Ferrari search for balance, both on and off track

CanadianGP, Ferrari SF-23, Charles Leclerc & Carlos Sainz

The season so far has been dominated by Red Bull, with Max Verstappen the overwhelming favourite heading into every weekend.

Ferrari had another mixed weekend in Montreal, which started with an excellent Friday, in a similar fashion to the Scuderia’s three-day spell in Monaco. 

The Championship is largely already in Max Verstappen’s control, having equalled Ayrton Senna’s victory total on the all-time F1 list. The next target is Prost. 

You don’t need a mathematician to know that the drivers’ championship will soon be a foregone conclusion, with the fight for second – as Sergio Perez struggles – proving a far more compelling fight.

The Mexican driver was given7/10 by his team boss in Canada. Surprisingly, Perez didn’t manage to get close to the Ferrari duo in the second half of the race, despite having what was clearly the best race tyre.

On the other hand, Alonso, Mercedes and Ferrari were separated by two-tenths of a pace in favour of the Spaniard

On the other hand, Verstappen’s main scare came from the overheating of his front brake after hitting a bird.

This led Red Bull to suggest a braking balance more towards the rear, which is not ideal, for example, at the turn ten hairpin.

Compared to 2022, in this race, we can see a rather limited albeit uniform performance improvement by Red Bull and Ferrari, around three-tenths.

It is no surprise that Mercedes made an important leap, recovering eight-tenths of a second, not to mention Aston Martin, which is making important progress with the AMR23 this year.

This aspect suggests that the RB19 may have started to manage its technical edge. Ferrari’s repeated less-than-perfect weekends legitimized midfield aspirations to move closer to fourth place.

Meanwhile, Alpine’s goal of joining the ball has failed for the moment; Leclerc and Sainz were faster than Ocon by six-tenths, adjusting the race pace on equal terms with a good strategy that took them off the centre train.

Ferrari: You need balance on and off the track 

Ferrari was at least third-fastest on the Gilles Villeneuve circuit, and the result was good considering the starting position of the drivers, but at the same time, not entirely true when analysing the performance.

The team inevitably paid for its black Saturday – which will be discussed behind closed doors – and could have fought for the podium if it had managed to qualify with the two cars ahead of Alonso, defending with the slipstream in T3.

The SF23 was the overall best car in a straight line – without DRS – with 315 km/h, almost 10 km/h, not only more than Mercedes but also Aston, which also travelled heavily laden. 

Ferrari SF-23 & Red Bull RB19, CanadianGP

As expected, the circuit largely lent a hand to Ferrari, so Vasseur’s caution after the race is justified. The Canadian layout doesn’t have critical leaning corners, which have so far destabilized the balance of the car.

When it comes to braking and accelerating, the SF-23 is a good car with little drag. The correlation goes well, and the engineers have to fight to keep bouncing in a positive condition, after which the whole package consequently benefits by inducing the riders to be more aggressive. 

The gap to Red Bull, taking the Melbourne mileage as a reference, was similar. However, the degradation curve has improved.

The floor seen in Barcelona, ​​heavily modified in the side edges, is a step in the right direction, as each package requires time and mileage to be better understood and exploited.

However, according to what was heard internally, the 2024 tyre tests did offer positive mileage. The data collection was useful for aerodynamics as well as degradation – since the new tyres are built to work in a much wider window of use, different starting pressures and at lower temperatures, with set-up options quite distant from the current ones. 

The good response on Sunday is mainly the result of a growing understanding as well as, as mentioned, a friendly track.

Ferrari SF-23
The Ferrari SF_23 during the Pirelli tests after Barcelona

We can conclude that the engineers return to Maranello with positive signals in terms of consistency, even compared to more reasonable weekends like Baku, where there was a controlled but still significant deterioration in pace.

On the other hand, without giving in to easy enthusiasm, we know that the further technical interventions Vasseur mentioned will clearly go in this direction.

Since Bahrain, we have seen a Ferrari, which we could define as old style, present two cars: one for qualifying, the other for racing.

It will be necessary to find a new balance in the coming weeks, in a period that promises to be interesting – on and off the track – because currently, the technical path to be shared with the riders is more important than the single performance.

In the meantime, tests continue to implement the development of new tyres without tyre warmers.

Formally, it was confirmed to us by Pirelli that on 15 June, it received the renewal of its eligibility from the FIA ​​to continue the supply in F1. It was obviously a due but indispensable act, also in view of the commercial challenge to win the new supply contract from 2025.

Author: Giuliano Duchess

Translation: Jaden Diaz-Ndisang