We’ve known the pattern since the summer break. Ferrari is fast on a lap, but no longer a challenger for Red Bull in terms of race pace. Spa-Francorchamps was the exception. Ferrari didn’t even have a chance in qualifying there, where Max Verstappen was in a league of his own.
Suzuka demands the same from the car. Not as pronounced, but an efficient package is also important on the 5.807-kilometre circuit. Both Ferrari drivers could have been on pole. They lost the Thousandth Thriller because their tires were already wearing out in the last sector of their flying lap.
The S-curves, the ultra-long spoon corner and the 130R put pressure on the tires. On Sunday it rained during the race and again, after a few laps, the F1-75 car started to put too much strain on its Pirelli tires. “Charles attacked in full. He quickly destroyed his tires. We have to look at that with him as a team to understand what we can do better,” says team boss Mattia Binotto.
It was like Singapore. Charles Leclerc initially kept up with Sergio Perez on the intermediates and gradually fell behind. Against Max Verstappen he even lost over 27 seconds at the end of the Suzuka race. “We were very fast for the first four or five laps after the restart. Unfortunately, the race is longer. It was just about surviving somehow,” explained Charles Leclerc.
Ferrari eats intermediate front tires
Charles Leclerc’s front tires were completely worn out at the finish. Of course, Max Verstappen had an advantage. The world champion drove with a clear view ahead. At the front you compete in a different race. It’s better to divide up the tires and take care of them in certain corners. The pursuer has to somehow see how he can keep up and, in the best case, even overtake. In this situation, one must not be too cautious. Charles Leclerc also had the slightly smaller wing on the car. Less downforce, equals more slipping, equals more wear.
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And yet Ferrari has to deal with the tire situation. In the first half of the 2022 Formula 1 season, the F1-75 car wasn’t a tire eater after all. It only became like this after the summer break, ever since the FIA introduced Technical Directive TD039, which officially has the goal of avoiding bouncing and better protecting the plank under the floor. The wear of the floor and its rigidity are controlled more precisely. In the paddock, it is said that Ferrari then had to rebuild, which robbed the car of driving comfort.
The rumors say that there was a small gap between the floor and the chassis before. And there, a special filling material is said to have improved the damping. According to this theory, this made the F1-75 more immune against bumps. Is that true? Only Ferrari and the FIA inspectors know that 100 percent. One thing is certain: the performance drop in tire management and the TD came at the same time. Ferrari is finding it increasingly difficult to dismiss the connection. Rival teams claim to have observed that the F1-75 has to be driven at a higher ride height now. This costs downforce and balance.
New Ferrari floor works
Ferrari had improved the floor for the Japanese GP. The team boss is satisfied. “It works as we expected,” says Mattia Binotto. “We tested it in the rain on Friday. We were able to gather limited experience there. We learned more in the third practice session on a dry track. The data confirm the development step.”
It’s not due to the lack of speed. “The pace for one lap is there. We now have to see what we can do differently with tire management.” Charles Leclerc would probably have been on pole if he had a fresh engine instead of an older one. GPS data reveals that the Monegasque lost some time to his teammate Carlos Sainz on the straights, who could use the power unit at maximum power. The Maranello team will most likely use a new power unit on the F1-75 car of Charles Leclerc for the last four races of the 2022 Formula 1 season and Austin would be a good place for it taking into consideration the fact that the Monegasque driver would have to start from the back of the grid.
According to a recent report from German automobile magazine Auto Motor und Sport, both Ferrari drivers avoided the kerbs (taking them lightly) in Suzuka. The competition was more aggressive here. It could be related to the engine reliability issues and the fact that the Italian six-cylinder turbo doesn’t like being shaken up too much. The valves are said to cause problems. The old strength on kerbs that the F1-75 car had in the first part of the season has also disappeared.