Following the strong performance at Monza in the Italian Grand Prix, where the SF-23 single-seater comfortably held the second position throughout the Monza weekend, challenging Red Bull in qualifying and parts of the race, before losing out due to tire degradation, the upcoming stretch of races could prove more challenging for Scuderia Ferrari. Nevertheless, the Italian team aims to approach this late-season phase, consisting of eight Grands Prix (Singapore, Suzuka, Qatar, Austin, Mexico, Brazil, Las Vegas, and Abu Dhabi), as a significant test to extract more potential from the SF-23, even on circuits where the latest car from Maranello struggled, particularly those with high downforce demands that require the car to stay in corners for extended periods.
Soon, there will be new aerodynamic updates to address these challenges.
On low-downforce setups and tracks, Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz’s car excels and performs at its best. However, when it comes to generating high aerodynamic load, the car experiences significant instability due to various limitations in the project 675, as Enrico Cardile also discussed in one of the recent press conferences. Singapore has historically been one of the high-downforce tracks, and its status will depend on the new layout and assessment by all teams. Nonetheless, it remains a stop-and-go circuit where cars spend less time in corners, which is why rival teams don’t see the SF-23 at a significant disadvantage.
Charles Leclerc tends to be more team-oriented in his statements, while Carlos Sainz is more direct and analytical, even if it means being perceived as ‘annoying’ to his team due to sharing too many details with journalists. Therefore, it’s not surprising that the Monegasque, in a recent interview with the BBC, spoke of the SF-23 as “doing what we expected it to do; we simply set our goals too low during development.”
As admitted by the Technical Director of the Scuderia in Maranello, “the SF-23 is a direct evolution of the F1-75,” aimed at improving the weaknesses of that car, which held its own against Red Bull for almost half a season, losing ground in the development battle with the Milton Keynes team, especially after the introduction of technical directive number 39. The significant objective was to enhance the overall efficiency of the car, regaining the downforce lost due to the 2023 regulatory changes. The team’s engineers were confident they had found the right solutions in the simulator, but it didn’t translate the same way on the track. It became evident to both the team and the drivers right from the early laps at Fiorano. The tests in Bahrain, and especially the race, served to confirm the initial concerns.
According to Charles Leclerc, the Maranello team hasn’t achieved results below expectations on the track; rather, they had set the wrong objectives. However, he later reconsidered. “I love oversteering cars, and it’s been a feature throughout my career. The problem with this year’s car was that it wasn’t an oversteering car but a very unpredictable one,” said the Monegasque driver. Not to forget the significant difficulties faced during testing in Bahrain, with a highly understeering and challenging-to-drive car, especially for the driver from Monte Carlo. “I had to deal with quite a bit of understeer to make the car a bit less unpredictable.” Did Ferrari expect to have an unpredictable, highly understeering car that didn’t suit Charles Leclerc’s driving style? The Monegasque responded directly, saying, “It’s not what we wanted, and it’s not the balance I like the most, so it’s not really suitable for my driving style.”