Fred Vasseur, the team principal of the Ferrari Formula 1 team, has detailed the impact of the Maranello team’s updates which were introduced during the Japanese Grand Prix and helped Charles Leclerc improve his performance in the final part of the 2023 Formula 1 campaign. In an effort to enhance aerodynamic efficiency, the Italian side introduced a new floor on the SF-23 cars at the Suzuka circuit back in September. This overhaul included modifications to the front floor fences, floor edge, mid floor, and diffuser sidewall, working in conjunction with a redesigned sidepod undercut.
The Maranello team’s focus on drag reduction not only contributed to a modest improvement in lap time but also afforded Charles Leclerc a greater sense of comfort in the SF-23 single-seater. This adjustment became particularly significant as Carlos Sainz took over the lead driver role from the Monegasque after the summer break with a series of positive results as compared to his teammate.
Although the direct impact on lap times wasn’t substantial, the update allowed Charles Leclerc to push the SF-23 car to its limits, resulting in his resurgence over Carlos Sainz with three podium finishes and three pole positions in the final five race weekends of the 2023 Formula 1 campaign.
“We had a small upgrade in Japan and I don’t know in terms of pure performance if it was something bigger, but I think in terms of comfort it was important and very beneficial for Charles. I think Charles was in a much better shape in the last part of the season, the last six or seven races. This was a positive dynamic. I think we did a step a bit later on the consistency and the fact that we improved the car a little bit. That way we were able to be more consistent or have to push less in the race.” – Fred Vasseur pointed out in a recent interview.
However, given that the competition behind Red Bull was determined by mere tenths, and with Ferrari narrowly conceding to Mercedes in the battle for second place in the Constructors’ standings, Frederic Vasseur chose not to exaggerate the performance differentials between his two drivers or, for that matter, the other frontrunners.
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“Sometimes it is a matter of details. At the end of the day we are speaking about tenths of seconds, and from one weekend to the other we have to accept that they are sportsmen,” – the French manager added – “[Roger] Federer can win one day in Wimbledon and lose the next, so I am taking them always as sportsman, up and down. What is true in our business today is that if you have a look at five years ago the Mercedes guys could miss one corner and still be on pole position. That is not the case today, you miss one corner, you are out in Q1. If you look at the two McLarens, they were out in Q1 [in Las Vegas] and they were able to fight for pole [in Abu Dhabi]. This is true for everybody except Max [Verstappen] probably, but it is true for Checo [Perez] and it means that we don’t have to draw too big a conclusion after one change.” – Scuderia Ferrari team principal Frederic Vasseur concluded.