Ferrari SF-23: New sidepod updates fail to make desired impact

Jaden Diaz

The Spanish GP was never supposed to be a turning point for Ferrari, but the team was looking for some positive data from their updates to build upon for the rest of 2023.

The updates are just a first step. Then others will come, which will perhaps help us make the car better everywhere,” Leclerc told the media on Thursday.

“For now, the SF-23 is only very good under certain conditions, especially in qualifying. There was a lot of work in Maranello, which is why we hope to collect some early data in Barcelona, the Monegasque concluded.

This was only partially the case, at least according to the men from Maranello, with an Italian car that made much less progress in the race than the Mercedes W14.

The updates are a small step forward, not enough to address underlying issues in Spain

“This type of track is not ideal for us,” said Carlos Sainz at the end of the race. Ferrari knew it could be the fourth-fastest this weekend, hence the push from the factory to introduce the first important update package of the season to Catalunya.

Despite Aston Martin suffering a disappointing weekend, they still collected more points than the Italian team – mainly due to the problems on Leclerc‘s 16 car.

In any case, the small steps forward given by the updates brought to the track have allowed Ferrari to battle for the third-strongest team in terms of race performance.

Specifically, on Leclerc’s SF-23, the engineers checked if there were any problems with the chassis, evaluating its replacement before excluding it from the data.

Spanish GP, Ferrari SF_23 floor

The sidepods and the new floor have not erased the most important and long-standing problems, so much so that the gap has remained substantially unchanged (7-tenths per lap) against Red Bull, who also arrived with a series of innovations in Spain.

At the same time, the gap has enlarged compared to Mercedes.

“I had to manage the tyres for the whole race. On this highly-deg circuit, I couldn’t push because we had to manage the tires to reach the number of laps set by the strategy,” a disappointed Carlos Sainz explained post-race.

This can be linked with the important inconsistency of the Italian car, i.e. the ability of a car to create performance in all phases of the race, as well as in qualifying.

On average, with all compounds and varying amounts of fuel, the tyre operating window remained very small at Montmelo, so much so that on the track, it looked like the same old Ferrari.

“I used the hard tyre for two stints; in the first stint, it went terribly, while in the third, I felt incredibly comfortable,” said Charles Leclerc, who continued;

“We really struggle to get into the right tyre window, and when we do, it’s a surprise for us.”

The SF-23 project is devoted more to the search – too aggressive – for straight-line speed than to the aerodynamic load generated

“At the beginning of the race, we started with the hard tyre, which we expected to be good, but which instead went very badly,” according to Charles Leclerc.

The Monegasque had no grip at all, especially on the front tyres. The front axle, which already emerged as a problem in the Bahrain tests, combined with the aerodynamic instability to make the SF-23 a handful.

Although these important problems have been understood, they have not been erased. The SF-23 project has a reasonable top speed, but it doesn’t help to push enough on the tyres.

Since Bahrain, we have seen that the Ferrari floor does not generate enough load, and the rear wing used in Barcelona was certainly not a maximum load specification.

The result was an optimal set-up on the simulator that was much lighter than the competition, and desperately increasing the incidences would have produced a loss of balance towards the rear, with the front limited, something you didn’t want too much in the new look of the Montmelo, as well as adding a good deal of unproductive drag.

However, cornering efficiency at high speeds remains a mirage, and in the corners, the car doesn’t push the tyres adequately in the same way.

It is no coincidence that, albeit with the extra grip granted by the new tyre, Sainz was unable to match the performance of Mercedes and Red Bull in the fast turns 9 and 14, losing out significantly in overall speed.

Ferrari SF-23 front

Then there is the jumping issue, which Ferrari cannot be said to have completely eradicated, to the extent that Sainz was expecting a complicated weekend.

“I’m still convinced that with the bouncing and the high-speed limitations [lack of downforce] we have, we cannot be very competitive here,” said the 28-year-old.

The new sidepods haven’t quite generated the desired results. At first glance, it was certainly not a good baptism for the new parts.

However, a clearer image of ​​these sidepods and the development of the SF-24 will emerge in the next races. In comparison with the old configuration, still used by the Haas team, a rather depressing picture emerges for the men of Maranello.

The American team also had major tyre management problems in the Spanish GP:

“Today was tough as wear was very high for us, and we had to make three stops while the competition only had two,” explained Nico Hulkenberg, who made similar comments to Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc.

“It looks like we are competitive on the flying lap, but we still need to work on the long runs and find some rhythm,” concluded the German, repeating a phrase said and repeated by the two riders in red.

It must be remembered that the floors are crucial in generating performance with these cars.

Author: Piergiuseppe Donadoni

Co Author: Giuliano Duchess

Translation: Jaden Diaz-Ndisang