Not even a revised format just two hours before qualifying could stop Max Verstappen from officially clinching his third consecutive World Championship title, a first-time feat in the history of Formula 1 accomplished during a sprint race. Another bright star, Oscar Piastri, seems to have ignited in an unusual weekend due to the Federation’s decisions. They were forced to revise and modify the qualifying schedule with a ten-minute session dedicated to “familiarization” with the track. In this chaos, it’s Ferrari that seems to have missed out.
Adaptability and interpreting tire behavior were the key elements that allowed the Milton Keynes spacecraft to demonstrate its dominance, even when facing difficulties on an unusual track like Qatar, even if Max Verstappen was the only driver to compete from that team.
It’s been another challenging night for the Scuderia Ferrari in the shootout qualifying sessions preceding the sprint race. Both Ferrari drivers confirmed the problems that had already emerged on Friday, particularly the difficulty in finding a clean lap without exceeding track limits. It was, therefore, impossible to push the car to the limit and try to secure a strong performance in the final qualifying session before the sprint race.
Ferrari SF-23: A Necessary Tire Sacrifice
On paper and without many surprises, the SF-23 has shown several times that it’s a car with two faces when it comes to a single flying lap and race pace. The first 100 km race today, however, revealed a car that had, in recent events, trended positively towards showing its better side. Almost surprisingly, the two Ferrari drivers managed to make their mark with a good start on the red tires, a choice that, unfortunately, did not pay off in the end, primarily due to the impact of the three unexpected Safety Car periods and tire management.
The C3 tires were the culprits that let down both Ferrari drivers, forcing them to concede positions to both McLaren and Mercedes. At the end of the session, there was no relief for Leclerc, who had to serve a 5-second penalty due to track limits, which seem to have particularly troubled the Monegasque driver this weekend. With the 13th position confirmed, Leclerc, however, declared that he made the right decision regarding the tire choice, using the reds and sacrificing the sprint race to protect the race strategy for tomorrow.
On the other hand, Carlos Sainz, who finished in sixth place, emphasized that the choice of fitting the soft tires was simply a way to preserve a potentially different scenario for today. He also added that the windy conditions could be a significant uncertainty for everyone.
In the Saturday of the Arabian desert, Formula One celebrates the third star of a driver who never seems to be satiated by victories, despite being challenged at the start and then forced to make a comeback to second place. A small triumph for Australian Oscar Piastri, which bodes well for the future of the sport and opens the doors to what is expected to be an unpredictable race.
Tire management will be the key factor, not only for the Ferrari team, which has been struggling with this puzzle for some time, but also for any other team not named Red Bull. What was witnessed yesterday is proof that this track makes no concessions, especially due to its characteristics, which have already created several challenges within the F1 world.
The SF-23 car will have to defend their points and positions not only from the Silver Arrows but also from the two orange cars of Woking, which are experiencing a remarkable resurgence, with the awareness that a podium today in the Qatar Grand Prix could remain a mere hypothesis.
Source: Vanessa Caputo for FUnoanalisitecnica