Red Bull retain their advantage in Jeddah but Alpine have joined the chasing pack
“So it’s a bit more difficult to read the Friday and the free practice session. But the feeling was quite okay and the race pace seems to be better than Bahrain, so that’s positive.”

Ferrari’s low straight-line speed compared to its rivals indicated the team had not used its most powerful engine modes after changing components in both drivers’ power units. Leclerc admitted “we have quite a bit in the locker” after practice.

“How much, let’s see. I’m sure Red Bull also has something still hidden. So we’ll see tomorrow but I think it will be closer than what it is for now.”

Leclerc will take a 10-place grid penalty after exceeding his allocation of control electronic units just one race into the new season. He raised queries about his power unit on his radio during practice, but said afterwards there had been nothing to worry about.

“There was nothing wrong,” he said. “There was a few events where I have shifted on kerbs or things like this, which doesn’t put the engine in the best situation, so I complained just to make sure that everything was fine, but everything is fine. So that’s good.”

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2023 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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