“We were the fourth fastest car” – Sainz’s honest assessment of Ferrari’s struggles in Jeddah

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Carlos Sainz endured a difficult race for Ferrari at the 2023 Saudi Arabian GP. The Spaniard wasn’t able to hold on to his fourth place starting position and slipped down to sixth by the end of the race. He explained that a difficulty to overtake hindered his chances early on, but admitted it didn’t change the end result as their pace was “not great”.

Photo Credits: Scuderia Ferrari

Sainz fell down to fifth as the race started, being passed by Lance Stroll’s Aston Martin around the outside of the banked turn 13 on the opening lap. He would then spend the entire opening stint stuck behind the Canadian, before a successful overcut strategy got him ahead of Stroll once again.

But just a few laps later, Stroll himself stopped on track with an issue on his AMR23 causing a safety car, which hindered Sainz’s race badly, as he was jumped by a number of cars, including Hamilton and Verstappen, who were yet to pit and did so under the safety car period.

The Ferrari then proved to be sub-optimal in race conditions on the hard compound tyre, with both Sainz and team-mate Charles Leclerc falling back from the top five as the race wore on, finishing sixth and seventh, respectively.

Speaking to Sky Sports after the race, Sainz explained how the 2023 cars – the second iteration of the new regulation cycle aimed at reducing the impact of dirty air that were introduced in 2022 – are already showing traits similar to the pre-2022 cars, explaining he hurt his tyres and “paid the price” for following Stroll closely in the opening stages:

“I probably paid a bigger price in the first stint with the tyres, because I did want to pass him, but in the end I paid the price.

“These cars in dirty air have got a bit worse compared to last year, probably [because of the] added downforce and the new [regulations]. They are starting to become a bit like the old cars, where the dirty air is becoming a limitation.”

But despite the difficulties in dirty air, the Spaniard was completely honest about the pace shown by the car over the weekend, stating that Ferrari were the “fourth fastest car” in Jeddah and did not have good race pace for the second race in succession, in very different tracks:

“Today [it] wasn’t easy to pass, but in general I don’t think it would have changed much the end result,” he said. “I think right now, or today, we were the fourth fastest car on track.

“And we need to see why, we need to improve. It’s already two different tracks where our race pace is not great, so we know we have work to do.”

Sainz was surprised that Mercedes proved to be a quicker car over the race in Saudi Arabia, and revealed that he and his team “thought we had them” in terms of pace, and admitted the pace was “not okay” and not what they expected after a decent qualifying effort from his team-mate Leclerc showed promising pace:

“Yes, a bit,” he said when asked if Mercedes’ pace was a surprise. “After Friday practice, and even before coming into the weekend, we thought we had them and we thought we were quick.

“Even after qualifying, with Charles’ lap – he did a brilliant lap and I struggled – we thought in race pace we were gonna be okay, and today we were not okay.

“So work to do, development to come, but unfortunately we need time to bring these developments, and until they come, this is what we have.

“I think the last stint on the hard, with the two cars falling back, proves that we still need to bring some upgrades.”