Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc reflect positively on what turned out to be a good yet at the same time below par weekend overall for Ferrari in F1 Qatar GP.

Ferrari came into F1 Qatar GP on strong form. Previous races had provided consecutive double Top 6 finishes and the team had crushed McLaren to take a commanding lead in the constructors’ championship when earlier in the season their P3 chances were looking pretty bleak against a faster rival.

But since the introduction of a 2022 spec engine in Russia and Turkey, the Ferrari has looked comfortably third best car on the grid and well clear of their papaya rivals. Qatar was a new challenge. And a challenge it certainly was. Chassis issues for Leclerc on Friday hampered his preparation meaning P13 on the grid was the best he could do after a mysterious lack of pace.

Sainz on the other hand fared better but was still off the pace compared to previous weekends. He also had a radio issue which he reckons will be discussed leading up to Saudi Arabia. “We need to review what happened there with the radio because I didn’t hear the box call and maybe we lost out a bit by that call,” he said to TV media.

“But it’s been a bit of a boring race for me because we were very concerned about the tyres and I was saving tyres all race, thinking about that front left that was giving so many headaches to other teams. In the end maybe that approach paid off because the others did mistakes, but from my side I couldn’t push really in the whole race and it was a bit of a boring one. In late stages, it was a combination of two things, obviously Stroll’s straightline speed was very good but also he had DRS from Ocon.

“So with a car having DRS, it is almost impossible to pass here. I gave it my best shot and I was as aggressive I could be in last 3-4 laps but we really had no chance because he had the DRS of Ocon. But overall, in the end it was a solid day in terms of team. In terms of drive it could have been a bit better for sure, but I must say that the start wasn’t easy with the medium against the softs, and then we were so concerned about the tyre life that we had to drive conservatively but it is what it is and in the end it paid off,” summed up Sainz.

A few niggly issues for Sainz like with the radio, not major problems but obstacles that are far from ideal and make his job unnecessarily harder. Eventually it was a good day for Ferrari, simply because McLaren were so far off the pace too, but individually not satisfactory for the Spaniard.

Leclerc attributes similar issues to his struggles but the two Ferrari drivers drove different races with different strategies thanks to their starting positions. The common factor, not just for the Italian outfit but the whole grid, was the tyre problems. “The race was a bit tricky starting from P13, especially behind a group of cars in the first stint and then in the second stint, I found a bit of free air,” he said.

“I could show my pace and that was strong even though we had to manage the tyres to get to the end but overall the pace was there, just a shame that we started from so far back. Happy with the pace but not so happy to finish only P8. Obviously when you look at the position it’s nothing special but if you look at the pace in free air in the second stint it’s very positive and we were very strong.

“It’s a track where it is quite difficult to overtake – especially when you are on the same strategy as the guys in front. So whenever I was in free air I could show my true pace. And I’m quite happy to see that the pace is back after the change of chassis because yesterday was a bit worrying to see so much lack of pace and obviously when you see a chassis is damaged you never know how much is in the chassis damage or whatever, so to find the pace back after that change feels good,” summed up Leclerc.

As Leclerc stated, Sunday was a bit of a save for him after starting P13 and to finish just two seconds behind his teammate is something he can be proud of even if the end result wasn’t what he wanted. The tyres caused plenty of controversy this weekend thanks to the nature of the track with its high speed laterally loaded corners and Ferrari were not immune, as we have just found out, to these problems.

Whilst total failure didn’t occur for them like it did for a few others, extreme management was needed to prevent it. To sum up, the weekend for Ferrari individually was not great but as a team, another strong result. McLaren’s struggles and lack of pace helped the Italian outfit to continue to build a healthy advantage in the battle for P3.

Over the course of this triple header, Ferrari have really dominated McLaren and now look set to win best of the rest this year. But Qatar was a reminder that nothing is a foregone conclusion, and they still need to look over their shoulders with Alpine taking the mantle of third best in Qatar and AlphaTauri having strong one lap pace too.

The story was written by Ollie Pattas

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