The Ferrari SF-23, an imperfect car that, in the hands of Charles Leclerc, secures the pole position. The Maranello team returns to pole position after the last one obtained in Singapore. Car number 16 clinches the best time by making the most of the vehicle’s mechanics, the lower aerodynamic configuration, and a far-from-flawless Verstappen. Handling with the red tires has improved significantly, providing precision and rotation during corner entry.
For once, the Dutchman didn’t show himself to be “inhuman,” making an error related to the ever-tedious track limits in turn 19. The three-time reigning world champion experienced an oversteer moment on the exit of the turn, causing his RB19 to slide beyond the white line. Hamilton’s performance was very good, once again displaying a strong connection with the American track. The updates to the bottom of the W14 appear to be working well, providing a higher level of downforce generated by the car’s body.
US Grand Prix 2023/Telemetric Analysis S1: Ferrari SF-23 defends well in turns, Mercedes has the best downforce
The telemetric analysis of the first sector shows that Ferrari has the highest top speed in turn 1. Norris and Leclerc have a very similar approach to the first braking point. The Monegasque gains an advantage by braking later and effectively using traction. Hamilton adopts a different line through the corner, sacrificing exit speed for better braking.
In the snake section in the first sector, Charles and Lando enter with the same speed, 282 km/h, although Norris behaves better with his car afterward. The throttle graph highlights that the W14 has higher downforce levels. As confirmed by onboard footage, Mercedes is more precise and aggressive on the curbs of fast corners. The seven-time champion has better top and low speeds in turns 5, 6, 7, and can maintain full throttle in turn 4.
US Grand Prix 23/Telemetric Analysis S2: Ferrari SF-23 makes a difference with a lighter rear wing, achieving higher top speeds
The central sector begins with the braking point for turn 7, where the black king manages to carry 12 km/h more speed compared to the other two analyzed drivers. Norris is more effective in the exit of turn 8, a corner where he carries 5 km/h more speed than the Monegasque. In this case, the young Englishman made a precise decision regarding the racing line, preferring to lose pace in the middle of the snake to have a good exit line between turns 8 and 9 and, consequently, approach the short straight to turn 11 as effectively as possible.
The straight between turns 11 and 12 makes Ferrari’s choice clear. The team opted for a rear setup with less downforce. The aim was to defend in the twisting section to minimize drag in the straights. It’s noticeable that Leclerc has the greatest speed difference in this section, fully taking advantage of the DRS.
In terms of traction, the driver of the red car performs the best thanks to the characteristics of his SF-23, which excels in slow corners. The Monegasque approaches the braking point for turn 12 with the best top speed, efficiently accelerating on exit. Once again, we see a different style between the Norris-Leclerc pair, with Hamilton consistently braking and accelerating later.
US Grand Prix 23/Telemetric Analysis S3: Leclerc could have lost the pole with his SF-23 due to an error at turn 19
The third sector confirms what was described earlier. Car number 44 sets the corners with a consistently late apex. The young Brit from McLaren, just like the Ferrari driver, has a very similar driving style. However, the 21-year-old from the red camp is more effective in braking and traction phases. The red circle highlights an error by Charles in turn 19, an aspect that would have cost the Monegasque the pole without Max’s lap cancellation.
The Ferrari driver, in fact, was forced to “give up” almost 15 km/h of speed through the corner due to a mistake in the line, which created instability in the car. It’s interesting to note how the chosen setup for the SF-23 grants the Italian car excellent cornering performance. It’s evident that in the sequence of turns 16, 17, 18, and 19, the red line of speed exceeds the others.
US Grand Prix 23/FP1 vs. Q3 Telemetric Analysis: the guided section in the first sector allows for most of the time gain
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To delve even more specifically into the performance of the pole-sitter, we can make a comprehensive comparison of the performance evolution between FP1 and Q3. This improvement is influenced by numerous factors, with the main ones being the setup upgrades between the two sessions, a more powerful power unit, track evolution, and the driver’s learning of the circuit. Charles improved by about a second and a half between the two sessions.
It’s observed that during practice, all corners are approached with a minimum speed up to 10 km/h lower. The most significant difference is seen in the turns of the first sector, which are approached with greater confidence and a better qualifying setup. On the straight, the hybrid power unit in Q3 is felt, focusing on the small gap between speed curves in the straights (such as the one between turns 11 and 12).
The better tire grip allows for a faster transition to full throttle, involving a few tenths of a second between the two sessions. The mapping of the propulsion system also comes into play. With the engines fixed to specific settings by regulation, the management of this aspect is crucial at different stages of the weekend, especially during practice.
In conclusion, a thought: the lack of high-fuel practice doesn’t allow us to understand what this Ferrari pole might transform into. The less loaded rear wing could favor excessive wheel spin and thus more tire wear. However, the compromise with a more stable front car could mitigate oversteer, ensuring better tire management.
Source: Leonardo Pasqual and Alessandro Arcari for FUnoanalisitecnica