Ferrari improved its performance in Monza to give Red Bull a run for its money, but team boss Fred Vasseur believes Carlos Sainz's pole position and podium at the venue show that the Spaniard also made a step forward.
From the outset of the Italian Grand Prix weekend, Sainz was among the front-runners, topping FP2 and FP3 before claiming a remarkable pole in Saturday's qualifying shootout.
On Sunday, Sainz carried the Tifosi's hopes of a home win during the first 14 laps of the race. But it was not meant to be as Red Bull's Max Verstappen was eventually able to overhaul the leading Ferrari driver.
But Sainz battled valiantly – especially against Scuderia teammate Charles Leclerc in the closing laps of the race – to claim at the end of the day his first podium of 2023, a result that helped Ferrari move up to third in F1's Constructors' Championship.
"It’s the first time that we are able to fight with Red Bull, but the Red Bull pace was better than us for sure," said Vasseur.
"But we were able to stay to match [them] for a good part of the race. And for sure it was the best weekend overall.
"I’m more than pleased also for Carlos because I think he did a step forward. Not necessarily in the quali and the race, but I would say also into the preparation of the weekend and from lap one of FP1 he was there. And it’s a good lesson also for the rest of the season."
There was no denying Sainz's progress in Monza, but the 29-year-old believed that he had executed in Italy perhaps his best weekend ever in F1.
"I’ve done other strong weekends in F1 that maybe got a bit unnoticed when I was in the midfield where I felt I extracted everything out of the car," he said.
"Of this year, for sure, of my Ferrari career probably [it’s the best].
"Of my F1 career, it’s a tough call but I felt like this weekend I was on it from the beginning, comfortable with the car especially over one lap. I felt really, really at home.
"I could put together strong laps and snatch pole but [the race] was again a bit tougher and it shows me exactly where we need to keep working on.
"I will put my head down and keep pushing the team to keep working on our tyre understanding and our race pace understanding."