The Japanese GP saw a more standard field spread in terms of performance. Verstappen’s Red Bull returned to dominate after the debacle in Singapore, while Ferrari competed with Mercedes for third-fastest. McLaren established themselves as Red Bull’s closest rivals.
Suzuka is one of the most technical and difficult tracks in F1, and it confirmed that Singapore’s Technical Directive did not hamper Red Bull (at least as significantly as some estimated.
Ferrari, for its part, took home a fourth and sixth position, which, all things considered, is a good haul of points in the direct comparison with Mercedes. For the SF-23 overall, it was a weekend in which doing better was not feasible, an aspect also underlined by Vasseur at the end of the race:
“We can’t be super happy about a fourth and sixth position, but it was difficult to do better. However, there are several positive points. We are getting closer to Mercedes and the degradation war under control.”
Second place in the manufacturers is within reach of this SF-23
Twenty points separate Ferrari from Mercedes in the constructors’ standings. This is a margin that Ferrari, since that gloomy Dutch GP, has more than halved. The objective of the Maranello team is now to reach second position in the constructors’ standings, a target that until recently appeared quite optimistic.
Monza, Singapore and Suzuka were three completely different tracks, with low, high and medium loads, respectively. In all three events, Ferrari demonstrated that it was immediately better prepared on Friday, starting with a better base set-up than the Brackley team.
This a deficit that Mercedes battles to make up for over the weekend, coming close to the performance of the red team over the course of the work, as we saw above all in Singapore and Japan.
On Japanese soil, Ferrari was certainly not the second force. McLaren’s performances from Silverstone onwards effectively place the Woking team in the role of “the best of the rest” behind the elusive Verstappen.
Andrea Stella‘s team pays the price for an MCL60 not ready at the start of the season, a factor that determines the current constructors’ ranking. Aston Martin, on the other hand, continues its difficult period, with the AMR23 lost along the way with the introduction of the other teams’ updates.
New floor: More stability in different conditions to give drivers confidence
On a technical level, the Suzuka track gave positive responses in terms of the balance of the SF-23 in the long corners on a limited front track compared to Monza and Singapore.
Excellent feedback has arrived from the new fund, both through the comments of the pilots and from the analyses carried out during and after the sessions.
A significant and important fact that establishes a progressive and constant improvement of the SF-23, born with all the limitations of the case. The development served to maintain strong points such as aerodynamic efficiency and find a more stable aero-mechanical window.
One of the objectives of the new floor was to obtain more constant conditions in the face of different mechanical and aerodynamic set-up configurations.
The venturi channel inlets have been modified to obtain an improvement in the cleanliness of the airflow, precisely to have greater aerodynamic stability.
A constant aerodynamic map also allows drivers to increase confidence and have a more predictable car. Sainz has worked a lot on this aspect, spending a lot of time in the simulator this year while staying close to Maranello.
This preference has characterised the Spaniard since his McLaren days – when he took up residence in Woking to keep contact with the team.
Ferrari has concentrated development around the floor in the airflow inlet and outlet area – more so than in the outer edge, where a lot of work was done last year.
Although Ferrari is unaffected by the “reinforced” T018 and T039, the new floor has more stiffness, a feature used last year to reduce bouncing.
The Suzuka package closes the circle of significant developments of the SF-23, which will remain untouched in the remainder of 2023 – aside from minor changes.
The team’s wind tunnel hours are now fully dedicated to the 676 project. The primary objective is to eliminate the limitations of this year’s car and open more avenues of development for 2024.
Author: Rosario Giuliana
Translation: Jaden Diaz-Ndisang