Ferrari’s lack of competitiveness has been one of the biggest talking points of the season, especially after the optimism of the team’s 2023 launch. The Ferrari SF-23 is an evolution of an F1-75, which gave Red Bull some headaches until the halfway stage of the season.
According to Mattia Binotto, former team principal, Ferrari stopped development relatively early last year to focus on building a title-contending machine this season.
Above all, the Maranello squad identified that preventing reliability issues was the priority moving forward. The introduction of Technical Directive 39 definitively had a negative impact on ‘underdeveloped’ F1-75.
The SF-23 seems to have all the same problems (post-technical directive) as the 2022 car, working in a small operating window . Concerns about Ferrari’s concept and its limitations are legitimate, in a similar way that questions have been raised at Mercedes.
Is Ferrari SF-23’s concept a problem? Vasseur denies, Carlos Sainz says the opposite
Questions about Ferrari’s concept have already been asked to key Ferrari personnel, with Fred Vasseur offering his thoughts:
“It is my job to motivate the group, but the first thing I will say is not to bullshit each other.”
At this stage, it is very important for Ferrari to be clear , both internally (between departments) and externally with the press.
There was a lot of optimism within the team before the SF-23 took to the track, largely because of the excellent data coming out from Maranello.
These encouraging signs were not translated on track – similar to what happened with the W13 Bahrain Spec last year, forcing the Scuderia to explain itself to the press.
It is here that some differences emerge between Vasseur’s analysis and that of his drivers:
“A matter of aerodynamic concept? No. We are doing well in qualifying, and in the first stint here in Arabia, we were at a good level. We just need to be able to extract the potential of this car for the whole weekend and in all conditions,” says Vasseur.
The Ferrari team principal remained optimistic after the Jeddah race weekend, despite both SF-23s struggling in race trim – especially on the hard compound – and ultimately running as fourth-fastest.
Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz have given slightly different comments about the potential of Ferrari’s concept:
“Red Bull is superior in everything: tire management, speed on the straights, slow, medium-fast corners, aerodynamic hopping, bumps…” Carlos Sainz has explained.
“They have a clear advantage, and this shows that we have to change something . Our machine does not have a major problem, but the window of use is very small, and this makes it unpredictable”.
And here is perhaps the most interesting part of his statements:
“But clearly, looking at how the cars have developed, the possibilities of developing the Red Bull concept are much higher than those of our project.
“The extremely good performance at the beginning of 2022 prompted us to continue with this concept, but I think now we have to start looking elsewhere,” said the Spanish driver, clearly questioning the SF-23’s aerodynamic concept.
Similar thinking is taking place at Mercedes, whose excellent performances at the end of 2022 gave Elliott (Technical Director) and his team a last chance to work on the zeropods concept – which has ultimately been in vain.
Ferrari SF-23: The goal in Australia is to use the ‘correlated’ floor from Jeddah in the race
One of the key takeaways from Leclerc’s comments is that Ferrari should not expect any miracles this weekend. Carlos Sainz is on the same page, having set his sights on fighting Mercedes and – ideally – Aston Martin in Albert Park.
In the meantime, the work in Maranello has intensified to bring updates quickly. This included significant update packages, which can be expected to arrive from Baku and arrive (at the latest) in Barcelona.
In short, upgrades will intensify after the four-week absence from racing between Australia and Baku. The details of these upgrades will be for another time.
In Australia, the Ferrari SF-23 will be presented with the aerodynamic configuration used in Jeddah , including the new front wing and the medium-load single-pylon rear wing.
Red Bull has brought both specifications used so far to Australia ; the medium-spec version from Bahrain is currently mounted on Sergio Perez’s car, while Max Verstappen has remained in the medium-low-downforce confirmation from Jeddah.
The presence of four DRS zones will minimize the penalty of a more loaded wing selection in qualifying.
Returning to Ferrari, a new floor was introduced in Jeddah free practice, recognizable by the modification in front of the rear wheels, which now features an upward bend to better manage the turbulence generated by the rear tyres.
This is a basic specification which, as anticipated, was brought to Jeddah only for “data collection useful for future use.”
In short, the Maranello squad wants to remove any doubts about the correlation by introducing a floor that was approved before the SF-23s took to the track in Bahrain.
So this component has not been designed in the last few weeks to correct the small operating window of the SF-23. It is, instead, the first evolution of the basic specification.
This floor will be tested again in the free practice of the Australian GP, with the aim of keeping it in the car for the whole weekend.
More substantial updates will arrive in the appointments after the break, with a development program that was already defined in February up to the Spanish GP.
Authors: Piergiuseppe Donadoni & Paolo D’Alessandro
Translation: Jaden Diaz-Ndisang