Despite a “decent” 2023 season, Carlos Sainz insists his disastrous run in the final two races “cast a dark patch” over his campaign while it also prevented the Scuderia from claiming second place in F1’s Constructors’ championship.
At the penultimate round in Las Vegas, Sainz’s entire weekend was compromised from the outset when a loose water valve cover out on the track inflicted severe damage to the Spaniard’s SF-23 just minutes into the first practice session.
The freak incident required a chassis change and a new energy store, resulting in a ten-place grid penalty and forcing Sainz to start his race from P12 despite qualifying a strong second behind teammate Charles Leclerc. He eventually finished sixth.
Unfortunateley, his run of bad luck extended into F1’s final weekend in Abu Dhabi where Sainz crashed heavily in FP2. Additionally, Sainz was caught out by traffic in the first segment of qualifying which left him 16th on Sunday’s grid.
Relying on a one-stop strategy, he managed to position himself among the top-ten until a power unit failure on the penultimate lap put paid to his efforts.
Overall, various factors deprived Sainz of points during his 2023 campaign, but his disappointing showing in the final two races proved pivotal in Ferrari's narrow three-point defeat to Mercedes in the Constructors' championship.
“The last two weekends didn’t go as I expected, or like we wanted to finish the year,” he said, quoted by Speedcafe.
“Honestly, I’m very disappointed and, obviously, not happy given how close it was in the end in the constructors’ championship.
“Overall, I think it’s been a decent year for me. We’ve had a more consistent year, we’ve shined a bit more, but I’m not happy with these last two races which cast a dark patch over my season.
“We’ve had a much stronger season than what the last two races show. Everything that went wrong for me in the last two races has been quite dramatic in a way but it is what it is. Sometimes years go like this.
“Normally, the end of a season is my biggest strength, but this season, for whatever reason, it hasn’t been the case.
“It’s time to sit down, analyse, see what I could have done better for these last few races, and come back strong.”
Sainz felt that both Ferrari and Mercedes had struggled with performance fluctuations over the course of their 22-race campaign.
“We had our moments where we were quicker, and Mercedes had their moments where they were quicker,” assessed Sainz.
“Overall, maybe a bit of unreliability here and there. I think we were the quicker car but they were a little bit more consistent than us.
“Anyway, I think it’s a season where the team has made a lot of progress, we’ve learned a lot from this car, from these tyres.
“We finished the season a lot stronger than how we started, and it’s something we can bank for next year expecting, hopefully, a more competitive package.”
The 29-year-old’s low point came in Qatar where he was ruled out of the race an hour before the formation lap after Ferrari identified a fuel system issue on his car.
Sainz agreed that solving Ferrari’s reliability issues is a key priority for 2024.
“Yeah, 100%,” he said. “At the same time, I prefer a team that shows progress in terms of pace and tyre learning with a car not fighting for a championship, than one or two races of unreliability.
“If we want to have the whole package, we need to improve how tight we arrive to the end of the season.
“The issue in Qatar, the issue in Vegas, and the chassis change, it’s not going to help our reliability and scoring points.
“It’s something to learn from, but at the same time, I’m proud of how the team progressed through the season.”