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Formula 1 Saudi Arabian GP

Sainz: Ferrari will play a 'better game' at less extreme tracks than Bahrain

Carlos Sainz reckons Ferrari can “play a better game” to battle Red Bull in future Formula 1 races after failing to challenge its 2022 rival team for victory in Bahrain.

Carlos Sainz, Ferrari SF-23

The Spaniard classified fourth in the season opener and was 48s adrift of runaway winner Max Verstappen at the flag, while team-mate Charles Leclerc retired with a power unit electrical failure on lap 39 of 57.

That comparatively poor performance prompted new team principal Fred Vasseur to defend the 2023 car, insisting that an imperfect set-up was responsible for the pace deficit rather than a fundamental shortfall with the overall concept.

Sainz is similarly optimistic that Bahrain marked an unrepresentative one-off and that Ferrari can “play a better game” to take the fight to Red Bull, starting with the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix this weekend.

He cited the move to a much smoother asphalt, following the ‘cheese grater’-like surface of Bahrain, saying: “The tarmac in Jeddah is very different.

"The limitation is not so much at the rear. So, we’re pretty sure it’s going a bit different at other tracks.

“Bahrain is the most extreme for [degradation] of the year so we only have one example. I’m confident in other circuits we can play a better game but for Bahrain, it was our reality.”

The high degradation suffered by Ferrari, and Mercedes, in Bahrain allowed Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso to depose Sainz for third place in the dying laps.

Carlos Sainz, Ferrari SF-23

Carlos Sainz, Ferrari SF-23

Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

This left Sainz to describe the Silverstone squad’s turn of speed as “very concerning” for Ferrari. However, switching to a track where the Scuderia “cook the rear tyres less” would, he reckoned, enable the team to put up a greater fight.

Degradation was notably also a weakness of the F1-75 in 2022, as Verstappen used a tyre advantage in particular to overthrow Leclerc to win in Imola and the inaugural Miami GP.

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Sainz reckoned this flaw had not yet been addressed for the new SF-23, describing the levels of degradation as "the same".

He continued: “It’s about as bad as it was last year. It’s just that the other two cars [Red Bull and Aston] for some reason found something that means they degrade half [as much].”

In Ferrari’s quest to battle Red Bull on the Jeddah Corniche Circuit, the superior top speed shown throughout pre-season testing and the Bahrain Grand Prix weekend should suit the flowing Saudi street circuit.

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