The SF-24 “a better base”, but “tomorrow will tell” how much progress Ferrari F1 has made — Sainz

Photo credits: Scuderia Ferrari
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The Ferrari driver can definitely be satisfied with his first qualifying of the season. After leading the way earlier in FP3, the Spanish driver will line-up from P4, right behind his teammate Charles Leclerc.

Sainz had showcased a very strong pace at the beginning of the qualifying afternoon as well, but had hoped to have more in store for the top ten segment as he ultimately missed that last bit.

“Yes, I think we were very strong from the beginning of Q1, a bit like we saw in FP3 and in testing, very good over one lap,” said the driver in his last season with Ferrari.

There is still more to work on and understand, Sainz believes. The Spaniard over improved by 0.066s in Q3 compared to his Q2 time.

“Unfortunately, even though I did a very conservative lap in Q2 and I tried to save the car for tomorrow, I thought we would have two or three tenths in our pocket going into Q3 and for some reason, they never came. I more or less repeated my times in Q2 and that shows that maybe there’s something to look at in Q3 because we haven’t made the progress that we normally do.

“Other than that, I’m very happy with the car happy with the progress of the team and now it’s time to go to the race.”

Asked about what are his expectations for the opening round of the 2024 championship, Sainz is positive that he can be on the podium, but warns that Ferrari will probably have a very similar performance to other teams involved in the battle behind Max Verstappen, and he cited the fact Sergio Perez has a new set of softs for the Grand Prix itself:

“I think we are more or less within reach of the podium if we have a perfect race. At the same time we are starting on the dirty side, Checo will start on new soft tomorrow, which is two or three seconds of race time, so he will be very, very tough to beat.

While the Mercs, the McLarens, us, the Astons we have more or less the same pace, so it will be interesting.”

The only non-Red Bull race winner of 2023 insisted that it’s too soon to know if Ferrari has really closed the gap to the championship winners, as there has not been the occasion to compare the performances of the two teams in an actual race yet:

“Let’s wait until the race. That’s where they suddenly level it up, and that’s where they manage to have a degradation that no one can have and a race pace that no one can have I think that last year, if you look at the last eight races, in Qualy we were always there or within reach of them,  and this year we felt again within reach in Qualy,  in the race we will see tomorrow.”

Unlike in the past, the best time of qualifying was set by Charles Leclerc in Q2, completely disregarding the usual concept of track evolution, which favours times posted at the end of the hour. Sainz mentioned the later time and the strong wind as possible causes behind this unusual scenario:

“I think maybe the quali being an hour later at seven, the track is already cold so it’s not like it cools down like when it was at six and it was cooling down to seven, maybe it had an effect.

“Then the wind with these cars, sensitive to the wind. A little more wind, a little less changes the track conditions and you can’t advance that much.”

The former McLaren driver has been pleasantly impressed by his new car, but the full extent of its potential, and how it can be translated to future results, is still unknown:

“A better base, yes, a more predictable one a better understanding, now we are ready to fight for better things. This year, at the same time, the race pace of the Red Bull still looked very strong, but we hope that like with the Mercs, the McLarens, and the Astons, which in the last year would take a step up in the race, we hope that this year we can do it, but tomorrow will tell,” Sainz concluded.