Ferrari in Formula 1 is a world of its own. Yes, because the red team always manages to make headlines, for better or for worse. Even when, as in the current situation, things are not going as they should. The SF-23, a car with hyper-sonic speeds according to the expectations of Benedetto Vigna, CEO of the Prancing Horse, has disappointed fans, drivers, mechanics, engineers, and staff.
“It’s always next year when we win, apparently.” A popular phrase among supporters and insiders of the Maranello team. Unfortunately, this scenario has been continuing undisturbed for years. Since the distant 2008, to be precise, when the Italian team won the last Formula 1 constructors’ championship by combining the points of Kimi Räikkönen and Felipe Massa.
Since then, only disappointments. A couple of near misses for the championship with Fernando Alonso, in the 2010 and 2012 seasons, hopes dashed prematurely despite the potential with Sebastian Vettel, in the 2017 and 2018 campaigns. Then, the last championship, a regulatory reset. A valid car, the Ferrari F1-75, forged with different aerodynamic concepts that seemed capable of competing with Red Bull until the infamous technical directive TD039.
Then comes the “shower” received during the 2023 Formula 1 pre-season tests. A slap in the face. Something highly unexpected considering the resources invested and the aforementioned expectations. For this reason, the aerodynamic package is changing. We have seen and documented it in Spain, analyzed the details during the last few days, pointing out how the inwash philosophy limits the feeding of vortex structures in the diffuser, as explained by F1 expert Alessandro Arcari for FUnoanalisitecnica.
Ferrari confirms the evolutionary step produced by the updates
Validating an aerodynamic concept of an F1 car, considering the complete absence of on-track testing, remains a very challenging task. The red team is trying to do so, as they have presented several modifications to the SF-23 single-seater in Catalunya: sidepods, rear wing floor. A partial conversion towards the Red Bull philosophy. A sort of hybrid that, in the words of Frederic Vasseur, Ferrari team principal, would have produced the expected results.
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Apart from Monaco, a circuit where making comparisons is impossible due to the particular nature of the street circuit, if we compare the performance of the Maranello-based car displayed on the Iberian Peninsula with that obtained in Florida, the fateful step forward has been achieved. This is the belief of the former Alfa Sauber engineer.
Frederic Vasseur’s strongly supports this, commenting that during Saturday’s chaotic qualifying session, Spanish driver Carlos Sainz secured the front row alongside the phenomenon Max Verstappen. As for Sunday, despite the significant tire wear that effectively limited the pace of the SF-23, the reference that gives hope is the smooth victory over the revelation of the championship, Aston Martin AMR23.
Nevertheless, the achieved result does not fully satisfy the Italian team’s efforts. There is still much work to be done. Mercedes emphasizes this, as they have been able to correct their own car and achieve undoubtedly better results than Ferrari. The performance gap between qualifying and the race remains too large for Ferrari, while Mercedes’ seems to be decreasing.
Mercedes as a benchmark for Ferrari
The German team knows how to do it. They make mistakes, they have made mistakes, but they possess a great capacity to react. This is the result of a well-established organization built over time through targeted operations. A cohesive group supported by cutting-edge work structures. Unfortunately, these characteristics are currently lacking within Ferrari.
Ferrari’s intention is to beat Mercedes, the only possible target according to Frédéric Vasseur’s words. Once the issues that prevent consistent competitiveness are resolved, perhaps the SF-23 could be able to outperform the W14 in the next 15 races that separate Formula 1 from the winter break.
At this point, the task remains arduous, considering the aforementioned ability of the German team to remedy inadequate situations. Hope is fueled by the abilities expressed in individual fast laps which, compared to Miami, according to Frederic, have revealed the intrinsic and still untapped potential of the Ferrari car.
However, one fact remains: the technicians’ inability to explain certain sporadic negative performances within the same race. “It is really difficult to predict from one track to another where we will be strong or not.” There you have it. This is the final remark. Correcting this type of scenario is essential, and significant efforts have been made in this regard.