Carlos Sainz is not concerned by McLaren’s strong pace at the Japanese Grand Prix, insisting that Ferrari will be able to battle his former team on several of the remaining tracks this year.
While Red Bull has dominated proceedings at the front of the field throughout 2023, the battle behind the champions has continuously changed during the year.
Ferrari appeared to have stolen a march on its rivals in recent weeks, converting successive pole positions at Monza and Singapore into a podium and the only non-Red Bull race win of the season to date.
However, McLaren responded to Ferrari’s growing competitiveness at Suzuka, maximising the strength of its upgraded MCL60 package in high-speed corners to secure its first double podium in two years.
The leading Ferrari of Charles Leclerc classified 24s behind McLaren’s Lando Norris, who finished 16s ahead of team-mate Oscar Piastri at the conclusion of 53 laps.
Although the Woking-based squad are primed to be competitive again in Qatar, Sainz is optimistic Ferrari will match McLaren in the rounds beyond that.
Asked whether he suspected McLaren would retain its Japanese GP pace across the remainder of the year, Sainz said: “I think in high-speed circuits yes, but when we go to places like Mexico, or even Austin, with more low-speed content we’ll be very confident we will have a race with McLaren.
“Today I think Lando especially was a couple of tenths quicker per lap. I think Piastri whenever I had clean air I had some very strong laps comparable to him, it’s just I never had clean air.”
Both sides still have plenty left to play for and have their sights set on gaining a place in the Constructors’ Championship.
Ferrari is currently 20 points behind Mercedes, having outscored the German marque in all of the three previous rounds.
Meanwhile, McLaren has cut down a huge 137-point deficit to Aston Martin after Canada to just 49 points since the introduction of its revised car in Austria.
The former title rivals are also locked in competition in the Drivers’ standings, with Norris only 20 points behind Leclerc, who is an additional 15 points shy of Sainz.
Formula 1 will return to the Lusail International Circuit next weekend to kickstart its permanent inclusion on the calendar after a one-off appearance in 2021. The Qatar GP will mark a run of six rounds in eight weeks to conclude the 2023 season.