After the first 57 laps of the 2023 Formula 1 Bahrain Grand Prix at the Sakhir circuit we had the first real feedback on the strengths, weaknesses and gaps between the various teams that make up the 2023 F1 starting grid.
There was a lot of talk about the progress of Red Bull and Aston Martin over the course of the weekend but more also comes out with an in-depth analysis of the telemetry data. Both in qualifying and in the race, Williams also made excellent steps forward, just as Alfa Romeo confirmed last year’s good start to the season. McLaren, on the other hand, lost ground while Alpine is the team that hasn’t expressed part of its potential in this first weekend of the 2023 F1 season.
Ferrari, telemetry is clear with SF-23: same problems seen a few months ago
With the same compound in the first stint, Charles Leclerc had a pace deficit of a delay of 7 tenths per lap against Max Verstappen. Thus, after a handful of laps, the victory of the Dutch world champion was no longer in question. In the second phase of the race, albeit on different strategies, the gap between Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc remained at six tenths per lap.
Apart from the reliability problems encountered after just a few km, what is most worrying is that the behavior of the SF-23, which was the same as seen on the F1-75 after the introduction of Technical Directive 39/22, albeit with completely different characteristics: good speed on a flying lap on Saturday, but difficulty in race pace due to a lack of grip at medium and low speed corners which induces poor tire management. The telemetric comparison between some fast laps of the first and second stints look like a copy and paste of the last races of 2022.
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The low drag of the Maranello car is also clear in the race with high fuel, less dependent on the Power Unit than last year, but what is even more evident is the difference in load between the Red Bull RB19 and the Ferrari. In qualifying, the extra grip of the soft tire manages to hide some of the negative characteristics of the SF-23 in the medium and low speed sections, but as often happens, in the race the problems become evident.
Frederic Vasseur has stressed many times in recent months that “the world championship will last 23 races and it won’t go in one direction or the other after the race in Bahrain” but mending such an important gap in a short time seems like a very difficult challenge, especially considering that it was not reduced even during the winter. The next two races will be able to give us more clues about the difficulties of the Maranello car; only after that will we be able to have a clearer picture, as explained by F1 expert Andrea Vergani for formu1a.uno.
Comparing the pace of the F1-75 and the SF-23 in the first two stints of the respective races in Bahrain shows how Charles Leclerc had a pace just a few thousandths (3 to be exact) better than last year’s car. An alarming figure especially if you consider that Red Bull has improved by more than seven tenths compared to the first two stints of last season.