Ferrari’s early-season struggles have driver Carlos Sainz wondering whether the Scuderia has fallen behind Mercedes and Aston Martin.
Sainz finished sixth and teammate Charles Leclerc finished seventh in Sunday’s Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, the second consecutive race that the Scuderia hasn’t reached the podium. It was Red Bull finished in first and second again, with Sergio Perez taking home the checkered flag and Max Verstappen following. Fernando Alonso took home another third-place finish after a penalty was rescinded, and the Mercedes duo of George Russell and Lewis Hamilton finished fourth and fifth, respectively.
The 28-year-old Sainz finished nearly 36 seconds behind Perez after a fourth-place finish in Bahrain partially attributed to tire degradation, or deg in racing speak. Sainz’s circumstances were vastly better than Leclerc, whose electrical issues not only caused him to retire from Bahrain but also take a 10-spot penalty on the grid Sunday and still salvaged points. Those tire and pace worries were further cemented for Sainz on Sunday.
“The last stint on the hard [tires] proves that we are not where we want to be, that we still deg more than the Mercedes, that we still deg more than the Aston Martins,” Sainz said after the Jeddah race. “We lack a bit of race pace.”
Ferrari finished second in the constructor standings last year for the first time since 2019, a year before the Prancing Horse finished sixth during the truncated 2020 campaign. Early on, Ferrari trails Red Bull, Mercedes, and even Aston Martin, the latter facing accusations of having built a car eerily similar to Red Bull.
“After Friday and before the weekend, I thought that we had a chance of being the second force here in Jeddah,” Sainz continued. “That last stint on the hard proves that we still have a lot of work to do, that we have a weakness in the race, and that we need to wait for the developments to come to see if we can improve that weakness.”
It’s clear that Red Bull’s dominance is putting other top teams on edge, to say the least. Mercedes remains in disarray; Lance Stroll was forced to retire Sunday in a blow to Aston Martin, and Ferrari has yet to get on track leading into the April 2 race in Melbourne. After failing to podium in just six races last year, it’s already up to two in 2023 for Ferrari, and there’s plenty of panic that it’s slipping behind its rivals.
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