Concern for Ferrari after being caught ‘by surprise’ over Mercedes race pace

Henry Valantine
Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc smiling at the 2023 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.

Ferrari drivers Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc smiling.

Ferrari driver Carlos Sainz admitted the race pace of Mercedes came as a surprise to Ferrari in Jeddah on Sunday.

After Ferrari team-mate Charles Leclerc put in a lap fast enough for the front row in qualifying on Saturday, prior to his 10-place grid penalty for taking a third Control Electronics unit, with Sainz either side of George Russell and Lewis Hamilton on the grid, the Scuderia had been hopeful for their prospects in the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.

But Mercedes would show better race pace overall than Ferrari, with Russell and Hamilton finishing ahead of Sainz and Leclerc come the chequered flag, with the Ferrari pair only able to manage sixth and seventh placed finishes respectively.

Sainz admitted after the race that Ferrari’s pace had not lived up to their own expectations on Sunday, and their fall away from the cars in front in the final stint was a show that the team need to bring further improvements to the SF-23 in the coming races.

“Yes, I think after Friday practice, even before coming into the weekend we thought we had them,” Sainz told Sky F1 after the race when asked if he was surprised by Mercedes’ speed in Jeddah.

“And we thought we were quick, even after quali you know, with Charles’ lap that I think he did a brilliant lap and I struggled, we thought in race pace we were going to be okay. And today, we were not okay.

“So work to do, development to come. But unfortunately, we need time to bring these developments and, until they come, this is what we have.

“I think the last stint on the hard, we had two cars falling back, [so it] proves we still need to bring some upgrades.”

PlanetF1.com recommends

Fernando Alonso stripped of 100th career podium after 10-second penalty demotes him to P4
F1 2023 race results and standings from the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix
Saudi Arabian GP: Sergio Perez wins race but Max Verstappen keeps championship lead

Leclerc managed to recover five places in the race after his 10-place drop on the grid, but was unable to mount a sustained challenge on his team-mate when he came up behind him.

He put that down to an error on his part, but ultimately the SF-23 did not have much more to give for him in Jeddah.

“I don’t know if they were out of reach,” Leclerc told Sky F1 of Mercedes’ pace.

“The thing is that once I got within a second and a half to Carlos, it was very difficult to get any closer than that – the pace difference wasn’t big enough.

“I did a small mistake when I was within DRS and then when I lost it, then that was it. I just stayed there. So it’s like this.

“Honestly, I don’t think there was much more anyway in the car today. We just need to work to find some pace.”