In the Italian GP, Ferrari homologated the fourth seasonal power unit, the last one that can be used without penalties. The Scuderia wanted to have a fresh engine for the Temple of Speed, knowing they could aspire to a podium at Monza after the disastrous result in Zandvoort.
The Maranello engineers wanted to leverage the adaptability of the SF-23 to the low-downforce setup, which, for once, allowed them to enhance the qualities of aerodynamic efficiency, masking the chronic lack of downforce, especially at the rear. Behind the two unstoppable Red Bulls of Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez at Monza, the two Ferrari SF-23 cars of Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc emerged, easily overtaking Mercedes, Aston Martin, Williams, and McLaren, moving ahead of the Silverstone-based team into third place in the Constructors’ World Championship, with an 11-point lead.
Attention in Monza was focused on the particularly low-downforce aerodynamics of the SF-23 (the flat rear wing from last year was used, benefiting the budget cap), and less attention was given to the power unit. It’s right not to overemphasize the value of the engine, even though the motor engineers led by Enrico Gualtieri pushed the fresh unit with a rather extreme mapping, without fearing reliability issues.
What hasn’t been said is that Ferrari introduced an important step in hybrid management right at Monza. The Maranello’s electronics engineers developed new, highly sophisticated strategies for better energy partitioning throughout the lap.
Observers noticed that on the pit straight, there was a clear advantage for the RB19 from the middle of the Parabolica to the old finish line, and then there was a Ferrari surge up to the braking point. The most logical explanation was aerodynamics: Red Bull had a significantly more loaded rear wing that allowed for a much higher speed in the Alboreto corner, while the SF-23 took advantage of lower wing resistance in the second part of the straight.
All true, but perhaps the influence of a different use of the hybrid system has been overlooked: the 2023 regulations allow for in-season development, and Ferrari used Monza precisely to showcase the new strategies. It must not have gone unnoticed that Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc were able to push the 066/10 engine almost to the braking point without resorting to much lift and coast driving, which we have often seen during the Formula 1 season.
The in-depth study conducted in the summer to understand the source of tire wear, an endemic issue with the SF-23, showed that it was not only due to the lack of aerodynamic load produced by the car’s body but also to a too abrupt release of electric power coming out of corners. Ferrari changed the hybrid strategies with careful development work that allows for more efficient “deployment,” redistributing energy better and making it last longer throughout the lap, resulting in improved performance.
The Maranello team will carry this advantage into the next eight appointments remaining at the end of the championship: of course, the strategies will be reviewed based on the characteristics of each track in the dynamic cell, where solutions have been found to improve starts as well.
In Singapore, the red cars will not have the same ambitions as in the Italian GP, as the Marina Bay circuit is a maximum downforce street circuit. Still, Enrico Cardile’s engineering team hopes to address the clear difficulties seen in the Netherlands and Hungary. There will be a rear wing suitable for the track’s characteristics, and the intention is to confirm their position as the third force, avoiding a debacle like Zandvoort…