Carlos Sainz says he is expecting Ferrari to be more competitive in the coming races than it was in the Bahrain Grand Prix.
After claiming a 1-2 in Bahrain last year, Ferrari ended the season-opening weekend with neither of its drivers on the podium in 2023.
The Italian outfit’s SF-23 car was unable to provide a match for the dominant Red Bull, with Sainz – the sole running Ferrari runner – finishing 48s behind race winner Max Verstappen.
However, Sainz believes the rear-limited nature of the Bahrain track accentuated its tyre wear concerns and trips to other circuits will improve its chances of challenging Red Bull.
“The tarmac in Jeddah is very different,” he explained via Autosport. “The limitation is not so much at the rear. So, we’re pretty sure it’s going a bit different at other tracks.”
“Bahrain is the most extreme for [degradation] of the year so we only have one example. I’m confident in other circuits we can play a better game but for Bahrain, it was our reality.”
Sainz has shared the confidence of new Ferrari team boss Frederic Vasseur who was insistent that its weak performance could be attributed to a wrongful set-up choice rather than its car concept being fundamentally flawed.
Ferrari’s resurgent start to last season was eventually undone by a plethora of factors, including excessive tyre degradation problems.
The F1-75’s tendency to be harder on its tyres was an advantage in getting heat into them for the one-lap spectacle of qualifying but proved counteractive in a race situation.
Subsequently, Ferrari went winless during the second half of the 2022 campaign.
While the engineers back at its Maranello base were confident it had rectified the issues with its 2023 challenger, a recurrence of severe wear across the Bahrain weekend suggested otherwise.
Following Charles Leclerc’s retirement with an engine failure on Lap 39, Sainz’s tyre struggles enabled Fernando Alonso to steal the final podium late in the race.
Afterwards, the Spaniard confessed he was “very concerned” by the superior tyre management on Aston Martin’s AMR23 car.
Sainz has estimated that the problems with his car are equal to last year.
“It’s about as bad as it was last year,” he said. “It’s just that the other two cars [Red Bull and Aston Martin] for some reason found something that means they degrade half [as much].”
Despite its Bahrain adversity, Ferrari is optimistic the track layout in Saudi Arabia this weekend will play much more to the strengths of its car.
Throughout the opening race weekend, Ferrari being near the top of the speed trap figures became a consistent sight.
The Jeddah Corniche Circuit represents the fastest street track on the calendar, with multiple long straights dividing up the high-speed corners to produce average speeds of approximately 250km/h.
Last season’s race saw a slippery Red Bull in the hands of Verstappen triumph over the higher downforce running Ferrari of Leclerc.
However, changes over the winter by Ferrari to reduce drag and improve engine reliability has the potential to reverse its fortunes at high-speed circuits from last year.
Sainz has been classified inside the points at both Saudi Arabian GPs, taking a podium behind Verstappen and team-mate Leclerc last season.