In F1, the title of winter champion means nothing. Ferrari has dominated the championship of rumors and speculations for years, but then failed the on-track exam. This time things are changing, starting with the unveiling of the new single-seater in less than a month (February 13). It will be a “dry” event, more essential than the flashy launches of the recent past, more similar to the presentations of English teams that prefer substance over form.
The car should take its first meters on the Fiorano track, doing a few shakedown laps, a warm-up useful for drivers and engineers to get the very first indications. As for the name, it is plausible to think of the SF-24 designation, a logical evolution of the genealogical tree. We will see.
Certainly, the car that will race in the first GP in Bahrain on March 2 (preceded by tests on the same track, February 21-23) is not an update of the 2023 project, from which it will inherit only 5% of the components. It starts from a new base and, above all, from a different technical philosophy. More than a revolution, it’s a new beginning because this is the first Ferrari entirely conceived under the management of Fred Vasseur, who took over the reins in January of last year, finding everything already set up by his predecessor (Mattia Binotto). The Frenchman, at his debut, got burned — and with him, CEO Benedetto Vigna — getting carried away by enthusiasm. He had to learn to use the brake and a lot more. The low-profile strategy is shared with the company’s top management, who have confidence in his revival plan.
Fred Vasseur will have to repay them by showing a competitive Ferrari in every situation, capable of challenging Red Bull in the role of the leading pursuer. Tension and a desire to amaze accompany the march towards the debut. Inside, there is satisfaction regarding the performance found.
Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz, in simulator tests, have endorsed the single-seater, considering it more predictable, more consistent, a step forward. Perhaps even greater than expected, and for this reason, there would be a desire to play down expectations. But it’s the same old story: the problem is how much others will improve. Red Bull, which had stopped developments very early in 2023, remains the favourite, McLaren, led by former Ferrari man Andrea Stella, is accredited with great potential. Mercedes cannot afford to make a mistake with the car for the third year in a row.
Ferrari, in silence, also has to untangle several knots. Among these, the renewal of the drivers: it would be important to announce the extensions of Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz (both expiring at the end of the year) before February 13 to avoid distractions. But it might take more time.
As for the team, Fred Vasseur has given confidence to the same group: the only new addition to the pit wall compared to the beginning of 2023 will be the presence of Diego Ioverno, who became the team principal after Laurent Mekies’ departure. Simone Resta, after leaving Haas, where he was technical director (there are rumors of a sale of the US team, owner Gene Haas might not want to invest anymore), has returned but not to deal with Formula 1. There are also those who are leaving the company permanently and not just the Formula 1 Racing Division: former strategist Iñaki Rueda. While waiting for reinforcements, the “low-profile” Ferrari is obliged to grow. Also by changing its style.