Carlos Sainz is optimistic that Ferrari can bridge the gap to Red Bull and contend for the 2024 Championship.

The last eighteen months have been very turbulent for the Italian outfit. After starting strongly to the new regulations in Bahrain 2022, the situation quickly deteriorated in the coming rounds.

The mid-season technical directive proved detrimental, alongside reliability issues and operational deficiencies. Over the last twelve months, Ferrari has worked to recover from their 2022 setbacks. In this respect, they can only be credited with partial success.

Red Bull utterly dominated the 2023 Championship, with Verstappen often in a league of his own. This was amidst a restriction on wind tunnel running, which Adrian Newey’s team took in its stride.

Still, context is important to assess Ferrari’s season. Given their difficult winter period, they made reasonable progress. Carlos Sainz took the only non-Red Bull victory of the year in Singapore, and Charles Leclerc found his best form at the end of 2023.

Despite narrowly missing out on 2nd in the Championship, Fred Vasseur’s team ended the year strongly. Looking at the second half of the campaign, Ferrari accumulated 239 points – comfortably ahead of McLaren (215) and Mercedes (186).

Their one-lap pace was hardly an issue, with Leclerc and Sainz regularly challenging Verstappen on Saturday. It was on Sunday that Red Bull’s RB19 proved superior in performance and management.

Still, there is undoubtedly work to do. Acknowledging this reality, Ferrari’s Spanish driver pointed towards reasons to be optimistic:

“I think it has to be our realistic aim [fighting Red Bull]. Yes. Will be manage to do it? Only time will tell,” he told motorsport.com.

“If McLaren has been able to do these steps during the season, I’m perfectly confident Ferrari can do it over a winter break.”

Sainz correctly assesses that Ferrari must take a significant leap with their 2024 car. Even assuming a modest winter from Red Bull, the Italian outfit needs around 1 second to compete with the reigning Champions.

As the 29-year-old admitted, there are no guarantees Verstappen’s dominance will end. The technical team at Maranello must prove it can replicate its performance from the simulator on the race track.

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