Sainz: To finish in front of Mercedes, McLaren is a strong result.

Sainz: To finish in front of Mercedes, McLaren is a strong result.

Sainz: To finish in front of Mercedes, McLaren is a strong result.

Carlos Sainz was satisfied to beat the faster Mercedes and McLarens during the 2023 Dutch Grand Prix finishing fifth on a day when teammate Charles Leclerc retired.

Ferrari’s Formula 1 weekend at Zandvoort was the worst way they could restart their season after the summer break, especially after the entered their vacation on a high following Leclerc’s podium at Spa.

The Red cars were off the pace all weekend, and never able to fight with McLaren, Mercedes, and Aston Martin, as both Sainz and Leclerc had several off-track moments during practice, just showing how tricky the SF-23 handling was around the banked corners of Zandvoort.

The race was tricky one with rain hitting the starting grid (all on slick tyres) on lap 1, and that was a recipe for disaster for Ferrari with Leclerc pitting with his Intermediates not ready. He later suffered from loss of performance after contact with McLaren’s Oscar Piastri on lap 1 which eventually led to his retirement.

There was better execution in the other Ferrari, and Sainz delivered a face saving performance, finishing fifth and managing to keep a fast charging Lewis Hamilton at bay on the restart at the end.

Sainz said: “We have to be very pleased to be P5 and giving ourselves a chance to fight for a podium today but the reality is that the pace has never been there all weekend.

“The reality is once the race settled down, we were just fighting with cars that were much quicker than us. To finish in front of the Mercedes, the McLarens, this weekend they had a lot more pace than us – it’s a strong result.

“I think [this also] has to be frustrating for us because in a way this weekend, we were just very far off the pace and we need to understand why,” Sainz maintained. “But at the same time we have to be proud that on a weekend when the pace wasn’t there, we’ve managed to maximize our result.

“Mixed feelings for sure but I did suffer quite a bit out there today [Sunday],” the Spaniard concluded.

A weekend to forget for Leclerc

Leclerc, on the other hand had a painful weekend that culminated with his DNF during the grand prix. Multiple off track moments at Turn 1, and his crash in qualifying showed the Monegasque is over-driving, something he tends to do, contrary to his consistent teammate.

In the end of the race he was relegated to the painful fact of fighting with the AlphaTauri of Liam Lawson, that is before the team put him out of his misery and retired the car.

Looking back at the start of the race Leclerc said: “Coming into the last corner, I saw there was a lot of rain so decided to stop at the last minute.

“We lost a little bit of time at the pit stop but overall, it was a good operation for us because we gained more than what we lost. We just need to understand how we could have optimized a bit better, having the guys ready early on. This race was crazy,” he explained.

As of his race-ending damage, Leclerc said: “[It was] extremely difficult, we lost more than 60 points [of downforce] so it was almost a different category, so it was always going to be difficult after that.”

The #16 Ferrari was retired at the end of lap 41 of the 72-lap-race that was won by Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, with Fernando Alonso and Pierre Gasly second and third respectively.