It was a bittersweet qualifying session for the Scuderia Ferrari team which concluded at the Suzuka circuit on Saturday. The overall result achieved by Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz, who will start fourth and sixth on the grid, does not reflect the potential of the SF-23 single-seater. The incident involving Logan Sargeant in the middle of Q1 significantly affected the tire management by the Prancing Horse drivers. In the third segment of the qualifying session, the red team’s drivers could only use one set of soft tires, unlike Max Verstappen and the McLaren duo. In fact, the Monegasque, with only one attempt available, missed the front row by just 84 milliseconds.
At least in qualifying, the Prancing Horse’s car confirmed itself as the second force behind Red Bull, essentially on par with the papaya-colored cars from Woking. This is undoubtedly an encouraging result on a track that is not particularly favorable to the SF-23. Tomorrow’s race at Suzuka will be very challenging due to the unusually high temperatures forecasted, which raise questions about tire degradation. In his post-qualifying comments, Frederic Vasseur expressed satisfaction with the performance, even though grid positions could have been better:
“We expected a qualifying session like this, perhaps with slightly better results. Q1 was challenging; we had to use the second set of new tires after the red flag, which is why we saved a set for Q3. However, Charles was only one-tenth away from the front row, even a bit less.” Looking ahead to tomorrow’s race, the French manager set two objectives: to compete with McLaren and to reduce the gap to Mercedes in the constructors’ championship. Challenging goals, considering that the red team has been less competitive in races than in qualifying so far: “Nevertheless, we have a good opportunity to challenge McLaren because we’ve shown good pace. We are in a battle with Mercedes for 2nd place in the World Championship.”
For the first time, the French manager has come forward, setting a goal for the 2023 Formula One season. Although it requires more time for aero testing for project 676, the historic Maranello team intends to finish the final rounds of the championship aggressively. Perhaps the most significant part of the interview with SkySportF1 concerns the updates that may be introduced in the upcoming grands prix. Despite the Maranello team completing the development of project 675 before the summer break, the gradual introduction of updates is a significant sign.
It implicitly confirms that the technical department of the Prancing Horse understands and has partly corrected the development plan to extract performance from the SF23 “Evo” that debuted at the Spanish Grand Prix: “We need to keep pushing in the factory and on the track from now on because it’s the best way to achieve success. If we can bring something else, we will do it by the end of the season to fight until the end of the championship,” stated the GES chief. This is probably the best news for the hopes of the men from Maranello, both in the short term and for the 2024 Formula 1 season.