Ferrari is back on the track after two weeks and the missed podium in Suzuka, where it finished behind the usual Red Bull of Max Verstappen but also the McLarens of Lando Norris and Oscar Piastri.
One of the positive aspects of the Japanese weekend was the tire degradation, which appeared less severe than usual on the SF-23 compared to previous races. The introduction of a new floor, tested in practice by both Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz Jr., seems to have played a role in improving this situation. Still, the Madrid-born driver has stated that he wants to remain cautious.
To get a more accurate assessment, Ferrari will have to wait for more races to gather more data and thus have more certainty about the actual influence of the new floor, which was approved by both drivers two weeks ago in Suzuka.
“We need to be cautious about these things [improved tire degradation in Suzuka], as in Japan, we introduced a new floor. This is a significant change, and it’s complex to give a final judgment on something of such importance. It’s certainly too early to make a judgment, even though things went better concerning degradation and tire management. I want to take more time to have more certain data and see if it’s really the case. Several races are still ahead, and we really hope things continue this way.”
“In Suzuka, tire degradation was high, but at the same time, the two pit stops made everything easier because we could reduce tire life. Our biggest problem is tire life more than degradation, and in a race with two pit stops, you can manage everything better than in a race with only one pit stop where you’re forced to do two stints. That said, we have made good progress. We have worked hard on tire management, also taking advantage of what the car allows us to do. We hope things can improve, and we have done that during this season.”
Regarding the new floor, Carlos Sainz explained why he found himself behind Charles Leclerc for the entire Japanese Grand Prix weekend after his success at Marina Bay. Friday, influenced by several tests for the future, was the decisive day for Carlos, leading him to finish sixth in the race.
“I believe that Leclerc being ahead of me in Japan was not due to the introduction of the new floor. I enjoyed the weekend, and I think the problem began on Friday when I tried different things with the car. Usually, throughout the year, on Fridays, we have always prepared the car for qualifying and the race, while in Suzuka, we conducted several tests to make the car more drivable and closer to my preferences.”
“Unfortunately, we couldn’t do as much as we would have liked. I had more difficulty even in qualifying, but then in the race, I was strong again. I know what we need to do for the upcoming weekends. The approach we had may not pay off this year, but it can be beneficial in the medium to long term. We chose to try certain things in Suzuka for the type of track it is and for what we will have to face in the coming weeks. I know what will work and what won’t. In today’s F1, especially with few tests available, it’s the approach you need if you want to try certain things for the season and the future.”
One of today’s main topics is about curbs. In the first edition, they were at the center of controversies for damaging more than one tire. Now, however, they have been called “worse” by some drivers (like Yuki Tsunoda), and Carlos Sainz shared his opinion on this.
“Can curbs be a problem? It depends on many factors. On track limits, but we have to consider that we drive very wide cars, and we have little visibility. I think here we will have to talk more than usual about track limits rather than destructive curbs.”
To make things more challenging, the heat is expected to be an additional variable that will make the Grand Prix less predictable than usual over the weekend, in addition to the format that includes the Saturday sprint between the Shootout and Sprint Race.
“I believe this will be an extreme case, and I hope it will not be repeated in the future. Obviously, the organizers have scheduled the race on the best possible days, but I have always suffered from the heat, and this race will not be comfortable from that point of view, not at all. However, I’m not worried because it was very hot in Singapore, but I still did well. Besides the heat, there are other important factors, such as the new asphalt. In recent days, I could see that it’s very dirty, and no one has driven on it since 2021. It’s a kind of unknown track, and it will be important to work very well in Free Practice 1. There will be a lot of challenges to face this weekend.”
Finally, Carlos Sainz commented on Ferrari’s chances of achieving a good result at the Lusail track.
“We have all seen the peculiarities of our car. We’ve gone from winning in Singapore to being 40 seconds behind the leaders in Suzuka. This year, it’s not easy for us to find a compromise between medium-fast corners like Suzuka. It’s one of our weaknesses this season. We need to get the most out of it. If we’re in seventh place, we need to bring it home. If we’re in a podium position, we need to step onto the podium. I certainly think that we usually perform well on fast tracks, so I hope it can compensate where we struggle,” concluded Carlos.