Sainz “perfectly confident” Ferrari can catch Red Bull over winter

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Carlos Sainz Jnr says he is “perfectly confident” that Ferrari have the ability to close their performance deficit to Red Bull.

The Ferrari driver was the only non-Red Bull driver to win a grand prix in a 2023 season dominated by the world champions.

Despite winning the Singapore Grand Prix, Sainz’s Ferrari team were beaten into second place in the constructors’ championship by rivals Mercedes. However, Sainz feels Ferrari have the potential to close the gap to Red Bull heading into next season.

“I think it has to be our realistic aim, yes,” Sainz said. “Will we manage to do it? Only time will tell. But I want the team to be thinking that is possible, because I believe it is.”

Sainz pointed to the leap in performance that McLaren made during the 2023 season as an indicator that Ferrari have the potential to find significant lap time of their own before next season.

“McLaren has been able to do these steps during the season – I’m perfectly confident that Ferrari can do it over a winter break,” he said.

“I trust this team. I trust the capacity that we have back at home to turn things around. There’s still circuits where we are on pole by three-tenths to a Red Bull. It’s just that is a very specific trait of the car that really is good – we just need to make it an all rounder.”

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Ferrari secured seven pole positions over the course of the season – more than any other team aside from Red Bull – with Sainz taking pole at the team’s home grand prix at Monza as well as Singapore, which he would convert into victory. Asked what elements of the SF-23 he would like to carry over into Ferrari’s 2024 car, Sainz said “definitely the straight line speed, the braking performance and the performance in 90-degree corners or short duration corners.”

“Also the kerb riding, I think it’s a very strong point,” he continued.

However, after both he and team mate Charles Leclerc complained of the SF-23’s performance level being “peaky” over the season, Sainz said he wants Ferrari to produce a more rounded car for 2024.

“The [2023] car has very, very strong points, but I feel like if we want to have a car for the whole year, maybe we need to give away some of this these strengths to make sure that we are quick everywhere,” he explained.

“Especially in the race. I think in the races, we need to really focus on understanding what are we doing to this car, what are we doing to the tyres that is not allowing us to compete in the races at the level of Red Bull and McLaren – in Brazil, for example, in Austin, in circuits where you can clearly see we just don’t have the race pace.”

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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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23 comments on “Sainz “perfectly confident” Ferrari can catch Red Bull over winter”

  1. Delusional as always. That’s better than saying Verstappen has won 2024 already.

    1. would be interesting to see if Ferrari can adapt an engine braking scheme which can help the rear of their car right before the apex. Honda have it in spades in both MotoGP and F1 (TC).

  2. Look at the people in that picture without looking at Carlos.
    Ferrari today is a bunch of fashionable posers, who like to boast about working for Ferrari.
    Most are there because of family connections.
    They are too busy being cool to care about the sport – or the team – or anything except themselves.

    Ferrari needs to employ people who care about doing the job.

    1. All of this based on a picture?

    2. Lol… they seem like regular folk to me. I guess beauty(or ugliness) is in the eye of the beholder.

  3. Coventry Climax
    9th December 2023, 19:13

    The personnel in the picture seem to have had quite a laugh.
    For Sainz’ sake I hope that’s not because of what he said and is being repeated in the article.

  4. It’s the correct mindset, to be a winner in any competition you need to always believe it’s possible to win. Can’t fault him at all for that.

    I wish for more transparency around what makes certain cars faster than others at each track, but at the same time understand the need for secrecy around it.

    Maybe there’s work to be done analysing the available onboards. I wonder if the teams are investing in this, there’s a use case for AI to pinpoint exact deficiencies in development.

    1. Coventry Climax
      9th December 2023, 20:55

      Mindset – agree
      Transparency – disagree. Agree as far as the rulemaking, policing, sanctioning and the management aspects are concerned, but when engineers are supposed to make their clever findings public; that’s another step towards spec cars and punishing if not taking all incentive away to come up with something clever. Totally not the way F1 is supposed to be, as far as I’m concerned.
      AI – same thing. I’d like to see the sport aspect get the upper hand again, and sports is people work, not machine work. Also, aren’t you romanticising AI here? Sofar, AI is as good as the information it was fed with, which might not be that much at the moment. When that gets more, and enough for AI to really do its job, it’ll likely go autonomous and we’ll have machine designed cars. Where should the trophies go? The IT department?

      1. >Where should the trophies go? The IT department?

        F1 teams’ IT departments already handle a lot of work. It’s worth considering whether machine learning should have a place in F1. If it’s something they want to regulate, establishing rules might be necessary. I’d be surprised if machine learning isn’t already integrated into various aspects of their operations (ML-CFD is a thing and would be a loophole to CFD regs.) But that’s a tangent.

        In my comment, I was thinking more about external analysis purely out of interest to understand better the state of competition. Currently, our insights often come from drivers’ comments or expert analysis. There are reports suggesting that betting agencies are using ML to predict outcomes and set more favorable mid-match odds in other sports.

        I don’t mean to advocate or romanticise this idea, but the capabilities of machine learning are growing rapidly, and that’s just what we see on the public-facing side.

        1. Coventry Climax
          10th December 2023, 10:05

          It’s worth considering whether machine learning should have a place in F1.

          Although you bring a bit of nuance over the paragraph, your ‘It’s worth considering .. ‘ is actually “You think it’s worth considering”. Obviously, I have a completely different opinion.

          Currently, our insights often come from drivers’ comments or expert analysis.

          Which to me, is exactly as it should be.

          Just because things are growing rapidly in the world, doesn’t mean we have to be in favor of it. War and populism are the perfect examples.
          What it does mean, as far as I’m concerned, is that the FiA should have started investigating AI and it’s use in motorsports from the moment of its inception, and taken a stance on it shortly after.
          Now that is a moment in time that’s obviously difficult to assess, but it’s certainly not tomorrow, as well as being practically guaranteed the FiA are late to the process. They should come up with very clear (not their forte either) rules about AI asap, as it’s always harder to take away things that are already there, and way less efficient, than prohibit them in advance.
          Again, anywhere AI takes the place of roles that are considered sportsmanship, meaning human, my opinion is it shouldn’t be there. Since F1 is a constructor championship as well, that includes construction and design roles. Sure, there’s quite a bit of computerisation in F1 already, but that’s no argument to embrace even more. You could even argue CFD analysis and such have no place in F1. No, I don’t want F1 to be another ‘Scrapyard Contest’, on the contrary, but I do want to see the results of clever people, not of clever machines. For that, there’s -arguably; don’t really know about those- probably other championships available, like Robot Wars and such. Entertaining, but of a different nature.

  5. He didn’t say which Red Bull.

    1. True, catching perez in points is actually fairly realistic with a little relative car improvement, even if he drives a bit better than he did this season, whereas if the statement is referred to catching verstappen it sounds almost comical.

    2. True. It’s not impossible that Ferrari have a car that is as fast as the Red Bull out of the box. Heck, they did it in 2022. They had strong form in the 2nd half of the 2023 season, so if they pull one out of the bag, they could start the season with a car as good a Red Bull in 2024.

      However, this is why Ferrari cannot challenge for the title –
      1) In season development – For them to match Red Bull’s in season development has been an impossible task for Ferrari. At least over the past 14 to 15 seasons. Even if they have a faster car out of the box, they’ll lose their advantage by the time they get to Barcelona, despite having more Windtunnel/CFD time.
      2) Race strategy and operations – They just don’t have strong enough people in that department to maximise race strategy, pitstops, driver management, etc. They’ll lose plenty of races on this aspect alone.
      3) No driver that can match Max – Charles might go toe to toe with Max on certain race weekends, but he’s can’t deliver faultless performances over an entire season. Sainz cannot match Max on any aspect of racing on any day of the week.

  6. Even IF you match them car-wise, it wouldn’t mean anything as they are up against Verstappen. Ferrari was better than RedBull early 2022 and they didn’t make the most out of it.

    1. I think leclerc drove well early 2022, he did what he could; sainz had a terrible start of the season, to the point I didn’t understand why they extended his contract at the time, seemed a really bad idea, he was making big mistakes every other race.

    2. The ferrari drivers drove the car much more on the edge of its performance in early 2022, thats the source of the mistakes. But the RBR car was far better already back then.

      1. Nope. Ferrari were favourites for the French GP which was in the 2nd half of the ’22 season.
        RBR did not start with a huge advantage like Merc had in ’14.

  7. Ferrari can maybe catch Red Bull but you still have to work on your tyre management Carlos!

  8. I am “perfectly confident” that I can become the Bishop of Bath and Wells…

  9. It may sound comical given the Verstappen domination in this season but there is a but.

    The domination was arguably exacerbated by the relentless consistency of Verstappen and the superior tyre management of RB. On pure pace, the difference was just a couple of tenths.

    Leclerc is more than capable of outqualifying Verstappen. If they design a car that is in fighting shape for the entire race (hello tyre management) then they have a realistic shot at GP wins. Especially if both Sainz and Leclerc qualify on the front rows.

    For the WDC though, perhaps they need a car that is better than RB.

    1. @Frank quite wrong the race pace difference was enormous.

  10. Red Bull stopped development of this years car before the mid-season

    1. If true then that will leave us to wonder if any one will beat Max in the 2024 season. 2024 could well be one of the best F1 seasons ever up to this time.

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