In a challenging track with fast corners like Suzuka, the Scuderia Ferrari managed to recover four points in the Constructors’ standings against Mercedes for the second position. In Japan, the red car introduced a new floor that allowed the technicians of the Cavallino to set a lower ride height without experiencing the porpoising effect. The result was reduced tire degradation compared to other events, indicating that the development direction is the right one.
Ferrari extended the life of the tires used in Suzuka by five laps compared to the strategies initially planned. This could be either a conservative choice for the Japanese GP, which allowed the drivers to push harder in the initial stint, or the positive effect of the new floor introduced in the Japanese event.
The Ferrari technicians have made significant progress in understanding the SF-23, and the Maranello car appears to have found a good performance balance on very different tracks from Italy’s GP in Monza. This demonstrates that the team led by Enrico Cardile is managing to control the highs and lows that characterized the first part of the 2023 Formula 1 season.
What has changed? First and foremost, the management of the hybrid system: electrical energy is now distributed differently, allowing less power to be used during acceleration, reducing lift and coast on longer straights.
The sensation is that by not pushing certain setup choices as far on power unit 066/10, Ferrari can be more daring in terms of chassis and aerodynamics. As a result, the red car can lower the ride height slightly, which provides more aerodynamic load.
The combined result of these changes leads to less tire wear, resulting in race performance that allowed Charles Leclerc to stay ahead of Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes, securing the fourth position in the Japanese Grand Prix.
Mercedes suspects that its tire advantage over its main Formula 1 rival, Ferrari, has been eroded thanks to recent progress made by the Italian team. In the early part of the season, Mercedes had an edge in races because its W14 car was much kinder on tires compared to the Ferrari SF-23.
However, since Ferrari improved its understanding of why its 2023 contender was so tough on tires from the beginning, its race pace has significantly improved.
As both teams are now engaged in a fight for the second place in the Constructors’ Championship, the change in the characteristics of the car could prove pivotal as they head into the remaining six races of the season.
In the recent Japanese Grand Prix, where tire degradation was a critical factor in determining Sunday’s pace, Ferrari proved to be at the top of things when Charles Leclerc finished ahead of Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes.
Andrew Shovlin, head of trackside engineering at Mercedes, did not mince words: “I think the performance deficit that we saw in qualifying in Japan was down to a lack of aerodynamic load in the fast corners. The same issue cost us in the race as well. We found ourselves slightly behind Ferrari, who had a new floor. So, they’ve got ahead of us, and it appears that the advantage we had in controlling tire degradation in recent races is no longer there.”
Fred Vasseur, Ferrari team principal, acknowledged that the Maranello team had made good progress by improving tire management: “If you look at the first two races of the season, tire degradation or tire management was certainly not among our abilities. Arriving at Suzuka with the high track temperature put us at some risk, but in the end, I think we did a good job compared to the first part of the season.”
The new floor, introduced before the summer break, has been essential in more effectively fighting the potential onset of porpoising, which had been observed at high-speed tracks, particularly when the team tried to lower the minimum ride height.
The changes encompassed the entire floor: the flow conditioners that define the Venturi channels are more protruding at the front, with shapes that are increasingly rounded, resembling those of the Red Bull RB19. The sidewalk in front of the rear wheel is also different: the outer edge has become flat, and there’s a raised part that hides a kind of “lung” to dampen bouncing.
Additionally, the diffuser elbow has a double opening instead of the single hole seen up until Singapore. The extractor is more pronounced, ensuring a greater sucking effect on the rear end.