Austrian GP Preview: Ferrari with plenty to learn about the SF-23

Jaden Diaz
28 Jun, 2023

Formula 1 returns to Europe after Montréal, with the Austrian GP set to provide more information about the grid’s pecking order – especially compared to the unique characteristics of Canada.

Last year it was Charles Leclerc who triumphed, the last victory for Ferrari, a team returning to the same circuit in a much worse condition than 12 months ago. Max Verstappen is aiming for the fifth consecutive victory and the fifth victory at the Red Bull Ring. It will be interesting (and important) to observe who will be the closest to Red Bull at a far more representative circuit.

Further back, Alpine is looking for redemption: the A523s have lost several tenths from the top teams after their rivals brought important updates to the track. In Austria, new parts will make their debut on the French car, as well as on the McLaren MCL60.

The ‘Sprint’ format returns after two months: in Baku, Ferrari had won both Pole Positions in the best weekend of the season in terms of scoring. The single free practice of the weekend means that the teams will only have 60 minutes to optimize the setup studied in the simulator these days.

Gp Austria: The real test for Ferrari starts from turn 6 

Of the ten official corners of the Red Bull circuit, the first corner is to be tackled at around 150 km/h; the two hairpins in the middle sector are travelling at low speeds.

From the sixth corner of the track to the end of the second sectorthe minimum speeds do not drop below 200 kilometres per hour per flying lap: in this type of corner, the Red Bull RB19 has no equal.

Only McLaren comes close, followed by Mercedes and Aston Martin; Ferrari and Alpine are further behind due to their lack of cargo, a shortage that has not been evident in Canada.

It will be important for Mercedes to confirm the improvement in the medium and low-speed corners seen in Canada, but the curves of the last sector should equally enhance the characteristics of the W14. 

In Austria, it will be essential to have an efficient DRS to use on the three main straights: Red Bull is the best here too, but Aston Martin has repeatedly shown that it is getting closer to the RB19 after the debut of the new rear wing in Baku.

We will have indications on Friday and Saturday also on the evolution of this gap. As in Canada, having a good rear end will be essential in the different traction zones throughout the 4.3km track, and the ability to exploit the curbs will be equally important. 

Pirelli has confirmed the choice of compounds for 2022: the C3 and C4 will be the race tyres; on the other hand, we will probably see the C5 only in the two Qualifying sessions.

Last year, everyone suffered a lot from the degradation in the 71 laps of the race. This year, the cars generally manage the tyres better, but a two or even three-stop race cannot be ruled out.

Temperatures shouldn’t be very high, with peaks of 24°C on Friday and Sunday, also due to a moderate probability of rain (over 80%), especially in the first two days of the weekend. 

For the first time in 2023, the Power Units will be put to the test: the thinner air due to the altitude of the Styrian circuit affects the cooling capacity of the engines.

We should see less extreme solutions on the engine bonnets than usual to mitigate this problem. Twelve months ago, this was not enough for Ferrari to ensure that both cars finished the race: with fifteen laps to go, the F1-75 (already weakened) of Carlos Sainz went up in smoke, compromising the one-two finish for the Maranello team.

Gp Austria updates: Ferrari brings the new bottom and front wing. The settings will be medium-low load

After the new bellies in Spain, Ferrari sped up work in the factory to make Spielberg debut a new package of updates: the new bottom, mainly revised in the area of ​​the entrance to the Venturi tunnels, the new front wing and front brake intakes will be fitted to the two SF23s after being briefly tested on track at Fiorano last Tuesday at the request of the engineers. 

This weekend will be the first important test for the ‘new’ Ferrari in view of the second half of the season, but above all, in view of 2024.

It won’t be enough to be competitive at low speeds, as happened in Canada; the result of the Austrian GP will depend a lot on the progress made at medium and high speeds and in tire management, the main weaknesses of this single-seater.

The rear wings shouldn’t vary much from the spec used two weeks ago in Canada, but should the weather indicate rain on all three days, we could expect some bold choices from some teams.

Alpine will bring a new front wing to the Austrian GP: after the package that made its debut in Monaco, the A523 has lost some ground compared to the ‘top teams’, and according to the data, this circuit is not perfect for the French team which is now starting to watch his back from McLaren who already showed a good race pace last weekend.

Speaking of McLaren, the Woking team will introduce new bellies and a new bottom this weekend: the MCL60 has a lot of downforces, so much so that only Red Bull is stronger in high-speed corners, as already pointed out, but on the straight, this thrust excessively brakes the two pilots who often find themselves in difficulty compared to the others.

Even at low speeds, the McLaren is very good, while the shortcomings are to be found in those corners between 130km/h and 200km/h.

Thanks to the updates brought to Azerbaijan, the car has made an excellent step forward in terms of general efficiency, but there are still six-tenths of a second to reach the top teams if the image seen in Canada is to be considered true.

Finally, Logan Sargeant will have at his disposal the same package that teammate Alex Albon used to finish in the points in Canada; the Red Bull Ring also requires good efficiency, but the three DRS zones in a row will make life very difficult for Williams should they find themselves in a position to fend off faster cars.

 In the event that the weekend should be entirely wet, some teams could bet on higher-loaded wings to maximize the probability of finishing in the points, especially the rear teams that, without major twists, will struggle to bring home a result between the top 10.

Author: Andrea Vergani

Translation: Jaden Diaz-Ndisang



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