Carlos Sainz has admitted Ferrari was “surprised” by its lacklustre race pace in the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.
Ferrari remained a long way behind Red Bull again but slipped behind Aston Martin and Mercedes in the pecking order to trail home sixth and seventh.
After a moderately competitive opening stint opened up the possibility of a podium, the Italian team struggled hugely on the hard compound of tyre in comparison to its rivals.
Although the timing of a Safety Car hampered the Ferraris who had already pitted, Sainz concedes its poor pace and higher tyre degradation meant it did little to change the outcome of the result.
“I honestly think the result wouldn’t have changed much as I think the last stint on the hard proves that we are not where we want to be, that we still deg more than the Mercs, that we still deg more than the Astons, and we lack a bit of race pace,” he explained.
“A bit surprised because after Friday and before the weekend I thought we had a chance to be the second force here in Jeddah, but I think that second stint on the hard proves we still have a lot of work to do.
“That we have a weakness in the race, that we need to wait for developments to come to see if we can improve that weakness.”
Following its troubles in Bahrain, it was widely expected Ferrari would fare significantly better on a Jeddah circuit more tailor-made to the strengths of its car.
Both drivers anticipated the potential to utilise a more competitive package, while Red Bull driver, and eventual race winner, Sergio Perez marked Ferrari as its nearest threat.
However, the unexpected failure to live up to those pre-weekend expectations has been attributed by Sainz to a reoccurrence of the tyre wear frailties that have been prevalent since pre-season testing.
The Spaniard has also asserted the problem is accentuated when the SF-23 is tucked up behind another car.
“Yes, I think this is the key,” Sainz responded when asked about the issues not being specific to the unique nature of the Bahrain track.
“It’s an unfortunate key but it’s key to know now we are not where we want to be in terms of race pace, in terms of car in general, even the balance in dirty air, following… we just struggled a bit.
“If we already overheat the tyres in clear air imagine following. We just eat them alive, and we need some clean air to produce some decent lap times.
He added: “We know exactly our weaknesses, this is a positive and now obviously we cannot do magic to bring the developments early but I know the team is pushing flat out to get them and I know this will improve our race pace, for sure.”
Last season saw Ferrari begin the campaign with arguably the fastest car in the field, with Charles Leclerc fractionally missing out on victory in Saudi Arabia to Max Verstappen.
The running of this year’s event, however, witnessed both red cars finish over half a minute off the lead, despite the pack being bunched up by the intervention of the Safety Car.
Sainz insists the team are already aware of the problems and has denied there is a correlation problem between its wind tunnel in Maranello and the race track.
“We know where it is. We identified already in Bahrain,” he addressed. “The thing is the car is doing exactly the same as in the wind tunnel.
“We know where the weakness is in the wind tunnel, where it is here, we know where to develop the car, we just need time because from the weakness we saw in Bahrain and we saw here, we cannot bring the upgrades as soon as tomorrow.
“I’m positive this team is capable of bringing them early in the season and this could change completely our season, so heads down and time to work hard.”
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