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McLaren Were Simply Stronger than Ferrari in China, According to Sainz

On paper, the Shanghai circuit should have heavily favoured Ferrari’s package being front-limited track with low-speed corners. On paper, McLaren should have struggled. And yet, it was the complete opposite...

On paper, the Shanghai circuit should have heavily favoured Ferrari’s package being front-limited track with low-speed corners. On paper, McLaren should have struggled, their team principal even forecast they would be in damage control mode. And yet, it was the complete opposite at the Chinese Grand Prix.

The Ferrari drivers managed fourth and fifth while McLaren’s Lando Norris took home second with a phenomenal performance. What was the secret? Sainz says there wasn’t any, it was just an accurate reflection of each respective car’s performance.

“I think this weekend they’ve been stronger – simple as that,” Sainz said.

“I think McLaren, at this kind of circuit, they’ve shown better pace than us. And even on top of that, we qualified behind [them] and if we get in trouble in the first lap, then there’s no chance we’re going to beat them. So, we need to do better next time.”

Sainz: “We Need a Better Platform for This Kind of Track”

This was the first event this year that Ferrari have struggled at and when asked if upgrades were needed to maintain their pace, Sainz replied, “For this kind of circuit, yes.

“Here [China], Suzuka, we need something and in terms of maybe circuits like Australia, we’re better off. There’s going to be circuits where the Red Bull is going to be clearly ahead anyway, and then McLaren is going to be stronger.

“There are going to be circuits like Australia where I think we’re gonna be up there, so it’s very circuit dependent. But clearly, if we want to be stronger at circuits like China, we need a better platform for this kind of track.”

Leclerc: “We Were Much Slower Than What We Expected”

Ferrari were confident in their race pace, but they hadn’t had the chance, or foresight, to test the hard compound tyre before the grand prix which they found was much slower than the team expected, according to Charles Leclerc. Unfortunately, the team had started on the medium compound tyres and didn’t discover this until midway through the race.

“I think as a team we are quite confident that our race pace was very strong,” he said. “However, we didn’t drive on the hard tyres until [the grand prix]. And once we put on the hards, we were much slower than what we expected. So that was a big surprise.

“Especially McLaren were very, very strong on the hards. However, having said that, I think we have also been put on the back foot with the Safety Car, because that put us on the same strategy as everybody. Until that moment, I was doing a really, really good job with the tyres and I was very confident that we could do a great race. After that, it was much more difficult.”

The issue has been related to the SF-24’s struggles to get temperature into the tyres, though Leclerc claimed Ferrari have addressed these concerns. When asked if the tyre situation would improve for Miami, Leclerc emphatically said, “Yes – 100%.

“There’s been a lot of work on that,” he explained. “It’s not at the level where I want it to be, but I’ve understood the direction and soon I’ll be back on top.”

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