Ferrari ambassador Marc Gene says the different characteristics of the Jeddah Street Circuit may mean Ferrari can close the gap to Red Bull at next weekend's Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.
The season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix could scarcely have gone better for reigning champions Red Bull, who locked out the front row in qualifying and then had Max Verstappen lead home Sergio Perez for a 1-2 finish in Sunday's race.
After pre-season testing, many had thought that Ferrari would be Red Bull's closest challengers in 2023, but the Bahrain event was a dispiriting one for the Scuderia, with Charles Leclerc retiring from third place with a power unit issue, while Carlos Sainz could only finish fourth, having been overtaken by Fernando Alonso after suffering with tyre degradation.
Neither Leclerc nor Sainz had looked close to Red Bull's long-run pace in Bahrain, but Gene says the drinks-backed squad's dominance at Sakhir may be something of an outlier, and highlighted that Ferrari's perceived advantage in top-end speed may prove to be a boon around the fast sweeps of the Jeddah circuit.
"It could be quite track dependent," Gene told the F1 Nation podcast.
"Another strong point for Ferrari is we are very fast on straights. You could see we managed to defend from Aston, from Mercedes. In the past, Ferrari was very weak in that respect.
"For me, Jeddah is very important because it's a high-speed track. I think our cars should be very strong there. That's my personal feeling."
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Gene: Ferrari can beat Red Bull in qualifying
During qualifying for Bahrain, Leclerc and Sainz lined up third and fourth on the grid behind the two Red Bulls, but neither driver did a second push lap during Q3, electing instead to conserve their tyre usage for Sunday's race – prompting Gene to suggest that Leclerc had had the pace to challenge for pole if he had chosen to do so.
"In qualifying, we can beat Red Bull," said Gene.
"I'm quite sure even Charles could have gotten pole [in Bahrain]. But the tyre degradation is unbelievable, and I'm sure today they were managing it.
"We know they're hard to beat, but it's just started, it's the only the first of the 23 [Grands Prix in 2023], so there's still a long way to go."
With Red Bull having cruised to a 1-2 finish in Sunday's Bahrain Grand Prix, RacingNews365.com journalists Michael Butterworth and Dieter Rencken analyse how much we should read into their early dominance.