The season-opening 2023 Bahrain Grand Prix didn’t exactly go to plan for Ferrari, with Charles Leclerc struck down by a terminal failure and Carlos Sainz suffering a late demotion to fourth courtesy of the brilliance of Fernando Alonso.
After the race, Ferrari team principal Frederic Vasseur stated his belief that the team are right up there when it comes to pace, and just need to take control of the situation.
But while taking just 12 points back to Maranello would have undoubtedly been disappointing, especially compared to the euphoria of the one-two finish this time last year, is there actually more reason to be optimistic than meets the eye?
Here’s why we think there might be…
It was a strength of Ferrari‘s 2022 challenger and that performance appears to have carried over to 2023.
The SF-23 in the hands of Leclerc and Sainz certainly looks a force to be reckoned with over a single lap, with new boss Fred Vasseur confident it is a match for the Red Bull’s RB19.
Leclerc clinched third during qualifying in the desert after the team opted to send him out for just one run in the top-10 shootout to save a new set of softs for the race start.
The Monegasque missed out by nearly three tenths to Max Verstappen in the end but insisted pole was a definite possibility, which is something to be optimistic about for the future.
The race pace compared to the Red Bulls was alarming as Verstappen romped to a commanding victory, but the Bahrain International Circuit is somewhat of an outlier, so it could yet prove the exception rather than the rule.
Another reason the famous Italian outfit can dare to dream is that they have more time at their disposal to develop their car compared to Red Bull, who have had their allotment reduced as a consequence of breaching the cost cap during the 2021 season.
It’s quite a gap to bridge but we saw how much Mercedes were able to catch up in 2022 after starting the season struggling to get into Q2 at times.
Granted, Red Bull have a great foundation to build upon, but there’s no guarantee they’ll use their limited aero testing effectively.
Should Ferrari find a quick resolution to the issues that hampered them under the lights in Sakhir, we could yet see a proper fight for top honours.
Leclerc and Sainz are undeniably two of the best drivers on the grid. The former has the kind of raw pace that sets apart the true greats of the sport from the rest, while his teammate isn’t far behind.
Sainz is also one of the more consistent racers, as displayed during two impressive seasons at McLaren that caught the attention of Ferrari.
Together, the pair form one of the best and most well-rounded driver partnerships on the grid. It helps that they also appear to have a great relationship off the track.
If there is any performance to be dragged from the car, you can bet they will find it.