Carlos Sainz topped the timesheets during FP2 for the 2023 Italian GP, which came as a welcome surprise to the Spaniard.
The performance comes after a tough weekend for the Scuderia at Zandvoort. Sainz crossed the line fifth, while teammate Charles Leclerc retired after suffering damage during a first-lap clash.
Ferrari looked much improved during Friday action at Monza however, with Sainz, who celebrated his 29th birthday, finishing with the best time ahead of McLaren’s Lando Norris and Red Bull’s Sergio Perez.
Leclerc finished with the sixth-fastest time, showing Ferrari have pace around the high-speed Monza track, though the improved performance came as a surprise to Sainz.
“It can’t get much better than that,” Sainz told reporters. “It was a smooth day, to be honest. It’s great to be back at a track like Monza and from the first lap of FP1 to feel the car normal again after such a difficult weekend at Zandvoort.
“As soon as we put the car on track here for some reason it just adapted a lot better and it was a lot easier to set up and drive it per corner. It doesn’t mean that we’re going to be P1 tomorrow and in the race, but at least the feeling is much better.
“We put the car on track, it’s the same car basically, but for some reason it just felt a lot better, which is what puzzles me more. But let’s see tomorrow, I think everyone’s going to lower fuel tomorrow, higher engine modes and it’s going to be a bit of a different picture.”
Sainz playing down expectations
Sainz wouldn’t rule out a special result in front of the Tifosi this weekend, though he made it clear Red Bull remain the team to beat.
“Yeah, dreaming is for free, no? This is one of my favourite sayings,” said Sainz. “Especially in tracks like this, I think we can all dream and it’s for free, no one can take it away from us.
“But being realistic, also looking at our race pace, that’s when we started seeing the true pace of the Red Bull, they were clearly again three-tenths, half a second ahead in race pace, and over 50 something laps that’s a lot of lap time.”