Scuderia Ferrari does what it can and settles for the third step on the podium. A result that is quite reasonable all things considered, given the competitiveness of the Scuderia with a full tank of fuel. In the F1 Sprint, Max Verstappen dominated, managing to keep Lewis Hamilton behind him, never too close to attempt an attack. In the first third of the race, the Englishman managed to keep pace, but to do so, he had to ask too much of his tires.
The tire wear accumulated on his W14 forced him to lap nearly a second slower than the world champion in the second part of the mini-race. Ferrari was the only team to differentiate its strategy by using Medium tires on car number 16 and Soft tires on car number 55, a measure that provided undoubtedly valuable data. In general, the SF-23 cars displayed a lack of pace, as is often the case, due to overheating management at the rear.
Charles Leclerc, starting from second place, managed to limit the damage by securing the third position. The softer tire, on the other hand, allowed Carlos Sainz to gain two positions thanks to a strong initial start, moving from sixth to fourth. However, during the race, the Spaniard had to relinquish these two positions he gained, finishing in the same position from which he started.
US GP 2023/Tire Degradation in F1 Sprint: Leclerc Slows Down Significantly in the Late Stages, Lando Norris and Max Verstappen with Negative Degradation
The following degradation chart illustrates what was mentioned in the introduction regarding the difficulties faced by the two Ferrari drivers. Sainz lapped with a higher lap time compared to other top teams but maintained steady degradation. In the second section of the race, the Spaniard lost up to two seconds to Verstappen. Once again, Verstappen’s RB19 is the best at tire management, with the tire degradation curve showing a slight negative slope.
Tire wear is very similar, with a parabolic trend, for Hamilton and Leclerc. Both tried to keep pace with Max in the first part of the race. It’s noticeable how Leclerc struggled significantly during the last three laps with tires completely worn out. The Ferrari aerodynamicists, opting for a less-loaded rear wing, exposed the SF-23 to high tire sliding, resulting in thermal degradation of the compounds. Norris had a good pace in the MCL60, and along with Verstappen, they both exhibited negative tire degradation, confirming their good form.
US GP 2023/Fuel Saving in F1 Sprint: Ferrari Pushes to the Maximum to Compensate for Wear, Verstappen Manages Tire Degradation in the Late Stages
Let’s continue by looking at fuel management during the F1 Sprint. The data we observe is different from what we see in the race. The reason is the possibility of carrying more than 1/3 of the tank’s capacity to complete the 100 km of the race, allowing the drivers to push harder. Compared to the 110 kg of fuel in Sunday’s race, there are about 40 kilograms of fuel onboard in the Sprint.
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The Ferrari drivers are less fuel-efficient than their rivals, performing minimal Fuel Saving. The tire wear forced the Ferrari drivers to demand the maximum from their cars. Likely, the Ferrari team favored this practice by loading more fuel on board. Mercedes drivers have a different attitude, as they perform more Fuel Saving than Ferrari.
Russell had a more uneventful race compared to his teammate, managing fuel more effectively and not fully exploiting the potential of W14 car number 63. Hamilton demanded a lot from his car, performing only a few laps with a higher-than-average Fuel Saving percentage of 3.33%. Finally, we can see fluctuating behavior from Norris and very high management of their cars by Verstappen in the second half of the race.
US GP 2023/Sprint Shootout Analysis: Ferrari SF-23 Best in Top Speed and Medium Throttle
Taking a step back to what happened yesterday afternoon, let’s examine the evolution of lap times, throttle, and top speed during the Sprint Shootout. This qualifying session is divided into three parts, requiring drivers to use the medium tire in the first two thirds, with only the Soft tire allowed in Q3. The first thing that stands out in the chart is that in the last two sections, drivers performed a single push lap, aborting the second flying lap in Q2. As the track evolved, lap times significantly improved, especially in Q3, with little relative gap between the drivers.
With a lighter car, Ferrari had the highest top speed in all three sections. The wind, which easily changed direction, was only a tailwind in Q1, providing a higher top speed. Mercedes cars were the most fueled, as evident from the lower speeds of the drivers. In the F1 Sprint, Russell, despite having DRS on a struggling Carlos Sainz, couldn’t overtake the SF-23 at the end of the long straight before turn 12.
Ferrari and Mercedes are the cars that maintain a higher medium throttle percentage throughout the lap. The red cars show more confidence on this track with the soft tire, achieving the highest average throttle percentage in Q3: 71.21% with Charles Leclerc. McLaren, on the other hand, is the team that opens the throttle less during the push lap, losing up to 3 percentage points compared to their competitors. Lastly, thanks to the improved track conditions and the softer tire, all drivers have refined their throttle management during the push lap. The F1 Sprint has provided essential information about what we can expect in today’s race.
Ferrari seems compelled to find a different strategy to address degradation issues by ruling out the softer tire. A different interpretation of the race by the Ferrari technicians may allow Charles Leclerc to at least transform the pole into a podium finish. Additionally, tire wear might be higher due to the full fuel tanks the drivers will have to manage at the start of the race. McLaren seems capable of recovering and ending a weekend that started poorly. The pace demonstrated by Lando Norris, who will start from the second position, can reaffirm MCL60’s place at the top of the standings. However, the favorite, despite starting from the sixth position, remains Max Verstappen.
Source: Leonardo Pasqual and Alessandro Arcari for FUnoanalisitecnica