Scuderia Ferrari leaves Saudi Arabia with 14 points, courtesy of a sixth place for Carlos Sainz and a seventh with Charles Leclerc. It is clear that there is still work to do to improve the SF-23 performance level on Sunday, because, as in Bahrain, there was a clear gap between how the car performed in qualifying and the race.
The right choice then fate stepped in. Leclerc was going very well in the first part of the race, making a perfect getaway from 12th on the grid, helped by the Soft tyres that allowed him to be extremely aggressive in the opening laps, gaining three positions. By lap 13, he had moved up to sixth, having passed Pierre Gasly, Lewis Hamilton and Esteban Ocon. He was now behind Carlos, who had lost a place at the start to Lance Stroll. On laps 15 and 16, the team called the drivers in for their only pit stop with Sainz going from Medium to Hard and Leclerc from Soft to Hard, which allowed them to get the jump on Stroll to move up to fourth and fifth. The pleasure of getting the overcut to work did not last long, replaced by the cruel let-down of seeing the perfectly executed plan come to nothing, as the Safety Car was immediately called out after Stroll parked at the side of the track. The two SF-23s were now sixth and seventh, as Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton were both able to pit under the Safety Car, their stops thus costing them half the usual time.
A train to the flag. There were no more changes from this point to the chequered flag, so Carlos and Charles endured a monotonous and somewhat frustrating race. The two Ferrari men ran at a consistent pace which meant they could keep up with, but were unable to pass Fernando Alonso, George Russell and Lewis Hamilton. The next round is the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne’s Albert Park.
‘It was a tough Sunday. Going into the race and looking at the sessions over the weekend, we were expecting a better race pace. We have work to do and we know the car is not where we want it to be at the moment. However, we will keep pushing and I am fully confident we can improve the situation.’
‘There wasn’t much more we could have extracted today. Our first stint on the Softs was pretty strong and I could push, making up some positions. Just after we switched to Hards, the Safety Car came out so unfortunately we didn’t gain an advantage there. Our pace was not as good as we expected on the Hards and the rest of the race was spent in a train with Carlos. We have work to do on our race pace and will push to come back stronger in Australia.’
Frédéric Vasseur Team Principal
‘Overall, we can’t be satisfied with today’s result. We did not have the pace we were expecting from our car, especially on the Hard tyre. There was also a big gap in our performance level between qualifying and the race. However, there were some positives today, starting with Charles’ pace on the Soft tyres which was good and allowed him to make up six positions on his first stint. Carlos also ran well on the Mediums. Our strategy was on point and our pit crew executed two good stops. There is still a long way to go this season and we will continue to fight. We are fully committed to maximising our package and further developing the SF-23 for the coming rounds.’