The SF-23 had a strong performance as the second force in the Austrian Grand Prix, thanks to the updates on the floor and front wing. The latest developments arrived earlier than expected, with the Maranello factory advancing them by a couple of races. However, behind Scuderia Ferrari’s apparent recovery lies a better understanding of the SF-23 car, which has led to optimization of the setup.
A decisive moment in this process was the race held at the Circuit de Catalunya in Barcelona.
Jock Clear, Senior Performance Engineer, explains Ferrari’s impressions regarding the effect of the recent updates: “At the moment, we only have wind tunnel numbers. With the Sprint Race format, we couldn’t draw conclusions during Friday’s practice sessions. According to the numbers we have, we are moving in the right direction. It’s another small step, probably similar to the last one in Barcelona. Like any other update this year, the latest ones were not intended to increase downforce or reduce aerodynamic drag, but to make the car more predictable and forgiving.” – he pointed out.
“We still have to wait a few more races,” Jock Clear adds. “Silverstone is a good track to make evaluations. Austria would have been too if it weren’t for the Sprint Race format. However, Friday’s qualifying suggests that we have found some performance.” As already stated by Frederic Vasseur, the goal of the updates is not to find new performance, but to improve the drivers’ confidence to allow them to extract the maximum potential from the car: “Currently, we have to judge whether each new development, despite bringing additional downforce, doesn’t alter the aerodynamic map, making the car difficult to drive. Nobody can say for sure. We have to rely on a combination of simulations and track data. […] The simulator doesn’t exactly tell you the level of confidence the driver will have in the car. Among the upcoming updates is making simulators much more accurate in predicting the driver’s confidence in the car. This way, you can direct the development.” – the Ferrari engineer explained.
The turning point in Barcelona
During the Canadian Grand Prix, rumors spread that the Pirelli tests in Barcelona had helped Ferrari find the right direction. However, Jock Clear explains that the data collected during the Grand Prix was even more relevant: “Barcelona is an incredibly good track to understand what your car is doing. If you have a problematic car, you can’t hide. The Pirelli test gave us some extra laps, which are always valuable. But even more importantly, the entire weekend was key. It provided us with data that we fully understood. I would say that was the race where we truly understood what our car was doing and we will build on these weaknesses. This concerns the updates, which were already in the pipeline, but more importantly, it’s about how we set up the car.” – the English senior performance engineer continued.
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Progress on the setup
Charles Leclerc explained that the first part of the 2023 Formula One season was entirely dedicated to understanding the origin of the issues with the Red car. Once the problems were understood, Ferrari corrected the mechanical setup of the car from Canada onwards, which was the true change behind the recent progress.
Jock Clear adds: “The latest updates required us to slightly change the setup because the operating window is now different. I wouldn’t say that the setup philosophy has changed, but it has followed our better understanding of the car. I would say that these steps forward would have been taken anyway, even without the updates. The developments are specific to certain areas: specific ride heights and certain speed zones.” – he concluded.