Enrico Cardile’s technical staff looks to the upcoming championship with moderate confidence: the 676 is a single-seater that aims to meet the expectations of both drivers. Even though Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz have different driving styles, the new Ferrari on the track should not be as challenging as the SF-23, a car with a very narrow operating window. Let’s find out in which direction they have worked in Maranello…
Charles Leclerc prefers a single-seater “focused” on the front, allowing the rear to move freely to attack the entry into the curve with a late brake carried to the apex. Carlos Sainz, unlike the Monegasque, likes a rear well attached to the asphalt. Two different ways of interpreting the driving of a ground-effect single-seater, suggesting that during the 2023 season, the development of the SF-23 leaned towards one driver rather than the other.
And someone, mischievously, had pointed out that during the season, Ferrari, at different times, favored Sainz rather than Leclerc. After the summer break, we witnessed the Spanish driver’s brightest moment, going from Monza pole position to victory in Singapore.
The introduction of a new floor at Suzuka, instead, went in Charles’s direction: when the Monegasque regained the feeling with the red car, he was able to extract all the potential from the SF-23, stringing together three pole positions and four podiums from the Japanese Grand Prix onwards. And so, it was said that Ferrari wanted to favor the “number one driver” who was discussing a three-year contract renewal.
None of this because Fred Vasseur, at the Christmas lunch with F1 journalists, was keen to emphasize: “I remember perfectly that a year ago in this same room, I received many questions about the ‘Charles number one and Carlos number two of the team’ topic. We have shown on several occasions to ensure our drivers more than equal treatment, I believe Singapore was the best example.”
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“Charles agreed to start the race with a set of soft tires to be able to overtake Russell and control him, all to help Carlos. We have two drivers who are doing a good job, Carlos was very strong after the summer break with two excellent weekends in a row at Monza and Singapore, and probably he was a stimulus to Charles, as we saw at the end of the season.”
“We will continue in this direction; I don’t want to have one good resource and another of a second level. We have two cars and two valuable drivers, and I believe that one of the positive aspects of the season has been the performance of Carlos and Charles. They practically guaranteed the team the same points, with a small difference, and we want to continue like this.”
But how will it be possible to offer the two drivers the feeling of playing on an equal footing in 2024? And the answer that came from Maranello was very clear: the technicians are working on a car that must be “easy to drive.” The 676, therefore, will have completely different characteristics from the SF-23, which goes down in history as a single-seater that was difficult to control at the limit and rather tricky to set up.
We know how narrow the operating window of this year’s red car was and how sensitive it was to crosswinds while in yaw: two characteristics that transformed its behavior on the track without any warning.
Ferrari has dedicated time and resources to understanding the limits of the SF-23, and the team led by Enrico Cardile has carried out important analytical work to understand in which direction to go in the hope of putting on track a car that can have a consistent performance on all the tracks of the championship.
We have already talked about a new chassis and a miniaturized width gearbox that will allow a larger diffuser and a more extreme rear suspension, while remaining in the known pull rod scheme. Still, in the Sporting Management, they have evolved simulation models, thanks to which the knowledge of ground-effect single-seaters should have allowed significant leaps in quality.
The 676 will not be a clone of the Red Bull RB20 as the new AlphaTauri could easily be, but it will be a Ferrari that, while taking up some concepts from Milton Keynes, will maintain its easily recognizable matrix. Some talk about a revolution, but Fred Vasseur on this topic, holds back…
“Revolutionary is not the right word. For three years now, we have had the same technical regulations, and in this situation, you cannot change a project massively. We are in a scenario where a handful of tenths of a second make the difference. That said, we certainly need to take a step forward and not underestimate anything; we will change 95% of the components of the single-seater, and said like this it may seem like a revolution, but it is not.”
“In the end, as I have already said, it will be a matter of tenths, and we are aware that if we improve by a wider margin than our rivals, we will seem good, but if someone among the rival teams manages to do better, then everything will be downsized. What I can say now is that everyone is pushing, and the drivers are also involved in the heart of the project.”
We will have to wait until February 13, the day of the launch of the eagerly awaited red car, to find out how this new Ferrari will be: this year in Maranello, no one dared to make predictions about the performance after the bitter disappointments of the SF-23 at its debut. But already from the filming day that will follow the presentation, it will be easy to understand from the faces of the drivers if the target of the “easy-to-drive” car has been achieved…