Ferrari drivers Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz have both been left disappointed after a difficult Friday for the Scuderia at Zandvoort.
The day began with Sainz sidelined for FP1 – a planned absence that allowed Robert Shwartzmann to fulfil the first of two obligatory sessions handed to rookies under F1’s ‘young driver’ rules – with the team spending most of the session collecting data.
The opening hour ended with Leclerc 16th and Shwartzman 19th before the side’s SF-23 again struggled in the second session to leave its two full-time drivers outside the top 10.
Both drivers were downbeat following Friday’s running as Sainz, who wound up a lowly 16th, reflected on a “tough day” for the Italian outfit.
“Unfortunately, we don’t look very competitive yet,” the Spaniard said.
“We’re going to need to find some lap time, some downforce, some balance because today was a tough day for the team.”
Sainz cited a lack of downforce as the reason for his struggles, despite Ferrari mounting a Hungary-spec rear wing to his car in an attempt to mitigate the problem.
“I think we saw something similar in Hungary where we go to higher downforce tracks, for some reason we don’t pick up as much downforce maybe as the others when we go to the bigger rear wings,” he added.
“A bit of homework to do on our side… If we want to be fighting for a podium [in qualifying] and on Sunday, it needs a very big jump in performance.”
Leclerc echoed the complaints made by Sainz, and is also hoping for improvements overnight – but he dismissed claims that the issues are inherent to the SF23.
“We’ve had quite a few difficulties,” Leclerc conceded. “FP2 went in the right direction but we still need to do a step forward for tomorrow.
“The feeling wasn’t great, there’s a big margin to improve but now we need to do the step forward and find what was wrong for tomorrow.
“I think it’s fine-tuning because already from FP1 to FP2, we did some small changes and it went in the right direction,” he said.
“So, we need to do the same for tomorrow. Now it’s all about trying to put the car in the right window, which we don’t have yet.
“But I have a very clear idea of what I want from the car. Then we need to find the right set-ups to go around our issues. I’m confident. Normally we are quite good at that.
“We just need to do a step forward… We are not maximising our package at the moment.”
The lack of performance this weekend is a bitter pill to swallow given that Leclerc qualified on the front row and raced to third in the Belgian Grand Prix.
But with the Zandvoort lap being just over 70 seconds, the margin between success and disappointment is only narrowed.
“It’s strange, but that’s how it is this year. Everyone is so close, and as I said before this weekend we need to focus on the second half of the season,” Leclerc explained.
“Whenever a team is maximising the most from their car, they are in front of everybody other than Red Bull and we are seeing that this weekend.
“We are not maximising our package at the moment and we aren’t even in the top 10. Maybe if we do a good job with the setup, we can be in the top three tomorrow.
“Everything is very tight, it’s up to us to do a good job.”