Ferrari’s sporadic pace is due to a lack of consistency on their SF-23, with Carlos Sainz opening up on the struggles during Thursday’s media day at Zandvoort.
The Scuderia currently occupy fourth in the Constructors’ Championship, just five points behind the ailing Aston Martin efforts, but having to look over their shoulder at McLaren as the Woking-based team have made a significant step forward with their MCL60.
Ferrari may have scored a strong result with third place last time out at Spa-Francorchamps, but their inconsistent pace has meant even the team are unsure of what circuits suit their SF-23’s characteristics.
Carlos Sainz: There’s something we intrinsically don’t understand on the Ferrari
Appearing to speak with the media, including PlanetF1.com, during Thursday’s press conference at Zandvoort, Sainz spoke about the goals of the team during the second half of the season as they attempt to figure out the recalcitrant machine.
“I think it’s no secret that, this year, we’ve lost like some consistency from the car,” he said.
“It is very difficult to predict which circuits we’re going to be quick on, and whichever we’re not going to be quick.
Additional reporting by Sam Cooper.
“I think the best example was the difference between Hungary and Spa. I think, when you see our car, we expected Hungary to be a good weekend. We expected Spa to be a weaker one.
“It was actually the opposite, which shows that there is maybe something intrinsically that we don’t fully understand and we cannot predict very well. This unpredictability, this lack of understanding is exactly what we are focusing on now to try and piece together everything and this is where our focus is going to be this weekend and, obviously, in the second half of the season.”
The Spaniard explained that the outright pace of the car is quite strong, but needs work to make it a stronger beast over a longer distance.
“On the good side of things, the car always offers some good opportunities in qualifying to maybe qualify a bit ahead of what the race pace of the car might be,” he said.
“If you do a good lap in quali, maybe you can hold on to a podium place if you then have a smooth race without too many troubles.
“The focus will be getting the car again quick in the race mainly, and try to hold on to those good qualifying sessions if we have the opportunity.”
Asked for his predictions on where Ferrari might be over the course of the Dutch Grand Prix weekend, Sainz laughed.
“I don’t know! Because, if you look at the track, you could say it should be a better one for us,” he said.
“But then you look at Hungary and it wasn’t, so it is extremely difficult to predict right now for us this year.”
Carlos Sainz: Ferrari do understand car’s core weakness
Asked to elaborate on what exactly is the issue for Ferrari, and whether they are optimistic about being able to rectify it on time for 2024, Sainz said the last 10 races of this year allow for a lot of experimentation.
“We’ve done 12, there are 10 left,” he said.
“We still have 10 left to fully get to understand everything and it’s not a secret that, this year, since we were in Bahrain testing, we saw something in our car that we didn’t fully comprehend.
“We very quickly identified what the main weakness of the car is, and this we know. Then there are other things like predicting at which tracks you’re going to be better than others. There’s the wind sensitivity, there’s the track temperature sensitivity that we have which, at the moment, makes it a very picky car. But what we want is to understand exactly the reasons for that.
“I think we’re doing a pretty good job of trying and trying completely different things and having different theories that we’re putting together for next year’s car and, hopefully, next year it pays off and, at the moment, we can only focus on that and doing everything we can.”
Sainz confirmed that Ferrari already know the main issue with the SF-23, and that their entire development cycle has been aimed at targetting that unspecified weakness.
“The core problem of the car, we do understand what it is and, since the first development of the year, we are trying to get it better and the whole development programme has been focusing on improving that main weakness that we have,” he said.
“Then there are many other factors that we are also trying to figure out but, again, the differences are small, especially when you try and beat Mercedes, McLaren, Aston Martin – it’s all within a tenth and what we need to focus on in these last 10 races is putting the weekend together and see if we can finish in that second place in the Constructors’ Championship that I think is not going to be easy.”