The third and fourth-place finishes in Monza have lifted the spirits of the Scuderia, following the bitter disappointment of Zandvoort. The upcoming GP in Singapore doesn’t promise much, as the Marina Bay circuit demands maximum downforce just like in the Netherlands and Hungary, where the SF-23 performed poorly. Fans of the Prancing Horse, therefore, shouldn’t expect to see the red cars competing with Red Bull, even though the engineers, utilizing Pirelli tire tests at Fiorano, have been searching for a suitable rear wing setup for the upcoming race.
Singapore like Zandvoort? It’s possible, but not certain. Ferrari has regained confidence and credibility with Carlos Sainz’s podium finish in Monza. The Italian Grand Prix, with the two red cars right behind the two Red Bulls of Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez, has partially reconciled the Scuderia with its fans, who believed in the Spanish driver’s pole position and flocked to the Temple of Speed’s stands at the last minute, celebrating a third-place finish as if it were a victory.
Indeed, the Maranello team cannot aspire to anything more, as the superiority of Red Bull is simply embarrassing, and, as we have pointed out, the world champion team played with the red cars like a cat with a mouse.
But the good news is that Ferrari earned 27 championship points on Monza’s long straights, allowing them to overtake Aston Martin for third place in the Constructors’ World Championship standings. Catching up to Mercedes for a shot at the second-place team might seem ambitious, but stabilizing the performance of the SF-23, avoiding those unsettling highs and lows that have characterized the red car’s season, would be crucial. This rollercoaster pattern has also affected the Silverstone team, as well as McLaren and Alpine.
The Scuderia was caught off guard by Zandvoort: on the Dutch circuit, which demands maximum downforce and has characteristics similar to the Hungaroring, the SF-23 suffered a disappointing performance, much like it did along the Danube. At Max’s house, Ferrari plunged into trouble, failing to find aerodynamic balance: a medium downforce rear wing was mounted on the red car, while a maximum downforce configuration, as chosen by everyone else, was needed. This choice was not deliberate because the stopwatch clearly indicated that the less resistant solution was significantly faster in terms of performance, as the high downforce profile only generated drag due to the inefficiency of the rear-end aerodynamics.
The comparative tests conducted during Friday’s free practice sessions proved useful not only to provide indications for the 2024 car being worked on by Technical Director Enrico Cardile but also to determine how to approach the rest of the season. Singapore, on paper, is expected to be a challenging weekend, and simulations suggest that we shouldn’t expect a brilliant Ferrari like the one in Monza, but perhaps we won’t see a disappointing one like the Dutch performance.
What encourages the engineers in this moderate optimism? The fact that on Tuesday and Wednesday, the Scuderia conducted wet tire tests at Fiorano, using a high downforce aerodynamic configuration, a combination of solutions already seen during the championship. While no technical innovations can be introduced during tire development testing, only parts that have been previously used, Ferrari was able to collect valuable data that could influence the choices to be made for Marina Bay. It’s not unlikely that for the night race in Singapore, the SF-23 will feature some new elements to find the necessary balance for the car, even with a more loaded rear wing.
As in Monza, Maranello’s intention is to avoid making proclamations and instead approach the next race with a low profile. However, the ambition is to put the two drivers in a position to drive a car less complicated than the one in Zandvoort, thereby restoring some confidence to Charles Leclerc, who prefers a car with a responsive front end and a somewhat playful rear. In the Netherlands, the Monegasque driver struggled with a very unpredictable behavior, alternating between understeer and oversteer, which eroded his confidence and led to a series of errors.
Singapore, therefore, will be a key test of the Scuderia’s ability to extract the maximum potential from a car that struggles with high-speed corners and low speeds. Fans shouldn’t get their hopes up, but at least they can hope not to witness another embarrassment.