Carlos Sainz admits Ferrari not being in a position to fight for wins in the 2023 Formula 1 season is more hurtful than the team’s current lowly position in the standings.
While Ferrari ushered in the new technical regulations introduced last year with arguably the fastest and most compliant car in the field, a combination of poor strategy decisions and reliability woes meant the Italian stable was unable to maximise its early competitiveness.
Having regressed to end the second half of the year winless, Ferrari’s winter optimism of rebounding to challenge for the title with an evolutionary concept has fallen flat.
As Red Bull has surged ahead to dominate all five rounds held thus far, Ferrari has struggled for consistency with a capricious package, resulting in Sainz claiming the readjusted expectations have contributed to it being his hardest year in F1.
“It’s been tougher than any other year,” Sainz, who won his maiden grand prix at Silverstone last year, revealed to The Race in a recent interview.
“Expectations were…I felt like 2022 was a bit of a comeback finally to the top for Ferrari. And I feel like we all expected to at least be fighting at a similar level.
“Not only me, but the whole team had this hope, this expectation. And suddenly finding yourself more than half a second adrift from the Red Bull was tough to handle.
“You suddenly need to reset, need to go back to the drawing board, and make sure you keep everyone motivated.
“The amount of work that is going on right now in Maranello with the development plan is huge. Trying to get the whole factory aligned and motivated on the next step is the most challenging.”
Aside from sitting a massive 146 points already behind the runaway Red Bull side, Ferrari also lags behind both Aston Martin and Mercedes in the Constructors’ Championship.
Although the Maranello-based entity has been a threat of late to the reigning champions in qualifying, both Sainz and team-mate Charles Leclerc have regularly dropped through the field in races.
Sainz – who sits fifth in the Drivers’ standings on 44 points, two places and 10 points clear of Leclerc – concedes that Ferrari’s present ranking would be easier to digest if it meant the Italian outfit was still in a position to fight for regular race wins.
“It doesn’t hurt me so much being fourth in constructors’ or fifth or sixth in Drivers’,” the Spaniard issued. “It hurts me more the gap to Red Bull.
“If now we would be sitting fourth in the Constructors’, but we know that every weekend we have a chance to make a pole and win a race, it would be easier to accept.
“It’s just how fast the Red Bull has turned out to be this year. And how it has struck us by surprise. Not only us, I think Mercedes and Aston Martin would never expect to have the gap they do.”
Despite retaining a contract with Ferrari through 2024, Sainz’s long-term future has been the subject of much speculation in recent months.
Spanish media has linked the 28-year-old with a potential switch to the Sauber-owned team, currently run under the guise of Alfa Romeo, that will transition to Audi in 2026.
But Sainz has played down the rumours, stating that his sole desire remains to win with the Ferrari squad he joined from McLaren in 2021.
“My immediate future, I only see it with Ferrari and wanting to be successful with this team,” he proclaimed. “There’s nothing that would make me happier than winning again with Ferrari, than mounting a title challenge with Ferrari.
“If you win it or not, it’s a championship fight. You can come out on top or not. But mounting that challenge is short- and medium-term what really motivates me.
“I feel really at home with the team. There’s a good atmosphere. I know there’s a lot of noise around, but I see the factory myself, and everyone in a good place right now.”