Upgrades could see Ferrari catch Red Bull in May - Sainz

Carlos Sainz Jr (ESP) Ferrari SF-24. 06.04.2024. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 4, Japanese Grand Prix, Suzuka, Japan, Qualifying Day. - www.xpbimages.com, EMail: requests@xpbimages.com © Copyright: Coates / XPB Images
© XPB 

Carlos Sainz believes that Ferrari is primed to catch Red Bull in terms of race pace as soon as next month, thanks to the upgrades that the team has coming down the pipeline in the next few weeks.

Sainz is the only driver other than Max Verstappen to have won a Grand Prix so far in 2024, but that was thanks to the Red Bull driver retiring in Australia after suffering a brake fire.

Sainz was on the podium again in the most recent race in Japan, but the top two spots were once again securely in the hands of Verstappen and his team mate Sergio Perez.

Sainz was still pleased with Ferrari's relative performance in the race, but admitted that this might be too late for them to have a realistic chance of competing for the championship this year.

"They're definitely going to have an advantage in the first third of the season until we bring one or two upgrades that makes us fight them more consistently," Sainz said of Red Bull's current status.

"By that time, maybe it's a bit too late with the advantage that they might have on the championship," he acknowledged. "In the meantime we need more Australias, but I don't see Red Bull as a team making these mistakes very often.

"[It's] a shame]," he said, adding that it didn't help that he had been forced to withdraw from the race in Saudi Arabia after suffering appendicitis and needing emergency surgery.

Carlos Sainz Jr (ESP) Ferrari celebrates his third position on the podium. 07.04.2024. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 4, Japanese Grand Prix, Suzuka, Japan, Race Day. - www.xpbimages.com, EMail: requests@xpbimages.com © Copyright: Moy / XPB Images

"I missed a race, which for both the team and me could be costly in the championship," he told Motorsport.com. "We're competing in one race less.

"But at the same time we're going to give it our best shot. It's my last year at Ferrari so [I have] nothing to lose, and we will try everything to make it back."

Ferrari team principal Frederic Vasseur was also upbeat about the progress that Ferrari have made in tackling last year's problem areas of high-speed corners and aggressive tyre degradation in races.

"We made a huge step forward on the high-speed compared to last year and for sure Suzuka is a good example," Vasseur commented. "And on the tyre management mode. But we still have weaknesses.

Frederic Vasseur (FRA) Ferrari Team Principal. 04.04.2024. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 4, Japanese Grand Prix, Suzuka, Japan, Preparation Day. - www.xpbimages.com, EMail: requests@xpbimages.com © Copyright: Moy / XPB Images

"It's always kind of compromise: you improve somewhere and you're losing somewhere else," he explained. "But if you compare with Red Bull over the last four events last year and the first four this year, we've made a decent step forward.

"For sure [they] are still a little bit ahead," he conceded. "But the target is to be able to put them under pressure, and with pressure you're making more mistakes."

"It's so tight that I think what is crucial in my business is the humility," he said, adding that it was important to take nothing for granted over the rest of the season.

"You had four teams in one tenth in qualifying [in Japan]," he pointed out. " It means that you don't have to consider that what you did one weekend will be true the weekend after.

"We'll start from scratch next week, and we have to keep this mindset for all the races."

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