Motor racing-Drivers find few positives in 'too slow' Ferrari

Formula One F1 - Saudi Arabian Grand Prix - Jeddah Corniche Circuit, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia - March 19, 2023 Ferrari's Charles Leclerc in action during the race REUTERS/Ahmed Yosri

(Reuters) - Ferrari drivers Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz struggled to find anything positive to say about their car after a tough race in Saudi Arabia followed a disappointing start to the Formula One season in Bahrain.

Sainz finished sixth and Leclerc seventh in Jeddah, behind Red Bull's Sergio Perez and Max Verstappen, Fernando Alonso's Aston Martin and the Mercedes of George Russell and Lewis Hamilton.

Formula One's oldest and most successful team, who had hoped to be challenging for a first title since 2008, are fourth overall and already 61 points behind runaway leaders and defending champions Red Bull.

"It’s difficult to take positives when you are P6 and P7," Sainz told reporters.

"At least we got the reliability and the double points but its not where we want to be right now."

Leclerc, last year's championship runner-up who was second fastest in qualifying in Jeddah but started 12th after a 10-place grid penalty, said seventh was the best he could have hoped for.

"There wasn’t anything to achieve more. The performance is not good enough," he said.

"We need to work to improve the pace. We are too far away. The result is that we are just too slow for now so we need to work."

Team boss Fred Vasseur said there would be small updates for Australia next week while the team worked towards bigger gains.

"I think we have also to stay calm. It’s not that everything is going wrong," added the Frenchman, who took over from departed Mattia Binotto in January.

"I don’t want to push on the positive side because the outcome of the weekend is not good and we have to be focused on what is going wrong ... but I have to keep in mind to do a proper analysis what is going well and I think qualifying yesterday went pretty well," he said.

"At least I had the feeling that compared to Mercedes and Aston Martin we did a step forward (on Saturday)."

Vasseur said reliability had also improved and the problem on Sunday was the loss of performance after switching to the hard tyres for the final stint.

(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Ken Ferris)

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