Carlos Sainz concedes he has been left “puzzled” by the promising pace Ferrari displayed on Friday at Monza after it encountered a disastrous weekend at Zandvoort last time out.
Ferrari enter the Italian Grand Prix aiming to bounce back from a torrid time in the Netherlands that left its drivers battling a misbehaving SF-23 car all weekend.
Charles Leclerc was caught out by the inconsistencies of Ferrari’s 2023 charger in qualifying before retiring from the race with floor damage, while Sainz confessed the Italian marque possessed only the “sixth fastest car” after clinging onto fifth.
However, the Spaniard, who turned 29 on Friday, delighted the Italian fans in the afternoon by topping the timesheets in FP2, edging out Lando Norris by 0.019s.
Despite both Ferrari drivers being optimistic about its chances before the weekend, Sainz admits he is still surprised by Ferrari’s instant improvement on the opening day at Monza.
“It can’t get much better than that,” Sainz said after fronting the times in FP2. “It was a smooth day, to be honest. It’s great to be back at a track like Monza and from the first lap of FP1 to feel the car normal again after such a difficult weekend at Zandvoort.
“As soon as we put the car on track here for some reason it just adapted a lot better and it was a lot easier to set up and drive it per corner. It doesn’t mean that we’re going to be P1 tomorrow and in the race, but at least the feeling is much better.”
Sainz, however, acknowledges that Red Bull continued to have the edge over the competition in the race simulations.
When asked if the Ferrari faithful could dream about a special result on Sunday, Sainz adjudged: “Yeah, dreaming is for free, no? This is one of my favourite sayings. Especially in tracks like this, I think we can all dream and it’s for free, no one can take it away from us.
“But being realistic, also looking at our race pace, that’s when we started seeing the true pace of the Red Bull, they were clearly again three-tenths, half a second ahead in race pace, and over 50 something laps that’s a lot of lap time.”