Carlos Sainz reckons the dominant nature of Red Bull’s 2023 car is behind Max Verstappen not making mistakes compared to other drivers.
After comfortably claiming both championships last season, Red Bull has extended its crushing advantage over the rest of the Formula 1 field this year to take victory in all seven races so far.
Verstappen, who won a record-breaking 15 races in a season last year, has stood on the top step of the podium five times already in 2023 and looks poised to comfortably secure a third consecutive Drivers’ title.
However, Sainz, a former team-mate to Verstappen, asserts that Ferrari can still catch Red Bull this season and place the Dutchman under the sort of pressure that opens up the potential for errors.
“You don’t have to be a genius to know that Red Bull is very difficult to catch this season, which doesn’t mean that Ferrari can’t,” he told Spanish outlet AS. “We are going to try and this does not mean that we cannot win races. We’ll be on the lookout for a win.
“It is difficult for Max to be forced into an error with a Red Bull that is so dominant and without pressure.”
Having begun the latest era of regulations strongly, Ferrari has not won a single race since July last year and has slumped to fourth in the standings this term.
The Italian marque’s SF-23 car has proven troublesome and unpredictable in its behaviour, with Ferrari struggling to translate promising qualifying displays into equally strong points hauls come Sundays.
Sainz concedes Ferrari is not where it envisaged it would be at the start of the year but outlines that the whole team is working flat out to rectify its current predicament.
“On the sporting side it has been a year that started off in a complicated way,” he explained. “Still, I can’t complain and I’m doing well.
“Formula 1 is always relative, the car Red Bull has made is one of the most dominant and Mercedes seems to have found the right direction.
“At Ferrari we are not where we want to be, we are the first to be self-critical and we are working to improve. This is what we have at the moment and we are focused on getting as much out of it as possible.”
Despite introducing a substantial upgrade package aimed at improving the speed of the car on longer stints, Ferrari’s race day woes continued in Barcelona.
While Leclerc was a surprise early casualty from Q1, Sainz managed to qualify on the front row for his home grand prix.
However, the Spaniard ran into troubles with tyre degradation and was easily passed by the two Mercedes drivers and Red Bull’s Sergio Perez to drop three places to fifth.
With Leclerc trailing outside the top 10, Mercedes’ double podium finish has left the Maranello squad already 53 points down in the battle for second position.