Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz Jnr are doubtful Ferrari’s form last weekend in Austria will be repeated at Silverstone.Max Verstappen. Sainz finished fourth on the road but was demoted to sixth place in the final standings after a post-race time penalty for exceeding track limits.
The result appeared to validate Ferrari’s belief that they were more competitive in the previous round in Canada than their fourth and fifth place finishes there suggested. Both Leclerc and Sainz started in the midfield due to problems in qualifying and made their way up the order during the race.
Leclerc believes Ferrari’s recent performances shows they are improving relative to their rivals Red Bull, Mercedes and Aston Martin. But he does not expect a strong weekend for the Scuderia at Silverstone.
“I think since Barcelona, really, the feeling is going in the right direction,” said Leclerc. “We couldn’t really prove it at any other tracks since Barcelona, but in Austria, the feeling was good, and the pace was a bit better than what we had for the first part of the season.
“However, we shouldn’t get carried away. Red Bull is still a lot in front and I think this track this weekend will expose a bit more our weaknesses. So we might struggle a bit more than what we’ve seen in Austria. But it’s clear that the feeling and the pace is a step better.”
With relatively high wind speeds expected on Saturday at the fast and flat Silverstone circuit, Sainz believes the British Grand Prix weekend will provide a telling indication of the progress Ferrari has made with its SF-23.
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“I think we need maybe a more open, windy circuit like Silverstone to evaluate [our car],” he said. “Normally, we’ve been struggling more in windy conditions like Miami, Baku in the race sometimes. I think we need more samples to assess our progress on our upgrade package.
“What I can tell you is that the car feels better in Austria and both over one lap and in the race. But we were also very quick in Austria last year so I’m still being cautious and letting the circuits and the season go by to analyse it. But I’m proud of the way the team reacted and the amount of upgrades that we’ve been bringing in recently.”
Ferrari have experienced more severe tyre degradation in races than their rivals over the season so far. Sainz believes Ferrari’s sensitivity to wind and relative harshness on their tyres are “connected.”
“I don’t think we are doing anything particularly wrong with tyres,” he explained. “I think is more the way our car behaves in the race with the wind, with the instabilities that we have.
“The inconsistencies also affect your race pace – I think your inconsistencies also affect your tyre deg. The more snaps [of oversteer], the more moments you have during the race, the worse the tyre management is always going to be. We were struggling with that. Austria was a lot better. Dirty air also is something that affects us quite a bit. There’s, as you can see, many things out there that we are trying to get under control.”
This weekend Pirelli is introducing a new construction of tyres designed to better suit the higher cornering speeds and downforce loads mid-corner that drivers are experiencing this season. Leclerc says he is unsure whether the revised tyres will have any impact on Ferrari’s performance or the level of tyre wear they experience.
“I think during the free practices it’s going to be very important to assess that, to see how much of a difference it is in terms of tyre degradation, if we need to fine tune the car to these new constructions,” he said. “And then we’ll see. But we don’t know yet whether it’s going to be a benefit or a weakness.”
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