Scuderia Ferrari needs to get off the rollercoaster: in Miami, it has sunk back to fourth place, after having given hope at the Baku City Circuit of being the first (albeit distant) challenger of Red Bull. The SF-23 single-seater is inconsistent not only from one race to another, but also within the same Grand Prix, with embarrassing variations in performance depending on the fuel load and tire compound.
Moreover, the two red cars had opposite reactions in the hands of Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz: the Monegasque suffered with the Mediums in the first stint and “defended” himself with the Hards, the exact opposite of what happened to the Spaniard.
Deciphering the riddle of Miami, therefore, becomes a rather difficult task: a car unsuited to the city circuit was deliberately chosen, where one still turns at an average speed of over 210 km/h, with the obligation to attack the numerous curbs if one wants to set a good time.
While Red Bull and Aston Martin were able to cope with the roughness of the track, Ferrari and Mercedes had to deal with the numerous congenital defects of their respective cars. If the Silver Arrows decided to freeze the development of the W14 and wait for the evolved car that James Allison will debut at the Enzo and Dino Ferrari circuit in the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, but was still able to find a compromise that allowed the Silver Arrow to stay ahead of the Maranello team, Fred Vasseur wanted a first step of the evolutionary package for the SF-23 to appear in Florida, an upgrade plan which will be completed only at the Circuit de Catalunya in Barcelona.
Judging by the results, one would say that a leap into the void was made. And Maranello’s critics on active duty have not missed the opportunity to emphasize how the technicians of the Prancing Horse are specialized in making development mistakes, losing their way in the process.
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This time things should be different: Ferrari is taking a different path, which will bring the SF-23 closer, as much as possible, to Red Bull’s aerodynamic concepts. Let’s add, just to be clear, that these are not developments that were planned at the beginning of the championship, but rather in-season corrections, in an attempt to extract from the red car that potential that is believed to be there, but which is almost never seen on the track.
Regarding the upgraded floor, observers have focused on the new design of the sidewalk, rather than the revolutionized design of the Venturi tunnels: internal flows are directed differently to increase the load generated under the car, so it is all too evident that the aerodynamic platform on which an adequate setup must be built has been changed.
In the American race, it was evident that the car’s performance window did not widen, and it was critical for both drivers. However, in the Maranello debriefing, attended by both drivers, a shared consideration emerged: the Miami flop was due to a sequence of wrong choices rather than a technical debacle.
The very interesting aspect that emerged was the sharing of responsibilities rather than putting the blame, which is often practiced in the Ferrari Racing Division. The SF-23 designed for the new Miami asphalt was not the best, but the choices made on the track were not illuminating either, to the point that engineers and drivers admitted to not fully understanding them, taking tuning directions that made the red car difficult to drive, with sudden changes in behavior.
Taking responsibility is a very positive signal to direct energies in the right direction in this delicate phase of the 2023 Formula 1 season: in addition to the new upgrade, the long-awaited revised rear suspension will debut in Imola, allowing for a more suitable mechanical setup for the ground heights needed to produce more downforce and therefore more performance.
The lower flared sidepods, without reaching the undercut of the RB19, will improve the efficiency of the floor, bringing more flow to the diffuser. And to make the beam wing more effective, it is not excluded that the extraction of hot air in the upper tank of the sidepods will be changed. The radiating masses remained in the same position, but many channels have been moved to narrow the body towards the rear, as explained by Formula 1 tech expert Franco Nugnes for Motorsport Italy.
Ferrari is playing a key hand for its future in the next three races: at the Circuit de Catalunya-Barcelona, it will be understood whether it can still aspire to the role of second force this season or whether it is better to close shop and focus on the 2024 project.