Ferrari Analysis: Why the SF-23 fluctuates in performance

04/09/2023

The Italian Grand Prix went largely as expected, with Max Verstappen dominant and Ferrari clearly second-fastest, despite the best efforts of Mercedes. However, the W14 were comfortably 5th and 6th on Sunday, securing good points in the standings. Meanwhile, Ferrari passed Aston Martin in the standings.

The SF-23 excels in low-load tracks, where sensitivity and ground clearance are less important

The Maranello team’s objectives were to put at least one car on the front row in qualifying on Saturday and secure a podium on Sunday.

Over the weekend, however, it became clear that the bar could be raised slightly. Ferrari team principal Fred Vasseur explained that “the objective was to take first position” in Monza – following an encouraging start.

The SF-23 raced at peak performance with a fresh and electronically updated engine, using the only software token allowed by the FIA for 2023.

Ferrari used these ‘tokens’ to optimise performance and use of their engine’s electrical component whilst minimising reliability concerns. This token does not require the change of control units (CE), so much so that the Italian team was able to do it without incurring penalties.

Sainz

“Looking at the season, we were competitive in Canada, in Baku, in Austria, in Belgium and here in Monza, all tracks characterized by low levels of downforce, said Fred Vasseur at the end of the weekend.

The SF-23 is a well-optimised car with low-load packages, the most balanced of the packages behind Red Bull.

Ferrari’s instability and high sensitivity to ground clearance (only partly resolved in 2023) are minimised at a circuit where bouncing is less prevalent, meaning performance is more consistent.

The low resistance of the SF-23 was enough at a track like Monza, where there is no need to compromise on set-up (at Spa, for example).

Ferrari SF-23: Limited by its front and an ineffective high-load wing

The more you move on high-load circuits, the more the SF-23 struggles. The car becomes prone to understeer and difficult to balance, with a highly limiting front end, both from an aerodynamic and mechanical point of view.

The front suspension is also considered “outdated” by a member of the team, “compared to that of the RB19” and “with little setup margin,” a negative technical characteristic that also concerns the rear suspension. The latter has been completely redesigned for the 2024 car. 

As such, it is more complicated for Ferrari engineers and drivers to balance the SF-23, although its rear suspension has only emerged as a problem recently.

In fact, the specific rear wing designed in Maranello does not work as it should.

“In Hungary, we had a difficult weekend with the high-load winger, and in Holland, we suffered like never before,” outlined Carlos Sainz.

“Our high-load wings don’t work as they should, so we can’t load the car as much as the others, and the car slides a lot,” concluded the Spanish driver.

Ferrari

The high-load specification generates instabilities for the drivers since the rear wing produces less downforce than the engineers see in the tunnel.

It is no coincidence that in Spain and Holland, Ferrari has opted for the medium-high load specification.

In Holland (the first high-load track after Hungary), the first hour of free practice was used to understand the problem better.

Maranello’s engineers will look at the wind tunnel to understand and interpret the problem.

“In Zandvoort, we did some tests to understand the difficulties and to try to have a better understanding of the problem,” Sainz explained.

Even though testing in F1 is increasingly limited, the work done on track remains the most important thing – especially with these tricky ground effect cars, as we have explained previously

Carrying out tests on track is essential to (re)calibrate the instruments in the factory, trying best to replicate all the problems of the current car.

“Once those have been simulated, we can then modify the simulator to aim for a car that generates greater confidence, stability and better balance.

“With the aim of then transferring everything into the wind tunnel and onto the design of the 2024 car,” concluded an always analytical and precise Carlos Sainz.

 

Author: Piergiuseppe Donadoni

Co Author: Rosario Giuliana

Author: Jaden Diaz-Ndisang

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