Ferrari upgrade expectation was overhyped says Carlos Sainz

IMOLA, Italy -- Ferrari's drivers are confident the most recent upgrades to their car have worked as expected, even though Red Bull and McLaren remained ahead of the Italian team in qualifying for the Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix.

Following McLaren's clear step forward in Miami, Ferrari arrived at its home race in Imola with seven performance-related upgrades to its car, including reprofiled sidepods and a new floor.

Ahead of the race weekend, there was speculation on social media that the upgrade could be worth as much as 0.4s per lap -- a gain that would have put Ferrari in contention with Max Verstappen's Red Bull for pole position.

However, Carlos Sainz, who qualified fifth and 0.487s off Verstappen, said those numbers were never realistic.

"It's worked exactly as we expected," he said. "Unfortunately, I don't know, for some reason everybody expected us to be flying this weekend with the new package.

"I've been seeing numbers of our package going around that were completely out of reality nowadays -- already to bring 0.1s is good job by the team.

"I'm not saying we brought 0.1s, 0.2s or 0.05s, but it is not the numbers people were mentioning. And with that in mind, it was always going to be difficult to make the jump this weekend because people are also upgrading their cars here."

His teammate Charles Leclerc qualified fifth -- 0.224s off Verstappen -- and though he said the upgrade worked as expected, he is confident the team can extract more performance from it at coming races.

"We cannot be fully happy of course, but one thing that is good is that the upgrade is doing exactly what is expected," Leclerc said. "So that is always a good sign, but on a track like this maybe we haven't seen yet all the benefits of the upgrade and we came short of our target which was to be on pole position.

"We need to wait and see a few races before judging the upgrades because we might not be running in the optimum window for this new package and all of this. So I'm sure there is more potential to unlock.

"Was today worse than expected? Probably a little bit, we expected to be a bit closer, however a season is still long, we still have plenty of ideas how to extract more this package and I'm sure we will in the next few races and it will be crucial for the rest of the season."

Sainz admitted McLaren now holds the edge over Ferrari in terms of single-lap performance, but believes tracks with different characteristics, such as Monaco and Canada coming up next on the [F1] calendar, could swing the other way.

"McLaren had it [an advantage in qualifying] in Miami, it's just on the soft tyre they struggled in Miami," Sainz said. "If you saw the lap times they were doing on mediums in sprint quali and the race especially, they were 0.2s or 0.3s faster than us and then we come to a McLaren circuit, which is Imola.

"It was always going to be difficult to beat McLaren around here, they were a 0.1s ahead of Charles and 0.3s ahead with me.

"So I was pretty sure it was always going to be a McLaren track and hopefully there will come Ferrari tracks where we can challenge them."