RACE DEBRIEF

    Carlos Sainz believes Ferrari have a realistic shot at surpassing Red Bull in the 2023 pecking order, as the Scuderia look to return to title-winning ways for the first time in over a decade.

    Ferrari started last year in fine style with a one-two finish at the season opener, while Sainz’s team mate, Charles Leclerc, took a brace of victories from the first three races.

    READ MORE: Sainz says he learned more in ‘challenging’ 2022 than in any year since his rookie season

    However, Leclerc and Ferrari’s early challenge soon faded through a combination of strategic mistakes, unreliability and driver errors, alongside Max Verstappen and Red Bull hitting an imperious run of form en route to both world titles.

    But despite the disappointment of falling short last time out, Sainz has taken plenty of positives from the experience and feels Ferrari are “not far” away from bridging the performance gap to Red Bull.

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    Sainz is hopeful that Ferrari can knock Red Bull off F1’s top spot in 2023

    “I feel we have chances. I mean, Red Bull has been dominant, but they’ve been dominant without being clearly ahead in pace,” said Sainz, pointing to his pole position – and Ferrari’s front row lock-out – at the late-season United States Grand Prix.

    “I don’t feel like we are so far behind in terms of car development and car performance. If you think about it, I was on pole in Austin; we were one-two in quali. It must be that our car is actually not that far from the Red Bull.”

    READ MORE: Ferrari announce launch date for 2023 challenger

    With Ferrari chasing their first drivers’ title since 2007 and first constructors’ title since 2008, the Spaniard also set out where he feels the Maranello operation should be focusing their efforts.

    “What we need to focus on is in trying to understand [the 2023] tyres, [and] see how we can be quicker in the race, because it’s clear that the Red Bull is particularly quick in the race compared to us,” he added.

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    Ferrari claimed four victories in 2022, with Sainz winning the British Grand Prix

    “For the strategy, race execution, tyre management, that’s another step that we want to take, that we are already working on. But in terms of pure performance, we are not far [away].

    “We just need to put on a bit more power and a bit more downforce in the car, and we’re going to be at the same level or faster, so let’s hope that we can do that.”

    READ MORE: Lawrence Barretto’s 5 bold predictions for the 2023 season – how many of these will come true?

    Sainz and Leclerc will form an unchanged driver line-up at Ferrari in 2023, though there are changes at the top with former Team Principal Mattia Binotto departing and ex-Alfa Romeo boss Frederic Vasseur stepping in as his replacement.