Carlos Sainz cannot afford another slow start to latest F1 season

Michelle Foster
Ferrari driver Carlos Sainz. Austin October 2022.

Carlos Sainz in the pre-weekend press conference in the United States. Austin October 2022.

After a slow start to the 2022 championship, Carlos Sainz concedes he needs to be in the fight from the very first grand prix of the 2023 season if he wants to race for the World title.

While his team-mate Charles Leclerc raced Max Verstappen for the wins in the opening few rounds of the season, Sainz lagged behind the two, not helped by back-to-back crashes in Australia and Imola.

Although he did briefly close the gap in the championship fight with his maiden grand prix victory at Silverstone, that was in the battle for second place as Max Verstappen was already racing away with the World title.

Sainz, despite feeling a lot more comfortable in the Ferrari as the season progressed, dropped to fifth place in the standings, not helped by retirements in Japan and Austin.

Japan was his own doing, the driver sliding off the track in the rain, while in Austin he was hit by George Russell with his Ferrari too damaged to continue.

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He reckons that Circuit of The Americas crash cost him a shot at the win, the Spaniard adamant Brazil and Austin would’ve been his two best races of the season.

“I think as a whole my Brazil Grand Prix was strong,” he told the media including when all was said and done after Abu Dhabi, “Austin I think would have been very strong without the crash with George.

“I had great qualifying pace and great race pace that weekend, I think we could have won it with the pace we had but it’s how it goes.

“That shows also my bad luck this year. Very strong in Austin, very strong in Brazil but in Austin I got bumped out of the race from George and in Brazil I had a grid penalty.

“That’s why I was looking forward to the season ending.”

But, determined to see the silver lining, the Spaniard says he’ll take the progress he made in the second half of the championship and use it as a springboard for a strong start to 2023.

“Taking the positives of how strong I am in the second half to make sure that I’m in the fight next year from the beginning,” he added.

But whether or not he can launch a title tilt this year will largely be determined by Ferrari and how much progress they are able to make.

Last season, although they clinched race wins for the first time since 2019, the Scuderia’s campaign imploded as reliability issues and strategy mistakes took centre stage.

Ferrari also weren’t helped by a Red Bull team led by Verstappen who were already used to fighting at the sharp end of the grid.

“Very simply,” Sainz said, “Red Bull was a stronger package together with Max and we need to catch up a bit and out-develop them if we want to beat them.

“I think it’s our first year back in the fight for the championship so there are still things that we need to learn while Red Bulls have been there with Max the last two seasons.

“We are a bit of a new to this and we’ve learned a lot from this.”

It has been reported that Ferrari have found 30hp in engine power gains ahead of the 2023 season, those gains said to have come through reliability fixes.