Carlos Sainz Jr, Ferrari, Circuit de Catalunya, 2023

Ferrari upgrade ‘working well’ at track which doesn’t suit car – Sainz

2023 Spanish Grand Prix

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The upgrade Ferrari has brought to its car at this weekend’s Spanish Grand Prix appears to be working, said Carlos Sainz Jnr after he qualified on the front row of the grid.

The team made a significant change to its sidepod design which is intended to help reduce the SF-23’s ‘peaky’ behaviour, which both drivers have said makes it difficult to get the best out of the car in race trim.

Sainz gave a positive verdict on the changes after qualifying second for today’s race. “The new package was meant to improve mainly the medium to low-speed [performance] and in that area we have definitely felt a step in the right direction. And as I said before the weekend, a step into a different direction is not so much a big upgrade or a big change in our performance but opening a bit of a different window of working range for the car. That was the main target of this upgrade, not to suddenly go half a second quicker.

“I think that is doing the job and it’s working well. We also want to make the car more predictable, more drivable, easier to put together a lap and hopefully it will go in this direction.”

However he said the high-speed nature of the Circuit de Catalunya, which has become even quicker this year following the removal of the slow chicane at the end of the lap, does not flatter their car.

“Unfortunately, we’ve come to a track that doesn’t suit our package. Our high-speed performance really hasn’t been good since the beginning of the season. Since Australia, we’ve been struggling with the balance and with the bouncing and still many things that is happening to us in high speed. So we just want to now focus on that and see if we can improve that because as you saw, low-speed for us is actually not bad at all.”

While Sainz claimed his first front row start of the season, team mate Charles Leclerc qualified on the back row of the grid after being struck by a mystery handling problem during Q1.

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“I don’t know exactly what happened to Charles but it’s been the same story of whole year,” said Sainz. “It feels like it’s a very narrow window for us, very narrow window for the car, very tricky car to drive.

Lance Stroll, Aston Martin, Circuit de Catalunya, 2023
Gallery: 2023 Spanish Grand Prix qualifying in pictures
“As soon as the conditions get tricky, it can go one way or the other and you’re fighting very different balances. It’s a very fine line. For me today, it worked out okay.”

Sainz does not expect to challenge pole-winner Max Verstappen for victory, and expects a close fight with Lando Norris, Lewis Hamilton and the other midfield runners behind him.

“I wouldn’t have minded if Lewis or Lando would have out-qualified me, because here the clean side [of the grid] is probably a bit better for the start. But at the same time it’s all about also the tow and how lucky you get, if you can get a tow or not in the run down to turn one.

“Obviously we’ll try to give it all into turn one and go and get that podium. And if Max does something strange, then get a win.”

Verstappen was able to take pole position by 0.462 seconds despite abandoning his final flying lap and Sainz expects Red Bull’s superiority will be even greater in the race, as has often been the case so far this season.

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“I expect Red Bull to have more than half a second to a second of race pace advantage in that window, like they always have,” he said. “That around Barcelona, 50-something laps is a lot of seconds.

“But the rest of the field I think is tight and it’s going to be a good fight.”

“Now it looks like the midfield is really starting to close-up with us,” he said. “You have the likes of the Alpines, even the Haas, Lando with the McLarens are appearing and just joining us in that fight for second or third best. Obviously Red Bull are in a league of their own but then everyone else, it looks like it’s really, really tight out there.”

“I think it is getting a bit tight especially since Monaco,” he explained. “I don’t know if people who started bringing upgrades maybe to Imola – Imola didn’t happen, but then to Monaco – I think maybe the field is compressing.

“Also the short lap, like in Monaco and here – one minute 12 seconds – also makes it look even tighter. And also for us, honestly, I don’t think it’s the best track for Ferrari: a lot of high speed corners and at the moment, those are where we are struggling the most, which is our main point of focus.”

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2023 Spanish Grand Prix

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    Author information

    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...
    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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    One comment on “Ferrari upgrade ‘working well’ at track which doesn’t suit car – Sainz”

    1. The upgrade i can’t wait for is the ‘Redbull floor’. I am pretty sure a lot of the teams, including Mercedes, will be experimenting with their interpretations of this in the month between now and Silverstone.

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