Carlos Sainz has explained Max Verstappen‘s Formula 1 dominance in 2023 without even giving 100 percent in most races is ominous for the rest of the field as the Dutchman wracked up the biggest title-winning margin in history while barely breaking a sweat.
Verstappen rewrote half the record books with a crushing 290-point victory over Sergio Perez and could’ve won the constructors’ championship even without Perez‘s points for Red Bull.
Meanwhile, Ferrari were relegated from early season title favourites in 2022 to fighting Mercedes, Aston Martin and McLaren for scraps in 2023, though Sainz did score the only non-Red Bull win of the season at the Singapore Grand Prix while he and teammate Charles Leclerc claimed seven podiums between them.
“It’s been a complicated season with a car that was better on Saturday in qualifying than on Sunday in the race, we went on track with hopes but then came away with a lot of frustration,” Sainz said at an Estrella Galicia sponsors event.
“As for Verstappen‘s dominance, I think he didn’t need to go 100 percent, he only did it when he needed to and that aspect is what scares me the most.”
“Max has gone 100 percent when he has had to go 100 percent. There have been many races where he and Red Bull, looking at telemetry and analysis, were already 10 seconds ahead, they didn’t need to take another five seconds off us and maybe they kept it.
“That’s my theory, my opinion and that’s why I say to the team that we have to gain not four-tenths, but six, because I’m sure they didn’t need to give 100 percent in some races. You have to go with the mentality that maybe they didn’t give 100 percent in the races where they had a big margin.”
Sainz: Ferrari still working out how to beat deceptive Red Bull
Sainz added Ferrari are still reviewing the 2023 season to decide how best to take on Red Bull in 2024 and stop Verstappen from adding a fourth consecutive world championship to his collection.
Ferrari ended the year strongly, starting with Sainz‘s Singapore victory that came a fortnight after he produced one of the performances of the season en route to a popular third-place at Monza.
The team managed four podiums in the final five races of the season and even more encouragingly, Leclerc fought a race-long battle for the win against both Red Bulls in the inaugural Las Vegas GP.
Sainz was only excluded from that fight due to a grid penalty from damage inflicted on his SF-23 by a circuit malfunction, and Ferrari are arguably the most optimistic team entering 2024 aside from Red Bull.
“There are still a lot of meetings to analyse everything, in January there will be the review with one month to go and then you will have a better look at everything,” Sainz added.
“Red Bull understands very well what the car has to have with this regulation. You see that on Saturday we can beat them or match them, you see that you are not far away, but in the race it’s half a second per lap, half a minute in the race, it’s deceptive.
“We have all learned that their great advantage is their versatility on Sunday. That’s where I think we have to find the key. In June 2022 we thought we weren’t that far away, as Mercedes thought, but 2023 showed us that we didn’t take the right direction.”