Carlos Sainz is confident that the steps Ferrari have taken to improve its straight-line speed for the 2023 Formula 1 season will enable it to compete more with Red Bull.
Despite possessing a competitive car last season, Ferrari often didn’t have the top-end grunt to rival Red Bull’s title-winning RB18, with aerodynamic inefficiency and engine reliability concerns cited as the two primary causes of its deficit.
Although its new SF-23 package is an evolution of its predecessor, the Italian side has insisted that alterations have been made to ensure its 2023 challenger carries less drag.
After several engine problems for both drivers, Ferrari has also openly worked on improving the reliability of its revised power unit through the winter to enable it to utilise it at a higher capacity throughout the year.
Sainz, who won his first race last season, is hopeful that the changes will allow Ferrari to close the deficit to Red Bull enough to battle them on the straights in 2023.
“I don’t know the engine mode they’re [Red Bull] running and the exact rear wing compared to us, but I’m pretty confident we’ve done steps in the right direction in that sense,” he claimed.
“Part of the evolution of our car is to also try to be less draggy and try to get close to Red Bull on the straights. I hope that we can be close.
“Are we going to be quicker or not, or the same, or able to battle them on the straights? We don’t know,” the Spanish driver added.
The establishment of an engine freeze from the beginning of the 2022 season forced all the current power unit manufacturers in F1 to push the limits on performance at the expense of reliability.
Ferrari was the most notable for suffering from its introduction. The Italian stable lost two wins with Charles Leclerc early in the year and then a blow out for Sainz in Austria denied the team a 1-2 finish.
However, improvements to reliability are still permitted under the current guidelines and the Maranello-based squad has said it has worked extensively over the winter to put fixes in place.
Across the three tests of pre-season testing in Bahrain it encountered no technical gremlins – although Alfa Romeo did suffer a stoppage due to an engine issue with its Ferrari powertrain.
While there were reports in the Italian media of a 30bph gain during the off-season courtesy of the newfound improvements, Ferrari’s new team principal, Fred Vasseur, subsequently denied such rumours.
But the evidence of pre-season testing suggested that Ferrari has succeeded in the overriding aims it set out to improve its package for 2023, with the team also getting through its entire pre-season programme relatively untroubled.
“So far, so good,” Sainz stated in Bahrain.
“I think we’ve had a good test in terms of reliability [and] managing to do all the tests that we wanted to do coming into this week here.
“Having a good test doesn’t mean having a good car, but the most important [thing] is that we’re having a good test, and this is giving us a good learning in all the aspects.”
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