A much-improved car and a more powerful engine for 2021 has seen Ferrari take a big step forward as they fight McLaren for third in the Constructors’ Championship. Heading into this weekend’s Hungarian Grand Prix, Ferrari sits 15 points behind their fierce rivals from the 2000s.
Charles Leclerc showed exceptional pace at Silverstone as he beat Bottas on merit and led for 49 laps. Unfortunately for him and the team, Hamilton’s supreme speed on the hard tyre allowed the Brit to snatch the lead with three laps to go as Leclerc had to settle for P2.
Hungary is seen as a race that is close to Monaco in terms of high downforce, although the softest tyre this weekend is the C4, compared to the C5 in Monaco which Ferrari looked rapid on. Leclerc took pole that weekend and Sainz finished P2 in the race.
The Monegasque driver was asked by Autosport if he thinks a shot at victory might be on this weekend.
“I mean it's good to be an optimist, and I think we all want to be an optimist after such a good performance in the last three races to be honest,” he said.
“But, on the other hand, we also need to be realistic.
"We are in a good mood, but I feel like going for the win in Budapest might be a bit optimistic.
"So realistically I think I will be happy if we are just behind the two top teams.”
The regulation changes that came into force in 2017 have led to cars going a lot faster through corners and lap records getting blown to shreds in recent years. Sainz believes that because of that, the Hungarian circuit has become a medium to high-speed one.
Like Leclerc, the Spaniard is hopeful that they’ll be best of the rest behind Red Bull and Mercedes this weekend, though.
“Budapest recently has become actually a medium to high-speed track with these cars,” he said.
“If you look at Monaco and Baku there are second or third gear corners, but Budapest nowadays, with these crazy high downforce cars, you have a middle sector where you are fourth or fifth gear all the time.
"So it's not a pure low-speed track like it used to be in the past.
“I don't think it's going to be such a good track for us.
"I do think that it's a great opportunity to be right behind Red Bull and Mercedes, but downforce is still king and we see from data that these guys are still ahead.
“As we saw [at the British GP], on the hard tyre, Lewis [Hamilton] had a bit more pace than us and they should be ahead in Hungary.