Vasseur: SF-23 potential may not be enough to catch Red Bull

Jaden Diaz

Unfortunately, things did not go well for Ferrari in Jeddah. Fred Vasseur, Team Principal, explained the situation with the SF-23 after the first two races: “I can’t think of a car that goes on the front row in qualifying and then struggles so much in the race,” he said after the chequered flag.

The Maranello squad was cautiously optimistic that Jeddah’s characteristics would suit the SF-23. Instead, the race highlighted the team’s weaknesses – as the Scuderia proved to be the fourth-fastest team.

At the end of the race, both drivers were honest about the situation, albeit hopeful that upgrades could provide more performance.

Still, both Leclerc and Sainz were somewhat resigned to the supremacy of Red Bull’s RB19.

Leclerc explained that the result is not entirely surprising, even if there was optimism post-qualifying that a podium finish was attainable. Carlos Sainz has again underlined the limiting factors for Ferrari in 2022 so far: tyre degradation and overall performance.

Vasseur: “Compared to Bahrain, we improved in qualifying and race pace in the first run, but our struggles on the Hard tyres must be fixed”

Fans and insiders are now starting to get to know the new Ferrari Team Principal and his way of handling things a little better. An expression he often uses is ‘clear picture’, which is especially important at this stage of the year.

The current picture is not very pretty for Ferrari, with the SF-23 significantly worse than the Italian squad calculated during the winter break. The French team principal continues to deny the possibility of correlation issues, attributing the team’s poor performances to Red Bull and Aston Martin’s strong development – alongside a failure to optimise the SF-23.

Ferrari Team Principal - Frederic Vasseur.

“Compared to Bahrain, we took a step forward in qualifying. I know it’s strange to say this after today’s result, but I think we were in better shape than two weeks ago as we managed to open a gap on Aston Martin and Mercedes,” Vasseur explained.

“Even in the race, the first stint was very good. Charles moved up quickly, managing the Soft well, and Carlos, with the medium, was there with Russell and Stroll in the DRS train.”

“With the Hards, the good things were nullified given qualifying and in the first part of the race. With that tire, we lost pace. We have to understand why. It is our main problem.”

The SF-23 already saw a drop in performance on the hards in Bahrain. This exposes Ferrari’s lack of downforce, which has proven a limitation, especially when using harder compounds. This was very clear on the hard tyres, with both Scuderia drivers, despite pushing hard, failing to reach the times of their rivals, with the consequence of ending up using the tires more.

Charles Leclerc - Ferrari SF-23

Vasseur was honest – although there are few alternatives – when asked about the gap to Red Bull and the lack of pace compared to Aston Martin and Mercedes. “After the Safety Car, Red Bull gave us something like 25 seconds in 30 laps. Very very much.” 

Somehow, however, the Frenchman sees hope even when looking at one of his direct competitors. “Aston Martin? Let’s say it gives us a little hope because it shows that it is possible to progress by working.”  This is a very small positive among several concerns at Maranello.

Vasseur: “In Australia, we will have more updates. You have to push to solve these problems.”

It is a leader’s responsibility to motivate and keep the group together in times of difficulty. Frederic Vasseur, unsurprisingly, is trying to keep the team’s hopes up after a difficult start:

“Motivate the group? It’s my job. We must remain calm and united to push hard and improve the current situation. The car has potential, but we are unable to extract it, and this must be one of our objectives,” the Frenchman explained, continuing to show confidence in the SF-23 project and his team’s work.

Ferrari Team Principal - Frederic Vasseur.

“Here, we didn’t have so many balance problems, and in fact, qualifying didn’t go badly. The problem is that we have to try to show the value of the car for longer. However, the potential that is there may not be enough to catch up with Red Bull.” 

Vasseur continues to urge the team to push and extract the ‘true’ value of the SF-23. How can Ferrari get out of the crisis? One of the solutions is definitely updates.

“Now we have to understand what we are doing well and how to improve. In Australia, we will have some new parts that can help us, but we have to push in the factory, all together, to solve our problems.”

In Vasseur’s mind, the way of working is very clear, and Ferrari must not be influenced by others. “Looking at the gap with others would be the wrong way to work. We have to look at ourselves and focus on what we can do to improve. The machine must always be developed in all areas. Now let’s go back to Maranello, analyze the data and prepare ourselves as best as possible for Melbourne.”

Author: Paolo D’Alessandro
Co-Author: Piergiuseppe Donadoni

Translation: Jaden Diaz-Ndisang