Sainz: “I will always” debate strategy with my team mid-race

Ferrari SF-23 front

The Spanish GP was another difficult weekend for Ferrari, both from a performance standpoint and an operational one. As in previous rounds, strategy and communication became a significant subject of debate post-race for the Italian squad.

Charles Leclerc’s disagreement with the decision to stop for hard tyres, and the team’s insistence on keeping the plan unchanged, further heightened the scrutiny on this area.

After a difficult qualifying, the Monegasque failed to recover into the points with an SF-23 that lacked the performance and tyre conservation to be at the front.

Carlos Sainz executed a clean weekend from Friday to Sunday, but this was not enough to get the better of Red Bull or even Mercedes – whose updates to the W14 are proving encouraging.

As is becoming relatively common, the Spaniard engaged in a series of in-depth discussions with his race engineers about strategy throughout 66 laps.

Speaking post-race, Sainz made clear that such proactivity is a part of his general approach to competing in Formula 1:

“You guys know, I like interacting, and I like participating in discussions – it’s my style of racing, and I will always be like that.

“Today, I think it didn’t matter with the pit-stop timing. We would have finished P5 with the pace we had, with the degradation we had. So I do believe we did the right thing. 

“I think we maximised everything we had. I gave my absolute best at the start and the race pace.

“I’m just a bit gutted that we couldn’t give a stronger defence against Red Bull and the two Mercedes.

“They were just so much quicker than us. It wasn’t even worth fighting because they would have passed me one lap or another.

“I did my absolute best, but unfortunately, this is what we have now.”

Ferrari SF-23, Charles Leclerc

The last twelve months have proven unsuccessful for the Scuderia, with the SF-23 representing a clear backward step from the team’s relative performance at this stage last year.

Even at a circuit where Aston Martin struggled, Ferrari could not outscore their British rivals – only managing the fourth-highest points tally of the weekend.

It is unclear how effective Maranello’s recent updates are, but it seems safe to assume that the SF-23’s underlying weaknesses and limitations remain.

The problems affecting Ferrari are clearly linked with the team’s foundational concept.

This is an alarming reality, especially given that no decisions have been made about whether to pursue or abandon the Scuderia’s current philosophy.

Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc have been consistent in their feedback of the SF-23’s unpredictability, whilst team principal Fred Vasseur remains convinced there is still “potential” to unlock.

Until this supposed potential translates into actual performance on the track, the attitude surrounding Ferrari’s chances in 2023 will remain one of scepticism.

Strategy is a crucial component of Formula 1 success, but no amount of strategic brilliance – from Sainz or otherwise – will be sufficient to rectify an increasingly bleak situation.

Author: Jaden Diaz-Ndisang