Carlos Sainz is hoping Ferrari can reverse the trend of having its qualifying advantage overturned by Mercedes in race trim across the remaining rounds of 2023.

Ferrari and Mercedes are locked in a close battle for second in the Constructors’ standings, with the latter upholding a 22-point advantage with three races to go.

Although the Italian marque locked out the front row in Mexico last weekend, Lewis Hamilton overhauled both Ferrari cars to ensure Mercedes only lost a single point.

Sainz believes Mercedes’ recent superiority on Sundays gives it the edge, but he is optimistic that Ferrari can continue to apply pressure and capitalise on any mistakes.

“I do believe that Mercedes has a bit the upper hand, mainly because they’re heading the championship and 22 points is quite a bit,” Sainz addressed in Brazil.

“And also, given the points are done on Sunday and that’s where the Mercedes comes stronger and we are the weakest, I think for sure they have a bit of the upper hand. But at least we’re managing to keep the pressure on and they cannot afford to make any mistakes because we’re there to capitalise on them.

“It’s a fun battle, like Lewis said. We’re always very close to each other in the races. Normally, it’s them chasing us or overtaking us in the race and hopefully we can reverse that in the last three races and at least not get overtaken and manage to finish ahead because that’s where the points are given.”

(L to R): Charles Leclerc (MON) Ferrari; Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1; and Carlos Sainz Jr (ESP) Ferrari, in the FIA Press Conference. 02.11.2023. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 21, Brazilian Grand Prix, Sao Paulo, Brazil, Preparation Day.

While Ferrari’s shortcomings were exposed again at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez last weekend, Sainz asserts that the team’s struggles are compounded by inconsistency across stints in the same race.

Reflecting on Ferrari’s showing in the Mexico City Grand Prix, Sainz expanded: “I think we simply have a bit of a weakness there. It’s been there all year. We always tend to do better in qualifying than we do in the race.

“Then we have the inconsistency of the stints. There’s some stints during the year that we’ve been very good in the race, and then other stints that we’ve lost out a lot depending on the compound, on track conditions and the way we treat the tyre.

“So we just simply seem to be a bit less consistent on that front and that’s where we’re putting all of our efforts into these last three races and going into next year, to see if we can manage to change that deficit that we have.”

Meanwhile, team-mate Charles Leclerc was competitive on the Medium tyre but encountered trouble maintaining that performance after switching to the Hard.

But Leclerc, who claimed third in Mexico, doesn’t expect the harder tyre compound selection in Brazil to boost Ferrari’s hopes.

“I don’t think this has a big influence on our performance,” he noted regarding the tyres. “I think it’s more down to the track characteristics.

“But again, it’s very difficult to predict this weekend, and especially on Sprint weekends, FP1 is super important. It’s very easy to put a foot in the wrong direction, if that’s a good expression, and then the whole weekend you cannot really recover if you do a mistake in FP1 with the set-up.

“So it’s going to be super important to have a strong FP one. And hopefully that will be a positive weekend for us.”

Leclerc concedes he is unbothered by potentially scoring a hattrick of pole positions, admitting Ferrari must deliver a car that can replicate that speed in the races.

“I mean, it’s always nice, but at the same time, for me, it matters the most on Sunday and in races,” Leclerc insisted. “And at this time we don’t we don’t really have the car in order to make those pole positions a win, or at least a really good result on Sunday. So we really have to work on that.

“And that’s where we are all focusing at the moment, to try and find performance coming the race. And we’ve still got quite a bit of work to do. So it will be amazing to be on pole. But I would rather have a win than a pole this weekend.”

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