Carlos Sainz makes alarming sacrifice admission in Ferrari’s Red Bull pursuit

Jamie Woodhouse
Carlos Sainz, Ferrari, battles Max Verstappen, Red Bull at Monza.

Carlos Sainz, Ferrari, battles Max Verstappen, Red Bull.

Carlos Sainz highlighted “very, very strong” points of the Ferrari SF-23, but fears some will need to be sacrificed to realistically trouble Red Bull.

After their strong start to the new regulatory era could not be extended into a title challenge, Ferrari returned refreshed for F1 2023 with a return to title-winning ways their target.

Red Bull very much had that scene on lockdown though, winning a remarkable 21 of the 22 grands prix, Sainz’s Singapore Grand Prix victory the only blot on Red Bull’s campaign.

Ferrari to sacrifice current strengths for greater good?

Additional reporting by Thomas Maher

While Red Bull rarely had competition in race mode, Ferrari did put up a stern fight over one lap, claiming seven pole positions across the F1 2023 campaign.

Straight-line speed and kerb riding were among the SF-23 strengths mentioned by Sainz which certainly will have helped Ferrari, but while he hopes such traits can follow Ferrari into F1 2024, Sainz fears that is not possible if Ferrari are to design a challenger that can test Red Bull in racing action across the calendar.

“I would take definitely the straight-line speed and the braking performance and the performance in 90-degree, short duration corners,” Sainz told media including on his wishlist of Ferrari strengths to take over to F1 2024.

“Also, the kerb riding I think is a very strong point. So, the car has very, very strong points.

“I feel like if we want to have a car for the whole year, maybe we need to give away some of these traits to make sure we’re quick everywhere, especially in the race.

“In the races is where we need to really focus, on understanding what are we doing to this car.

“What are we doing to these 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?” recommends

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While generally the grid moved closer to Red Bull as F1 2023 went on, that came with the caveat that Red Bull gave up developing the Red Bull RB19 mid-season to focus on the RB20.

It understandable then that the grid is wary of just how strong Red Bull could come out of the blocks again in F1 2024, but Sainz says challenging Red Bull for the titles is the aim and he wants all at Ferrari to believe it is possible.

“It has to be our realistic aim,” he confirmed. “Will we manage to do it? Only time will tell.

“I want the team to be thinking that it is possible because I believe it is.

“Also, we’ve proven that if McLaren has been able to do these steps during the season, I’m perfectly confident that Ferrari can do it over a winter break.

“I trust this team. I trust the capacity that we have back at home to turn things around.

“There are still circuits where we are on pole by 0.3s to the Red Bull. It’s just that it’s a very specific trait of the car that really is good. We just need to make it an all-rounder.”

Put to him that major changes are expected for the 2024 Ferrari, Sainz was asked, going off his early experiences in the simulator, whether a big step forward is on the cards for the Scuderia?

Sainz said the new Ferrari is “behaving differently for sure”, though was reluctant to give any such predictions before the actual challenger hits the track.

“We’re going to need to wait until testing,” said Sainz, “ahead it is incredibly difficult to know.

“The car in the simulator is behaving differently for sure, but I think until we put the car in the 100 kilos [of fuel] and used tyres, it’s going to be impossible to see how the car is actually treating the tyres, treating the pace and how our race pace is going to be affected.

“And that we will only know in Bahrain when we put it on track.”

Bahrain pre-season testing will be followed by the F1 2024 season-opener at the Bahrain International Circuit.

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