Carlos Sainz believes Formula 1’s midfield group is closing in on Ferrari amid a series of strong results for its rivals.
Last time out at the Monaco Grand Prix, Esteban Ocon held on to his third-place starting position to deliver Alpine its first podium since 2021.
During Saturday’s qualifying session ahead of the race in Spain, McLaren’s Lando Norris qualified within less than a tenth of a second to Sainz, which would have placed him on the front row for the grand prix.
Sainz will start the race alongside pole-sitter Max Verstappen, while team-mate Charles Leclerc endured a difficult day, exiting Q1 in 19th place.
Speaking after the session, Sainz stated that the operating window for Ferrari’s car is extremely narrow, suggesting it was a reason behind Leclerc’s challenging outing.
“I don’t know exactly what happened to Charles but it’s been the same story of the whole year,” Sainz said.
“It feels like it’s a very narrow window for us; very narrow window for the car; very tricky car to drive.
“And as soon as the conditions get tricky, it can go one way or the other and you’re fighting very different balances and it’s a very fine line for me today. It worked out okay, it was tough.
With Red Bull going unchallenged at all races so far this year, Sainz says that Ferrari is looking over its shoulders at rival squads that are now closing in.
“Now it looks like the midfield is really starting to close up with us,” he said.
“You have the likes of the Alpines, even the Haas, Lando with the McLarens are appearing and just joining us in that fight for second or third best.
“Obviously Red Bull are in a league of their own but then everyone else, it looks like it’s really, really tight out there.
“I don’t know if people who started bringing upgrades maybe to Imola… Imola didn’t happen but then to Monaco, I think maybe the field is compressing. I think also a short lap, like in Monaco and here – 1m12s – also makes it look even tighter.
“And also for us, honestly, I don’t think it’s the best track for Ferrari: a lot of high speed corners and at the moment, those are where we are struggling the most, which is our main point of focus.”