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Are Ferrari in crisis after dismal Saudi Arabian GP?

Ferrari appeared to take another backwards step at the 2023 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix

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Ferrari‘s start to the 2023 Formula 1 season went from bad to worse at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.

At this juncture 12 months ago, the Maranello-based outfit had comfortable advantages in both championships and dreams intact of a first title in 14 years, but fast forward to now and the team appears to be in disarray.

Just two races into a new season, there are even murmurings of a staff exodus and rumours of an impending change of car concept to something that resembles Red Bull’s dominant RB19. It’s a scarcely believable state of affairs.

At winter testing, it was expected Ferrari would once again assume second place in the pecking order; leaving Jeddah, it’s more likely they are actually the fourth-quickest team on the grid.

To add insult to injury, the reliability woes that plagued them in 2022 do not appear to have been resolved.

Charles Leclerc during practice for 2023 Saudi Arabian GP | Scuderia Ferrari Press Office

Charles Leclerc was forced to retire in Bahrain, leaving a podium on the table, then take a 10-place grid penalty in Saudi Arabia as a result. It’d almost be more concerning if alarm bells weren’t ringing.

Try as new team principal Fred Vasseur might to reassure the Tifosi, the evidence on the streets of Jeddah was damning.

Leclerc did brilliantly to qualify second after Max Verstappen‘s breakdown, more than half a second ahead of teammate Carlos Sainz, but come race day, the extent of their issues became clear.

Lance Stroll quickly dispatched Sainz, which is fine given Aston Martin‘s upturn in form and the brilliance of the move, but after all the talk of Mercedes lack of pace, neither he nor Leclerc had an answer for Lewis Hamilton and George Russell and laboured to sixth and seventh.

With 21 races to go, normally there would be time to make amends, but even the most die-hard fans would struggle to believe there is light at the end of this tunnel.

Ferrari fourth fastest

While Vasseur continued to search for positives in the aftermath, his drivers painted a rather less rosy picture.

The exacerbation was written all over Leclerc‘s face and was audible in his voice when he told Sky Sport F1 the car needed “a lot” of work.

“In a straight line they [Red Bull] are quicker and in the corners they are quicker,” Leclerc added.

In anyone’s book, that’s not a great combo. Sainz was a little more descriptive but no less critical.

“Right now, or today, we were the fourth fastest car on track and we need to see why,” Sainz said.

“It’s already two different tracks where our race pace is not great so we know we have work to do.”

As for losing out to Mercedes, the Spaniard admitted that came as a surprise.

“After Friday practice and even before coming into the weekend, we thought we had them and we thought we were quick.

“Even after qualy – I thought Charles did a brilliant lap and I struggled – we thought in the race we were going to be OK.

“We were not OK.”

Andrew Wright
Andrew Wrighthttps://total-motorsport.com
Sports Journalist for Total-Motorsport.com
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