In an exclusive interview for the Italian version of the Motorsport website, Scuderia Ferrari Spanish driver Carlos Sainz has expressed his desire to continue his adventure in Maranello. At 28 years old, with 170 Grand Prix races under his belt, Carlos Sainz physically conveys the feeling of being in the presence of a professional who is in control of the scenario surrounding him, a person with broad shoulders.
His analytical ability stands out for its precision and the inclination to get straight to the point without much ado. His third season at Ferrari didn’t start as he would have liked, and between a challenging present and hopes for a less problematic second half of the season, there’s also the question mark about his long-term future. Carlos hopes that it can continue to be in the “red” team, provided that the renewal arrives before the start of the next championship. The Spaniard has his ideas about what may have caused the difficult start of the SF-23 project. He acknowledges the challenges associated with driving a very “picky” car but also expresses confidence in Frederic Vasseur and the team at Scuderia.
Here is his full interview with Roberto Chinchero for Motorsport Italy:
The first third of the championship has been a clear step back compared to the same period last year. Do you think what we have seen so far is a continuation of the problems you had in the second half of the 2022 season?
“In the second half of last year, we had a car capable of fighting for pole positions, but in the races, we were consistently beaten by Red Bull. Sometimes it seemed like a management problem, a strategy issue, but on many occasions, we simply didn’t have the race pace. I can think of Budapest, Austin, or other occasions where we started from pole. On Saturdays, we were faster by a tenth, but in the race, we were slower by two or three tenths. This year, we are experiencing the same situation, but the delta is wider.”
However, the delta varies depending on the types of tracks and conditions. Does that complicate things?
“It’s the classic glass half full or half empty situation: we have a fast car, but we need to ensure it is also fast in the race. However, we must also acknowledge that we haven’t won yet. We are digging deep, using feedback from the tracks, and every weekend we try something new, from shocks to aerodynamics or other aspects, to understand where the problem lies.”
“I see a focused and dedicated team, both in the factory and on the track. In my career, I have never spent so much time close to a team, going from the simulator to meetings, always trying to provide my support to find a solution. So far, in every race weekend, we have always tried new ideas to improve the situation. We don’t have a magic wand yet, but we are developing the car step by step.”
This year, we have understood the meaning of the word ‘picky’…
“I believe that even Mercedes had to deal with a car that only works in a very narrow window, but they called it a ‘diva’…”
Dealing with a car that performs at its best only under specific conditions can be seen as the worst-case scenario for someone tasked with resolving the situation.
“Unfortunately, yes, and it’s also difficult for a driver. It hasn’t been an easy start to the season for me either. Charles and I push to the limit, but on a couple of occasions, we had strange weekends where the car suddenly behaved unpredictably, even in qualifying. When you don’t immediately understand what happened, it’s not easy from both the drivers’ and the team’s perspective. Sometimes the car gives you hope, like in Australia, for example, where I managed to have a good race, but then there were other cases where we felt like we took two steps back. So, it’s complicated to manage. In these scenarios, it’s important to have strong leadership and a united group. We are going through this journey together, and it’s not easy with all the criticism and doubts surrounding us, but we’re doing our best.”
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The team has come under attack after a below-expectations start to the season. Many expect the arrival of influential figures to strengthen the technical department. Do you think that’s the way to go?
“I believe that when Ferrari doesn’t win, it’s always subject to criticism. It’s Ferrari, and it’s something they tried to explain to me a thousand times before joining this team, and I always responded, ‘Don’t worry, I’ll get used to it.’ But I have to say that understanding it requires being inside the team because every weekend there’s a story. If you don’t win, there’s always some controversy that takes shape. But I also have to say that when you win, well, it’s the best place in the world.”
“When things aren’t going well, the criticism doesn’t spare us drivers either. But I’ve been in this sport for some time, and I’m glad to be 28, almost 29. Now I know how to handle these aspects, and in the end, I think it’s right because it’s all connected to the passion in Italy and around the world for this team. This attachment to Ferrari also generates the urge to win, and that’s why when you do win, it’s so special because you know there are really many happy people who share the joy of a victory. Yes, it’s all part of living in Ferrari.”
Sometimes we’ve seen the car struggle a lot with changes in track conditions, such as temperature and wind. Are these aspects contributing to increased frustration?
“It’s complicated. If we think about a driver who finishes a race where he has lost positions, facing the microphones immediately after the race is not easy. Let’s say it’s difficult to show enthusiasm. This year, several times I found myself in a worse situation at the end of the race compared to Saturday, and in these cases, it’s difficult to convey positivity in the heat of the moment. But then, everything changes on Monday. I wake up and see the positive side of things, I react, and I make myself available to the team. In the race, my competitive spirit comes into play, and I’m not happy when George, Fernando, or Lewis pass me on the track with ease. But I believe that over the course of a Formula 1 career, it’s possible to drive cars that perform better on Saturdays or Sundays. When I was at McLaren, I experienced the opposite situation from the current one; the car performed better in the race. I remember always gaining positions, and they would say that I was a great racer, capable of making beautiful overtakes, just as strategies were praised. However, to judge properly, a broader picture is needed. That’s why on Monday, I see things more clearly and with a greater perspective.”
In this first part of the season, there have been moments where the team has seemed to have confused ideas from the outside. There have been significant departures on the personnel front, but in your daily work, have you noticed any changes in problem-solving approaches and work methodologies?
“I believe the team is in good shape. We are still going through a period of changes that started with Fred’s arrival, but I think the way the factory works in combination with the race team is on the right track. I’m not worried, and I don’t think there are communication problems. We are all focused on finding solutions to the issues that have affected us in the first part of the season, but I’m confident that we will improve, and when things settle, it will be easier.”
Are you starting to feel Fred Vasseur‘s influence within the team?
“I think everything is starting to work. Of course, it’s very difficult to say that after a weekend like the one in Barcelona, but I have full confidence in Fred and the way he’s handling things, as well as in how he’s leading the team. I’ve been very impressed by his ideas and his perspective, and I believe his direction is starting to show.”
How do you see your future in the long term? You have a contract with Ferrari that will expire at the end of the next season. When will you start discussing a renewal with the team?
“I don’t want to lie. I don’t like starting a season knowing that it’s my last year under contract. I want to know what awaits me in the long term. I’ve had experiences in the past with Red Bull and Renault, and I know that not knowing your future is not the ideal situation for a professional driver. That’s why one of the priorities during the next winter will be to clarify my position, while keeping in mind that my main goal is to win one day behind the wheel of a Ferrari, something I’ve made clear many times. That will be my priority in the winter. If it’s not possible, I’ll be forced to look elsewhere.”
Have you wondered why your name has often been associated with the Audi program that will start in 2026?
“It’s a good question. Honestly, I think there are weeks where there’s not much to talk about in Formula 1. So stories take shape, maybe in lesser-known media outlets, to try to get some extra clicks or gain a bit of notoriety, something that interests particularly some minor publications. Today, there’s a race to be ‘the first ones to say it,’ an approach that aims to say, ‘We wrote it first, three years ago!’ I believe it’s all a result of this approach because I don’t see any other reasons, especially since I know very well that I haven’t spoken to any team other than Ferrari.”
The 2023 season is marked by dominance that leaves little room for opponents. How does one experience such a situation on the track?
“We have our problems, but it’s fair to say that Mercedes, Alpine, and Aston Martin can’t do much either because we’re fighting against a team that has found something special or is simply doing an incredible job.”
Do you think this gap can be closed during this season?
“If we manage to find what we want, then I believe so. The challenge is to fully understand how the cars of this generation work, and if we can achieve that, I’m one hundred percent sure that Ferrari has the ability to provide me with a winning car. That’s what we’re fighting for.”