Carlos Sainz’s ‘common sense’ warning with Ferrari a ‘tenth or two’ off Red Bull fight

Michelle Foster
Carlos Sainz looks quizzical

Carlos Sainz is in his final season as a Ferrari driver

Although Carlos Sainz wants to dream of a Ferrari title fight, “common sense” has him believing that Red Bull are still the “favourites” for the F1 2024 title.

Yet the Spaniard is hopeful that “small things” could swing momentum.

Carlos Sainz: Red Bull should still be favourites

For the first time since the F1 2021 season, the final campaign with the old-spec cars, three different teams have won three races in a row – McLaren, Red Bull and Ferrari.

McLaren won the Miami Grand Prix in their upgraded MCL38, Max Verstappen pipped Lando Norris by 0.725s to triumph at Imola, with Ferrari winning the last race in Monaco.

The Monaco victory, on the back of a series of early-season podiums, have put Ferrari just 24 points behind Red Bull while Charles Leclerc is 31 points down on Verstappen in the Drivers’ standings.

But that doesn’t mean a title fight is coming.

Although pundits and former F1 drivers have hyped up the situation, especially after Red Bull’s kerb-ride woes in Monaco, Sainz reckons when F1 gets back to “normal” tracks, the reigning World Champions will be back in the ascendancy.

“I think my common sense tells me that on normal tracks Red Bull should still be favourites,” he told media including “Domination, like we were seeing, hopefully not. But favourites, yes.

“And then it will be a very tight fight with both McLaren and us. I think we are all three at a very similar level.”

And by “normal”, he’s not talking about Montreal.

But what if Red Bull weren’t in the mix?

👉The F1 2024 Drivers’ Championship standings without Max Verstappen

👉Revealed: The F1 2024 Constructors’ Championship without Red Bull

“I think Ferrari we will have our opportunities. I think McLaren will have their opportunities,” he added.

“But when I talk about a normal track we can talk about maybe a Barcelona. Canada, I think is quite specific but a Barcelona or any European track, where I consider it to be a normal track, I still think Red Bull will be favourites, but I don’t think they’ll dominate like they used to do.

“That’s good news for the championship. And it’s just worth being within a tenth or two in qualifying, that even if they’re favourites, they cannot afford to do any mistakes.

“And that’s where both Ferrari and McLaren, we can capitalise, which is a position that in Bahrain, race one [of F1 2024], no one was [able] to be there.”

“Our last reference of a normal track is Imola and Miami,” he continued, “and if I see those two tracks, we seem to be half a tenth behind McLaren and maybe a tenth or two behind Red Bull.

“It still means that that any small progress, any small upgrade, any small thing that we bring to the car might switch it to a potential race victory or a winning car.

“Monaco, we’ve always been strong. Street circuits like Singapore and last year in Monaco, it shows the strengths of the Ferrari.”

He does, however, think that Red Bull’s rivals can put more pressure on them this season which could lead to more mistakes like Verstappen’s in qualifying in Monaco.

“At the same time,” he said, “being within 24 points of the Red Bull in the Constructors’, you see that when you put them under pressure, Max did a mistake in Q3 run two, Checo was out in Q1.

“We all just need to be there to show that these things can happen to Red Bull too.”

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