Why race pace is the Ferrari SF-23’s Achilles heel

Jaden Diaz
17 May, 2023

After two positive rounds at circuits that somewhat concealed the weaknesses of the SF-23, Ferrari found themselves the fourth-fastest team in Miami. Although it was a messy weekend for the Scuderia, a worrying trend is continuing for the Maranello squad.

The car is not capable of generating downforce in a stable manner during race trim, especially at high speeds, where the car’s weaknesses lead to unpredictable behaviour that complicates things for the drivers.

Ferrari SF23

Charles Leclerc himself admitted that “not just from corner to corner, even in the same corner, we can have a huge oversteer rebalance and then a huge understeer balance.”

This was especially clear in the high-speed first sector, a section where both Ferrari drivers lost more than half a second to Red Bull.

Ferrari disastrous on Race day compared to qualifying

Following last year’s technical directive, new floor-related issues have emerged for Ferrari. Despite the immense aerodynamic load available on the F1-75, the car was unable to exploit its potential with a large amount of fuel.

In the first months of the season, Ferrari and Red Bull had a similar gap in qualifying and in the race. However, from Spa onwards, the gap was constantly around four-tenths.

After the winter break, the gap between qualifying and race performance has increased, as the SF-23 loses half a second to Red Bull on Sunday.

The SF-23 holds its own Qualifying, which is helped by the flashes of brilliance shown by Charles Leclerc in qualifying. In the race though, the weaknesses are clear to see.

Taking sector 1 in Miami as an example, which is a good case study to observe aerodynamic performance, the SF23 loses more than two-tenths compared to Red Bull and Aston Martin. The loss to Mercedes is an alarming four-tenths.

In terms of average speed, the other teams lose 13 to 15 km/h between Saturday and Sunday, Ferrari’s figure reaches 20 km/h lost, a figure that puts the lack of downforce and the instability of the Ferrari into perspective in competition.

Ferrari SF23

Even at low speeds, the problem remains the same, albeit much less pronounced in Miami specifically, where Ferrari opted for a rather soft setup.

Mercedes and Aston Martin lost less between Qualifying and the Race (around 5 km/h minimum speed), while Red Bull (7 km/h) and Ferrari (almost 8 km/h) lost more than the other two. In the second sector, these numbers translate into 2-tenths more lost than Red Bull and Aston Martin, and around 3-tenths more from Mercedes on average!

The operating window of the SF23 is too small and unstable, something we already saw last year with the W13 – which on the other hand, had problems getting the car to work on a single lap and then making better use of its potential on Sunday.

Solving all the problems of the 675 project only with the updates planned between Imola and Barcelona will be impossible.

Still, it will be crucial to see steps forward from this point of view to verify that the path taken is the right one or if distortion of the concept in sight will be necessary for 2024 and one step further behind Red Bull.

Is the Ferrari SF23 concept the problem? Haas also loses more than half a second between Saturday and Sunday.

Even the VF23, a car clearly inspired by the concept adopted in Maranello, suffers from the same problem of loss of performance between Qualifying and Race.

The American team suffers an average delay of 1.2 seconds on Saturday, only to then lose over 1.7s per lap compared to the dominant RB19. The deficit is almost identical to that of the SF23 and corresponds to the highest on the grid, together with the Williams FW45.

Ferrari SF23

On the other hand, the only team that improves between Saturday and Sunday (again taking Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez’s gap from Red Bull as a reference) is Aston Martin.

As seen in the data above, the difference between Aston Martin and Red Bull is quite similar in qualifying and on race day.

However, the AMR23 still lacks downforce (5 km/h in the high-speed corners) and straight-line speed (3 km/h) compared to Red Bull – even with the new rear wing on the front of total efficiency and the DRS system.

Author: Andrea Vergani

Translation: Jaden Diaz-Ndisang




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