Just as records are made to be broken, streaks of consecutive wins are meant to be snapped. Red Bull’s winning streak, which had lasted since Abu Dhabi 2022 and had reached 15 triumphs, came to an end on the hot night of Marina Bay. The star of this unexpected turn of events was the extraordinary Carlos Sainz, who has stepped up his game over the past few races and carried Ferrari on his shoulders. Pole position and victory for the Spanish driver, who, until a few months ago, seemed to be in question within the team that some believed had placed all its bets on Charles Leclerc.
The reality is that contract negotiations are still ongoing. If they are not yet concluded, it is simply because Ferrari is waiting for a calmer phase of the season, while Carlos insists on knowing his future before the start of the 2024 championship. It’s worth noting that the agreement between the parties expires at the end of the next year, and Carlos Sainz has several options on the table, including Audi. But the truth is that at the top of the Spaniard’s desires is Ferrari. The former McLaren driver wants to renew and is doing everything to make it clear that he is a driver capable of aiming for more than just a stage victory.
In the eternal and redundant debate over who is stronger between Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz, it’s important to note that we are probably talking about one of the best pairs in Formula 1; a duo that is entirely complementary, where Charles Leclerc’s innate speed is balanced by the strategic vision of the Madrilenian, who once again provided a lesson on how to manage tactics and remain calm in extremely delicate moments, like the final ones where he utilized Lando Norris to stay within the DRS zone, effectively nullifying the advantage of the moveable wing of the two charging Mercedes W14 cars that were on a different race strategy. Perhaps a more rewarding one.
Ferrari is thinking about Suzuka with an eye on the future.
The Marina Bay Grand Prix is now history. Formula One is already looking ahead to the next Japanese Grand Prix, with the first green light set to shine early on Friday in Italy. We are likely to see a resurgent Red Bull after a disappointing, at times disastrous, weekend, precisely because no one expected such a dominant car to suddenly fade into anonymity, a condition exacerbated by a strangely ineffective race strategy.
At Suzuka, in a nutshell, we will find out if the ideas circulating in the paddock alluding to an RB19 influenced by Technical Directive 018 will be confirmed. Seeing a car struggling again in the lower ranks of the standings would be further confirmation of a currently unfounded suspicion.
The teams operating behind the Milton Keynes sports franchise will, therefore, try to take advantage of any further difficulties with the RB19. This is for the short term, but the more ambitious and challenging goal is to be more competitive than the Austrians starting in 2024.
Aston Martin, which has somewhat lost its way in recent times, is working in that direction. McLaren is also on this path with continuous and effective updates, as demonstrated at the Singapore Grand Prix. Mercedes, which continues to aim for second place in the constructors’ standings, is pushing the W15 project, leveraging its increasingly in-depth knowledge of the current model. The same goes for Ferrari, which, after yesterday’s victory, harbors even greater ambitions of returning to the top.
Ferrari does not follow the Mercedes model.
But the challenge lies here. In Maranello, they must stay vigilant, understanding that yesterday’s triumph came thanks to exceptional circumstances. Let’s flashback to Brazil 2022, which, in some ways, can be considered a very similar deviating event to what happened between the walls of Marina Bay. In São Paulo, almost a year ago, it was Mercedes that took advantage of a truly lackluster weekend for the Milton Keynes team, which lost its way in finding the right setup and made mistakes in the race, creating a tense moment between Max Verstappen (who refused to help his teammate) and Sergio Perez, who was in a tight race for second place in the drivers’ world championship.
That victory for Mercedes laid the conceptual foundation for what was believed to be the Zero Sidepod concept, capable of bringing the car into contention for the 2023 world championship. Mike Elliott was convinced that the slim forms, cleared of bouncing and aerodynamic pumping, could achieve the impressive time gains seen in computational analyses conducted at the factory.
A cold shower came for the Mercedes team early, during the Bahrain 2023 tests. It was then realized that the car was not able to keep up with the Red Bull, but also with other cars like the Aston Martin, which had followed the philosophical direction set by Adrian Newey the previous year.
Ferrari, in essence, must not make the same mistake. The interventions made on the SF-23 all go in the direction defined by Red Bull, namely, trying to energize the downwash effect. No secret has been made in Maranello that next year, the philosophy defined with the F1-75, first, and with the 2023 car, later, must be surpassed. Frédéric Vasseur admitted it. Charles Leclerc reiterated it just a few days ago when he spoke of a car that will change significantly in appearance but, above all, in aerodynamic principles compared to the last two.
The Italian technical staff knows well what needs to be done to close the gap with Red Bull. This is why the Singapore victory must not represent a temptation to go back on their steps, imagining that the peculiarities on which the SF-23 was based, somehow optimized, can be the cure for Ferrari’s problems.
A technical convergence is now taking place, which motorsport leaders had hypothesized when the 2022 rules were deliberated. In short,
this generation of cars works best with the principles defined by the reigning world champions. And everyone is heading in that direction at full throttle.
It is likely that in the coming years, at least until the new regulatory upheaval in 2026, we will see the field compacting more and more with the progressive reduction of dominant positions that have emerged so far. Ferrari is not aiming for dominance, neither are Mercedes nor any other competitor. The goal is to close the gap and compete even strategically, thanks to top-level drivers who have the ability to beat a phenomenon like Max Verstappen.
To increase the technical level, therefore, the Prancing Horse will change concepts that have worked well on the Red Bull and other cars, like the McLaren MCL60, abandoning the temptation to resurrect ideas that seemed winning last year but were ultimately rejected by history.
Ferrari has the example of Mercedes, which was dazzled by its own success and the late-season form of the W13. The Singapore Grand Prix should only be a stimulus to do more and a breath of fresh optimism after difficult months when certain specters began to haunt the Scuderia. Fred Vasseur is starting to make his mark.
Time was needed, Ferrari knows it, even the most impatient fans are beginning to realize it. That’s why they should not make impulsive decisions by looking at themselves. The technical path was traced long before Marina Bay, and the Red team should not deviate from it, even if, as the team hopes, more victories arrive before the Abu Dhabi finale.
Source: Diego Catalano for FUnoanalisitecnica