After fifteen days of vacation and factory shutdowns mandated by the regulations, the spotlight has once again turned to the world of Formula One, which this weekend roared back to life on the Zandvoort track for the Dutch Grand Prix. A return to normalcy that, for Ferrari, proved to be challenging and full of problems, at least based on what was seen in the first two days of the Dutch three-day event, where the team faced one of the most difficult qualifications of the entire 2023 season.
Since Friday, in fact, the drivers of the Scuderia struggled to find the right feel with the SF-23, grappling with its stability over the undulating Dutch circuit, and struggling to perform adequately and break into the Top 10. As a result, the team ended up qualifying in sixth and ninth positions (with Charles Leclerc also being involved in a crash in Q3). This challenging session was analyzed by Carlos Sainz as soon as he stepped out of his car and arrived at the interview area.
First and foremost, the Spanish driver gave a general analysis of his own performance and that of the team during the Dutch weekend, expressing dissatisfaction with the gap conceded to their rivals and the significant difficulties they had to face. These difficulties, at least until now, have set Ferrari back compared to the progress seen at Spa-Francorchamps.
“If they had told me about sixth place before qualifying, I would have taken it, because it’s been a tough weekend so far, as you could see from the outside as well. I risked being eliminated in Q1, and yesterday I only had one flying lap on dry asphalt in FP2, so I had to experiment in Q3. In the end, I have to be happy with sixth place because many others made mistakes, but we managed to put in a couple of good laps.”
These challenges likely stem from the nature of the circuit. Zandvoort is a high-load track, unlike Spa, Baku, Montreal, or Spielberg (all low-load tracks) where the SF-23 had performed well.
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“I believe we had a tough weekend in Hungary when we used the high-load wings. We got confirmation here: on this track, we expected to do well, but in reality, we’re struggling more than ever. On Friday, we conducted some tests and are starting to understand why. We simply know that our high-load rear wings aren’t functioning as they should. And when we come to these types of tracks, we don’t put the same downforce on the car as the others, so we slide much more. Hence, the car is more complex. Moreover, there’s wind, and the corners are long, which isn’t ideal for our car. Yes, we know where we need to improve.”
After overcoming the challenging qualifying session, Carlos Sainz turned his attention to Sunday’s race at the Zandvoort circuit located in the dunes north of Zandvoort, the Netherlands, near the North Sea coast line, somewhat preemptively, by setting a goal of a top six finish for the Ferrari.
“As for tomorrow, I really don’t know what to expect. I only had two practice sessions and didn’t have the time to improve as I would have liked. A realistic goal? Staying in the top six.” – the Spaniard concluded.