Ferrari: A long road back to the front of F1

Jaden Diaz
11/07/2023

The Silverstone race once again saw Max Verstappen triumph in front of a surprising McLaren, which, mainly due to the timing of the Safety Car, was unable to maximize the result, given that a double podium was certainly within his reach. Oscar Piastri finished in fourth place behind Lewis Hamilton. 

Mercedes, however, for the umpteenth time, maximised what they could, even to the detriment of George Russell, who, like the Australian, was not lucky with the SC. 

This element was not even congenial for Ferrari, which, however, before getting to talking about luck and bad luck, must make a profound examination of conscience.

At Silverstone, the SF-23 performed well, but problems in FP2 limited its potential

The British Grand Prix was expected to see if the developments introduced in recent races had brought a concrete benefit to the SF-23. In Austria, Ferrari’s potential has been partly realized, showing improvements in many areasIt cannot be said that the step forward was not confirmed at Silverstone. Before the updates, the hypotheses were of a lapped SF-23 and certainly not in battle with Mercedes and Aston Martin, indeed probably threatened by Alpine.

Ferrari SF-23
The front wing endplate modified in Austria

The surprise McLaren is missing from this discussion, which had a perfect weekend to enhance the MCL60, as well as important help from the latest upgrades. In England, Ferrari has confirmed significant progress, such as the elimination of porpoising

In terms of performance, therefore, the weekend could also be seen as a glass half full. What limited the SF-23’s performance at Silverstone was the weekend’s execution. Something not new for the Scuderia.

“The fact that Charles didn’t run in FP2 [due to an electrical problem] was a problem for us,” confessed Vasseur at the end of the race.

“We had a long run, not too long, only with Sainz, on Soft, and we were scared of the degradation, so we went on the harder tyres” specified the Team Principal, thus revealing what Ferrari’s real weakness is

Ferrari: the mentality is not that of a top team, Vasseur must intervene and take a cue from Mercedes

A brief digression before touching on what happened in the race: driver management. The team orders at the moment are plausible, Ferrari’s goal is to move up the standings.

The potential to fight with Mercedes was there, and an internal fight wouldn’t have helped. On Saturday, like all teams, every weekend, one of the two riders is left, alternately, with the choice of going out earlier or later. 

Charles Leclerc had this priority at Silverstone, so why not give him a direct priority when leaving the pits rather than resorting to (public) team radios and exchange of positions in the pit lane?

This management only created unnecessary tension, exposing the team to criticism from those who, from the outside, could freely listen.

After the match, speaking of the disappointing result, the team principal expressed himself post-race: “We were afraid of degradation, but in the end, there was less than we expected. During the race, we had too conservative target times, and this punished us.”

Ferrari was afraid: this is the title of Vasseur’s words. What exactly was he afraid of? Of herself. “Probably, these are ghosts we’ve been carrying around since the beginning of the season. We’ve been too conservative.”

Not only was there a lack of courage to take a risk but there was also a failure to use Friday data and read the race.

The degradation was minor for all compared to the heat on Friday. George Russell started with Soft because Mercedes had a good long run on Friday, despite a not particularly performing W14, which then changed a lot over the course of the weekend. 

However, the Brackley team has a winning mentality and, above all, high-level people and tools. The track improved despite the rain on Saturday; the conditions were cooler, the new Pirellis had a happy debut – perhaps even too ‘tough’ – and they combined these variables with a healthy but conscious dose of risk.

The decision to differentiate strategies was intelligent and courageous but not reckless. Once again, the evolution of the track and, above all, the behaviour of the tires was well understood by Mercedes.

Quite the opposite at Ferrari. The start on the same compound, Medium, was not a mistake, but Charles Leclerc’s early pit stop to switch to Hard was. The Monegasque, but also the data, did not show any tire degradation on the SF-23, as well as on all the other cars. 

Anticipating the pit stop was a risky and wrong move, as the pace of the Monegasque was just above his own before the stop.

The mistake was also to mount the Hard when the Soft was giving important results, and the mistake was then repeated with Carlos Sainz, with even more data available to analyse.

At home, Ferrari gave in to fear and lost the team. The ghosts of the recent past must not act as limitations but as a spur and a reference to see if and how much they can improve.
Mercedes did everything perfectly and were rewarded with a Safety Car that helped Lewis Hamilton, while Ferrari was scared, ran defensively and was penalised by the circumstances. You also need to know how to help yourself, though.
The positive is that, even with the movements behind the scenes, Frederic Vasseur seems to know what Maranello is missing to make a leap in quality in all areas. Time must be given to him, but Ferrari must start by helping themselves.

Author: Paolo D’Alessandro

Translation: Jaden Diaz-Ndisang

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