Written by Tatsbhita Reva, Edited by Tarun Suresh
With Carlos Sainz Jr. of Scuderia Ferrari missing out on the start of the most recent Qatar Grand Prix, it is no secret that the team has been on both one too many inclines and declines throughout the 2023 season. Now that only 5 races are left before the end of the season– would finishing second in the 2023 Constructor Standings be possible for the prancing horse?
Mishaps Commenced on the Season Opener
The two Ferrari drivers, Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz Jr. were in the second and fifth position for the 2022 Driver Standings. The team ended up securing second in the Constructors Standings the same year with 554 points, and the beloved Ferrari fans were beyond excited to see how the red team would do in the upcoming year. A Championship from either driver would be more than possible, as said by the Monegasque during Ferrari’s season launch in Fiorano: “The goal is clearly to win.”
Disappointment came to greet the two drivers on the very first race of the season as an engine failure cost Leclerc his podium in Bahrain, and Fernando Alonso’s Aston Martin passed Sainz to seal third place. Retiring on Lap 41 due to a power unit problem, the miserable look on Leclerc’s face was an urgent call for the team to apprehend what went wrong and what should be done to avert the issue from happening again:
“Everything felt good, so it is a shame,” said the Monegasque. Regarding the battle against Alonso, Sainz claimed how ‘too much degradation’ on his tyres was also ‘something to look into’ and ‘analyse’—implicitly sharing a similar concern with his teammate.
Disasters Persist for the Duo
Although Sainz and Leclerc finished the race placing sixth and seventh, respectively, the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix instilled the same sorrow for the two drivers. To begin with, Leclerc had to serve his first grid penalty of the season for taking a third control electronics unit.
Despite qualifying second, Leclerc had to contend the 10-place grid penalty and start the race from 12th position. On the other hand, the double points gained for the two drivers was not that much of a joy. “It’s difficult to take positives when you are P6 and P7,” said Sainz regarding his expectations of a better car pace during the race. “At least we got reliability and double points, but this is not where we want to be right now.”
Leclerc’s Ferrari had to call yet another early quit during the Australian Grand Prix for the heavy collision with Lance Stroll’s Aston Martin and Alex Albon’s Williams. Sainz’s luck, too, burnt into flames—causing fellow Spaniard Alonso to spin during the penultimate lap standing restart, he was hit with a 5-second time penalty: dropping him from fourth to 12th.
Unfortunately for the two Ferrari drivers, the Miami Grand Prix did not avenge their stroke of bad luck from the previous races. Losing control of his car by the final turn during Q3, Leclerc hit the same barriers as he did during the Friday practice.
Yet another upsetting moment for the Monegasque, calling it “unacceptable” as the Qualifying session is marked with a dramatic conclusion. Despite finishing fifth for Sainz and Seventh for Leclerc, ending the race with 16 points combined for the team, the inconsistencies within the Ferrari cars left its two drivers questioning. Expressing his concerns on how the car was moving a lot at high speed, Leclerc claimed that ‘it was difficult.’
The Dutch Grand Prix was not up to their expectations, either. Ending the race with a P5 finish, Sainz was content as he branded the 5th place a ‘strong result.’ The two drivers showed visible struggles amidst the Qualifying session, even fining Sainz and the team for a ‘dangerous manoeuvre.’ Leclerc, too, was losing control of his car continuously, leading him to crash and qualify ninth. The two drivers collectively agreed that the consistency of the car for the entire season should be the team’s top priority and will remain the area to focus on.
The Home Races
Monaco and Spanish Grands Prix, are the awaited back-to-back home races for the two Ferrari drivers. For any driver racing the streets of their motherland, undoubtedly securing a win or a podium to close the race is highly expected by each driver. In the case of Leclerc, who sought to end his home circuit curse, winning on Circuit de Monaco would mean a lot for him. Having impeded Lando Norris of the McLaren in Q3, Leclerc received a 3-place grid penalty and fell from third to sixth position.
As for the race held in Circuit de Catalunya, it was pretty obvious that Sainz had high hopes of achieving a podium. Starting second on the front row, Sainz lost the pace necessary to defend a podium finish. “I tried my best guys,” defeated Sainz said.
In round 15 of the season, Formula 1 comes racing around Italy, the home of the Tifosi. A wild roar came barging from the Ferrari fans into the circuit as pole position was secured by Sainz, beating Max Verstappen’s Red Bull just by 0.013 seconds—a dream set back in flames by the Spaniard. Ferrari’s home race ended in a 3-4 finish for Sainz and Leclerc, respectively, adding up a collective 27 points for the Constructors’ Championship.
Podiums in Check
Leclerc has been successful in bringing home three podium finishes for Ferrari: finishing P3 in Baku, P2 in Austria, and P3 in Belgium. Leclerc was ecstatic about his car’s belated flawless performance as he took the lead during the Qualifying of the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, although he stated that placing third was not what he wanted after claiming a podium finish post-race.
The Monegasque driver also referred to his P2 finish during the Austrian Grand Prix as ‘bittersweet,’ although denoted the prior qualifying as his ‘best’ in 2023. The following Belgian Grand Prix, being Leclerc’s third podium finish of the season, also brought a smile to the team. Yet again, the same issue within the car persists, pace and tyre wear.
Following Leclerc’s podium finishes, the notorious Night Race in Singapore came to a mesmerizing end as fans were shaken over the brilliant strategy Sainz came up with to secure a win.
Sainz slowed down to keep Norris' McLaren under DRS (Drag Reduction System) range to hang onto second position despite only being ahead of him by 1.2 seconds—all to prevent the two Mercedes cars from overtaking. Taking advantage of such a brilliant tactic, Sainz claimed the cooperation between the two ex-teammates was the key to his victory.
Forthcoming: Second in Constructors?
It was heartbreaking news for the Ferrari fans as Sainz did not start the most recent Qatar Grand Prix due to an issue with the fuel system of his car. Max Verstappen of Red Bull Racing has been crowned as the 2023 season’s World Champion, and the Japanese Grand Prix marked the team’s sixth World Constructors’ Championship.
However, this does not stop Ferrari from aiming for second place in the 2023 Constructor Standings. With Mercedes currently placing second with 326 points, there is a little catch-up to do from Ferrari as they hold 298 points. With a gap of only 28 points against Mercedes, an expectation is undeniably set mutually between the two drivers and their team: consistency. Five rounds remain on the 2023 calendar for the prancing horse team, Ferrari, to grasp second place for Constructors’.