Ferrari to bring new floor upgrade to Japanese GP

MARINA BAY STREET CIRCUIT, SINGAPORE - SEPTEMBER 17: Carlos Sainz, Ferrari SF-23, leads Charles Leclerc, Ferrari SF-23 during the Singapore GP at Marina Bay Street Circuit on Sunday September 17, 2023 in Singapore, Singapore. (Photo by Mark Sutton / Sutton Images)

For 15 races, there was only one question in F1: can anyone stop Red Bull and Verstappen before Abu Dhabi? The answer was yes, and it came in ‘Singapore’

The Asian circuit, like in previous seasons, threw a spanner in the works. Carlos Sainz and Ferrari took advantage of this, ending the team’s one-year winless drought.

Red Bull’s ultra-dominant car became far less competitive under the lights at Marina Bay. The RB19 couldn’t find the correct balance from day one.

The baseline setup was ineffective, and the corrections made were even worse. The engineers even tested and then dismantled the slightly updated floor specification.

However, no advantage was gained. At that point, Red Bull was forced to cut their losses.

Verstappen avoided a penalty for impeding in qualifying, which ruled out a change to the power unit, battery, gearbox or even the set-up for the race.

“We would have thought about it, but P11 is still a decent position to get points or maybe a podium,” the team said after qualifying. 

However, there wasn’t much that could be done to change performance or use strategy to improve the situation. Red Bull opted for hard tyres to start the race.

The engineers set up Max’s car with less front load and slightly more robust pressures to avoid instability under braking

Late in the race, with 70 kg less fuel and new medium tyres, the RB19 performed better. Red Bull did not show any significant degradation, although pure performance was nothing special.

Verstappen suffered 6/7 tenths per lap from the Mercedes, probably a similar gap from Norris and the Ferraris if we had seen them in equal conditions. Only the problems of Alonso, Ocon and Russell gave him 5th position.

Now the question has changed: was Singapore the classic banana peel, or is it hiding something more linked to TD18

The Dutch Champion doesn’t even want to entertain this as a potential issue:

“Now, after a race like this, we have to win in Suzuka with a 20-second advantage,” declared Verstappen, avoiding the issue of the technical directive.

Ferrari with clear ideas and clear decisions, a bit like Vasseur. The Frenchman was very keen to get on the podium

Ferrari interrupted the Red Bull sequence thanks not only to a high-level performance from Carlos Sainz but also to some very clear choices after qualifying.

Leclerc gained a place over Russell with his soft tyres at the start, an early sacrifice Ferrari and the Monegasque had already discussed internally.

Although there wasn’t much space in the run to Turn 1, Ferrar’s choice to give Leclerc the softs provided enough grip to secure a 1-2 for the SF-23 machines.

FerrariFerrari did not want to lose the race due to degradation.

Sainz and Leclerc had to control the pace. By contrast, Mercedes strategists would have liked to force them to use rubber much more. Sandwiched in between was Lando Norris.

Sainz and Leclerc travelled 1.5-2 seconds slower until the stop, which helped the Monegasque a little in managing the wear and tear of the first stint.

Everything was going smoothly until the Safety Car. The engineers asked Leclerc to move away from Sainz to guarantee a double pit stop and react to events.

In the second phase, the Spaniard continued to control his tyres – intelligently using the efficiency of the SF-23 on the straight to maintain position. Russell and Hamilton were aggressive and stopped for fresh tyres.

Norris, like Ferrari, could not stop in the pits. He had to become Sainz’s great weapon and defend.

The English duo moved up quickly – gaining two seconds per lap on the leaders. The battle didn’t last long, thanks to the difference in traction at the time.

However, the Ferrari driver lost over 2 seconds to the Mercedes, which added a little more tension in the chase of CarLando.

Of course, Sainz was eventually victorious and executed a tactical masterpiece. The SF-23 had a speed of 295 km\h, giving the McLaren 25 km\h of speed with open DRS.

The drag of the W14 did not allow Russell and Hamilton to make the final overtakes.

Furthermore, the 7-time world champion gained 3 seconds over his teammate in 7 laps after the stop. It is difficult to say whether he could have succeeded where his teammate failed.

Nevertheless – like Leclerc – Lewis was disadvantaged by the track position inherited with the worst qualifying.

Lando and Lewis took the podium while Russell crashed out due to a banal mistake in his frenzy. Despite the relaxed start to the Grand Prix, the podium near Singapore always requires sweat.

Ferrari in Japan to confirm improved understanding. A new specification is ready as the last significant upgrade of the year.

Ferrari continues the development of the SF-23 as it prepares for 2024. The concept of this year’s car has already changed, which required a lot of conceptual understanding
The new parts were approved in the tunnel before the break, and a new floor will arrive in Suzuka on a track where having an efficient load at high speeds will be important.
Since the resumption of activity, the work is completely aimed at implementing the 2024 model. The test at Fiorano with the high load gave some positive signals, and after the corrections to the simulator at Marina Bay, it was possible to effectively use a higher downforce level without losing balance and efficiency.
FerrariSuzuka will be a different story, however. Although it is a more front-limited layout, it also requires significant management of the rear train, traction, and control of understeer on entry.
Red Bull permitting, Ferrari could return to the fight for second with McLaren and Mercedes. It is reasonable to expect that Ferrari in September will prove more ready for such a test.
Author: Giuliano Duchessa
Co-Author: Rosario Giuliana

Translation: Jaden Diaz-Ndisang