Ferrari made light of their team’s dismal showing in FP2 for Sunday’s Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz just making it into the top ten as the Reds appear to be in serious trouble or playing great poker.
Although it may be not ‘serious’ be sure the trouble there is with Leclerc on a ten place PU-related penalty and seven-tenths down on the top time set by their nemesis Max Verstappen in the flying Red Bull.
Amid reports, “90%” of which were denied by Leclerc, the Reds have PU worries after his went up in smoke while in contention for a podium in Bahrain last time out. They changed Sainz’s unit too, just to be safe.
But, the tone of the team report is calm despite the looming pounding they could face in qualifying and then the race, it read: “Ferrari’s priority for this first day of free practice for the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix was to get plenty of laps in. Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz duly did 106 between them, equivalent to over twice Sunday’s Grand Prix distance, the race being run over 50 laps, for a distance of 308.45 kilometres.
“At all street circuits, it’s vital for the drivers to have the confidence to get close to the walls, to assess the evolution of the track, which as expected, was rather dirty at the start of the day and to get a feel for the car’s handling.
“Carlos and Charles went out on track with new power units fitted to both SF-23s, as a precaution following Leclerc’s retirement in Bahrain, the Monegasque also taking a 10-place grid position here, having fitted a third control unit on his car.”
Charles: The feeling in the car is pretty good
Leclerc, who ended the day ninth fastest, a couple of tenths up on his teammate, reported: “We tested some new parts today and everything works as expected. It’s difficult to get a sense of our competitiveness as everyone is on a different programme so far.
“The feeling in the car is pretty good. We will try to maximize our qualifying tomorrow, but given that we will have a 10-place grid penalty on Sunday, our main focus will be on making up those positions during the race.”
Sainz said of his day: “It was an intense day here in Jeddah. This is a very unusual circuit with very peculiar characteristics which requires specific work to achieve a good balance.
“There is still some performance to find, but in general the car feels in the right window. Race pace was decent and tomorrow we will focus on maximizing the result during qualifying.
Last year, Leclerc and Sainz were second and third in the qualifying to Sergio Perez, ditto in the race albeit beaten by Verstappen.
Ferrari have been under severe scrutiny this week as reports emerged in several prominent Italian media portals claiming a “crisis of chaos” at Maranello which Leclerc underplayed and new team principal Fred Vassuer denied.