Even though the 2022 Formula 1 season got off to a shaky start for Carlos Sainz, it turned out to be one of his and Ferrari's most competitive in recent years.
The team mounted a credible title challenge to Red Bull in the early stages, while Sainz himself managed to take his first F1 win at Silverstone.
By comparison the 2023 season has been a let down for Sainz, with just a best finish of fourth place at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix. While their form in Baku looked to be a turning point, Miami brought them back to reality.
For Sainz, this reality has been "tough" to come to terms with as Ferrari expected to be in the hunt for race wins and a title challenge.
"It’s been tougher than any other year. I felt like 2022 was a bit of a comeback finally to the top for Ferrari," he said in an interview with The Race.
"And I feel like we all expected to at least be fighting at a similar level. Not only me, but the whole team had this hope, this expectation."
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Sainz: I would never expect Red Bull gap
Whereas Red Bull has managed to improve its form year-on-year, Ferrari has taken a step back by failing to improve their race pace and suffering from the same reliability issues that plagued them throughout most of 2022.
Aston Martin has also emerged as a regular podium contender with Fernando Alonso, causing Ferrari's status as the 'next fastest car' to slip in the process.
Even though the team has shown it can challenge for pole on more than one occasion, that single-lap pace drops off dramatically in the races.
"Suddenly finding yourself more than half a second adrift from the Red Bull was tough to handle," explained Sainz.
“You suddenly need to reset, need to go back to the drawing board, and make sure you keep everyone motivated."
Red Bull has finished regularly over 30s ahead of Ferrari by the end of each race in 2023, a gap that Sainz did not think was possible.
“If now we would be sitting fourth in the Constructors’, but we know that every weekend we have a chance to make a pole and win a race, it would be easier to accept," he added.
“It’s just how fast the Red Bull has turned out to be this year. And how it has struck us by surprise. Not only us, I think Mercedes and Aston Martin would never expect to have the gap they do.”