Ferrari has presented its 2023 challenger in Maranello, as the whole world saw the SF-23 in action on track for the first time. Team principal Fred Vasseur took part in a press conference immediately after.
The Frenchman chose to keep his cards close to his chest, especially when relating to questions on “political” topics, a field where Ferrari must try to mend relations with the FIA if it wants to increase its political weight compared to recent years.
Vasseur avoids any bold statements: “The car has only done one lap – I’m not overreacting”
The 54-year-old Frenchman sets a tone of calm at the first question:
“I would be too optimistic if I declared that we will win in Bahrain after just one lap, but the mood is great because so much work has been done at home.”
“I would like to thank all the guys in the factory who have worked well, and now we are ready for the new season. It’s an important step forward, but it’s only the beginning of the story.”
The program includes a 100 km shakedown already carried out at Fiorano before travelling to Bahrain for pre-season tests (February 23-25) and then the first Grand Prix of the season at the Sakhir circuit (March 3-5).
Vasseur: Strategy? There will be some changes
The second part of 2022 underlined the defects of the F1-75, including the now well-known lack of reliability, in addition to difficulties with tire management that put Leclerc and Sainz at a disadvantage to their rivals.
When asked if Ferrari had worked to solve all the car’s problems or if the team had concentrated on just a few macro areas, Vasseur was very clear:
“Always trying to improve in every area is the DNA of our sport. It doesn’t just concern Ferrari or just one department in particular: we must always try to do a better job tomorrow than today. You mentioned strategy and tire management, but this is a discussion that involves every area.”
Vasseur stressed the motivation and commitment required regardless of the initial results, whether they are positive or negative: “It doesn’t matter if we win or lose in Bahrain, it won’t be the end of our world championship. We have to keep this level of concentration and this mentality because the world championship will last 23 races.”
In particular, there were many questions about the strategy department, which has been heavily discussed among fans, the press, and even rivals.
Vasseur’s answer was relatively consistent with previous comments on this issue:
“We will make some small changes, but as I said last time, you are only seeing the tip of the iceberg.
“When you talk about strategy, you’re only talking about strategists, but strategy isn’t just a person pushing a button: it’s about software, people in the factory, and the whole process that happens at the pit wall. We look at the whole picture, not just one person.”
Vasseur: “Reliability? The challenge will be to finish the season with three engines. Every update will make a difference”
It is no secret that poor reliability has negatively affected Ferrari’s 2022, but according to previous statements by Frédéric Vasseur, the situation seems to have been resolved, at least on the bench tests:
“We have worked on the dynamic benches, and we are optimistic. But only in Bahrain will we understand where we are in terms of reliability and performance, so far everything is fine.”
In the last two years, none of the top teams has managed to finish the season without using a fourth power unit for – various reasons.
Nevertheless, the goal that Ferrari has set itself is to avoid exceeding the three-engine limit:
“The plan is to finish the season with three engines. If you look at the past seasons, not many have succeeded, but this is our plan, and we will have to try to stick to it.
For several years, Ferrari has failed to match their rivals in mid-season development. Last year in France, it seemed the team had taken a step forward, but this area eventually contributed to the team’s drop in performance at the end of the season:
“We will certainly have to work on developing the car, and we will have to keep pushing because I think the differences between the cars will be smaller than in other years, which means each update will make a big difference. ”
Vasseur: “Finding the balance right away and not having problems during the tests will be the keys to a good start”
Less than a week will pass between the end of the three days of winter testing and the Friday of the first GP of the season. Any unforeseen event could cost any team dearly:
“If you have problems during testing, it will be difficult to react in such a short time.”
The Ferrari Team Principal mentioned McLaren as an example, who only performed in last year’s pre-season test they had a serious problem with the MCL36 – forcing them to make several changes:
“Now the situation is different than last year because we know broadly what problems we could encounter. We will have to work on the balance of the car, but the basic concept is better known than it was 12 months ago.
Finally, Enrico Cardile’s words regarding the philosophy of the SF-23 have been repeated:
“The concept of the car is the same, the regulations are the same, and we don’t have much room to work with these rules. Concepts will converge, performance will converge, and parts carry-over for cost cap needs to be considered.”
On the budget side, Vasseur took the subject with a grain of salt. At the moment, improving relations with the FIA is more important than sending unnecessary jabs:
“It’s about being quicker to manage the regulations, and this is fundamental, but when we look at what happened last year, we have to take into account that it was the first year of the cost cap.
“In the end, they did a good job because the investigations are huge and involve 10 teams, but if it is done faster, it will be better for the fans too. I think everyone is convinced of that, including the FIA. They know the situation perfectly, and they know they will have to be faster.”
Author: Andrea Vergani
Translation: Jaden Diaz-Ndisang