Red Bull dominates in Bahrain, Ferrari reliability costs Leclerc

Jaden Diaz
6 Mar, 2023

In the first race of the season, Red Bull showed brilliant performance – consistent with many of the predictions going into the race. The RB19 was expected to be fastest after testing, with Max Verstappen never under threat during the Bahrain GP . Perez completed a perfect weekend for Red Bull with a 1-2 finish.

Despite Leclerc’s impressive start to capitalize on his fresh softs, it was almost inevitable that Perez would overtake . Ultimately, Max Verstappen dominated the field – with a combination of superior pace and tire management.

Red Bull in action in Bahrain.

Ferrari’s fears of poor tire degradation were confirmed, with the Maranello squad anticipating such difficulties before the race . However, Ferrari’s pace was worse than expected.

The SF-23 gained in efficiency and power, but from what we saw on the track – at least in the first race – it lost too much load .

The first outing of the card did not match the simulations , important corrections are expected in terms of new parts but also understanding.

In many ways, Ferrari’s car responds in opposite ways to the RB19 and AMR23, the Ferrari slips too much and lacks stability at medium-speed corners.

This forces the drivers to heat up the rear and produce thermal degradation. The soft tyres, both in qualifying and at the start of the race, had masked this deficit thanks to the extra grip – at least with Leclerc.

Ferrari lacked reliability and consistency at Sakhir

It’s early to make any definitive conclusions about the Championship, but the pace shown by Red Bull during the race was far more damaging than what Ferrari anticipated. Leclerc lost an average of 6-tenths, Sainz, even worse with an average of 9-tenths.

Sainz was closer to Mercedes than Alonso – according to race pace. Certainly, the big disappointments are Ferrari and Toto Wolff’s team.

In light of the extraordinary performance of Aston Martin, Mercedes has already declared that the concept of the car will have to be revised. Aston Martin (with the same engine, suspension and other significant parts as Mercedes), has shown that the zeropods philosophy cannot be a winner .

Returning to Ferrari, who are certainly the great losers of the season opener, Fred Vasseur spoke after the race of having a “more complete picture of where action needs to be taken to improve performance” and of “reliability as a priority, so that it doesn’t happen again”.

Ferrari in action in Bahrain.

Contrary to the initially suspecting the ICE problem (endothermic engine), when Leclerc’s car was disassembled and checked, the reason for the Monegasque’s retirement was found in the ERS battery pack.

These two elements will not be recoverable. Despite replacing the control unit and the ES (energy store) before the start, issues were not prevented. Indeed the failure was abnormal, something unrelated to the different problems of 2022.

Speaking of performance, the SF-23 performed at a very similar pace to the F1-75, not confirming the simulations that saw it 3-tenths/lap behind Red Bull.

This was not enough to worry Perez, not to mention Verstappen. Ferrari needs to carry out an in-depth analysis and understand the reasons for a loss of performance, which are linked, as mentioned, to a significant lack of load – especially visible on hard tyres.

The consistency of Red Bull, and to some extent Aston Martin with Alonso, will force Ferrari’s technical department to accelerate development to defend itself and react appropriately. It is possible to increase the load of the car through new parts and a greater understanding of the SF-23.

Ferrari in action in Bahrain.

Last but not least, the jumping seen in the tests on the SF-23 needs to be reduced.

This problem is still present and is forcing engineers to make uncomfortable compromises in terms of setup (stiffer) and ground clearance. Drivers can’t be aggressive with that limitation, and it easily costs heavy tenths, especially in racing.

Jeddah is the next stop; a circuit where efficiency has its weight but could only provide answers relating to the problem.

To have a truly complete picture of the direction of the season and of Ferrari’s ability to overturn its clear disadvantage, we will have to wait for 4-5 races.

However, this is provided that reliability does not remain an unresolved issue.

Author: Giuliano Duchess

Translation: Jaden Diaz-Ndisang

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