Ferrari came away from the Australian Grand Prix without a point which, naturally on the face of it, does not sound like a particularly positive weekend.
Of course, going halfway around the world for a race to come back empty-handed isn’t what any team is in motorsport for but, sometimes, these race weekends do happen, and the Scuderia should try and take some positives from their latest spell in Melbourne as the dust begins to settle.
That might be particularly hard for Charles Leclerc who, after a second retirement in three races, labelled his start to the season as ‘the worst ever,’ but even so once he can bring himself to analyse the weekend, and the race from his team-mate’s perspective, he’ll see that there are some good signs despite the early difficulties.
Indeed, his team-mate Carlos Sainz put in a fine drive during the Grand Prix, with him recovering from P11 to P4 after being unlucky with the Safety Car period for Alex Albon’s crash being changed to a red flag situation after he’d already pitted.
The Spaniard worked his way through the field nicely upon the restart, though, and, crucially, felt that his race pace was good – something that Ferrari have struggled with so far this season, especially thanks to high tyre deg.
Amid all the disappointment around Leclerc’s accident and Sainz’s time penalty that knocked him out of the top ten, there were lines of optimism from some of the key players within the team, suggesting that certain issues that were impacting the SF-23 were starting to abate.
Earlier this season, Sainz said that the team knew where their problems were in terms of race pace and Sunday’s Grand Prix would suggest that they have made some gains in terms of addressing them.
Indeed, speaking post-race, he said he felt he had good race pace to get back into P4 in Australia:
“I had a good start and felt confident on the medium tyre but we were unlucky, pitting just before they brought out the first red flag and I dropped down to P11.
“From there I managed to pull off a good comeback with nice overtakes and solid pace, so for that I’m happy. It was a good race overall but the penalty ruined all the effort and I don’t agree with it.”
The clincher quotes in terms of Ferrari being able to take some solace from the weekend, though, came from Fred Vasseur.
The team principal heralded the progress made by the Scuderia, and clearly referred to the fact that their tyre management, an issue so far this season, was better at round three:
“Today’s result, not scoring points, does not reflect the progress we have made as a team,” he said after the chequered flag.
“We have taken a step forward in terms of pure performance and even more importantly, we had a decent and consistent race pace on the various tyre compounds, including the Hard.
“Our initial reaction is one of frustration, with Charles clearly unlucky to be involved in a racing incident at the start. It was a good call to bring Carlos in under the first Safety Car, but following the red flag, he had to start again from P11, from which he recovered very well.
“The penalty had a devastating effect on the final result for him but despite this, we go back to Maranello knowing that we are moving in the right direction and we now have three weeks to keep working on optimising and updating the SF-23 for the coming races.”
Of course, Ferrari aren’t yet where they want to be in the standings but they have some positives to work on as we look towards Azerbaijan at the end of April.