After the improvement at the beginning of the summer, in Silverstone and Budapest, Scuderia Ferrari didn’t find the expected results regarding the performance of the SF-23 evo and the introduced updates. A decline that, in fact, sets the red car back and behind teams like Aston Martin, Mercedes, and McLaren, which seem to have surpassed it, and, above all, nullifies months of work.
The SF-23, in practice, underperformed in Hungary, not being at the level of its rivals and not allowing the drivers to have the confidence to push and maximize the result. At the finish line, indeed, Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz had to settle for seventh and eighth place: a disappointing result, stemming from a car that, despite the favorable characteristics of the Hungaroring, was never fast and brought to light known issues of the vehicle. A second downfall in twenty days that the Scuderia is determined not to confirm and for which a quick solution must be found to salvage the season.
The disappointing race causes have been analyzed by Italian motorsport journalist Franco Nugnes for Motorsport Italy. First of all, the Italian emphasized how evidently there are problems between the simulations (which predicted pole position and a strong-performing car) and the reality on the track.
“Charles Leclerc seventh and Carlos Sainz eighth. The Scuderia has suffered its second embarrassment. […] The Hungaroring was supposed to be the ideal theater, so much so that pole position was mentioned. […] The simulations had seemed positive, but between the virtual world and the reality of the Maranello team, evidently there are too many… dreams that don’t match with the truth.” – he pointed out.
The lack of correlation seems to be primarily due to a flawed SF-23 that cannot perform as well as in the “virtual” world. Furthermore, it emerges that the team, from race to race, proves to be inept in setting up the car and extracting its potential.
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“If the problem is the SF-23, then it doesn’t make sense to spend money, energy to develop it. But, if as Fred Vasseur suggests, the red car has performance that doesn’t materialize, it means that it’s the people who don’t understand how to set up the car on the track. Then, it is necessary to intervene on the structure to prevent today’s problems from being the same tomorrow.” – the journalist believes.
These problems, in fact, lead the Ferrari car to never digest changes during the season, be it weather, tires, or other factors.
“Is it possible that even the slightest change could disrupt the puzzle? Is it possible that any variation from Pirelli never provides an advantage? Is it possible that the wind makes the SF-23 uncontrollable?”
Not only that, as from the Budapest qualifying (where the Alfa Romeo, with the same engine, surpassed the red car), there are also critical areas in some aspects of the car that were never considered critical until now, such as the mechanics.
“How is it possible that two Alfa Romeos without updates surround the best of the reds: some may have wondered why Zhou and Bottas finished fifth and seventh, sandwiching Charles Leclerc’s SF-23? We are talking about cars with the same engine, comparable in terms of chassis, suspensions, and aerodynamics. Top team against customer team. This is disappointing […]. The feeling is that the problem is not only aerodynamic but also involves the rest of the car that is often considered competitive.”
According to Franco Nugnes, these problems stem from the fear of making mistakes that prevails within the team, resulting in an approach focused on just completing the task without daring ideas that could lead to significant improvements.
“It is evident that there is a disease within the Racing Department: as long as they have to complete the task, everything is fine, but as soon as something changes, there is a crisis. This is not an F1 approach. It is impossible to think of winning again. […] The weakness of individuals who cannot handle the responsibilities they are given is evident. Living in fear of making mistakes leads to playing it safe. If preserving their positions is the priority, conservative choices will be the basis of decisions. Losers…”
These issues will inevitably need to be addressed, either by introducing new individuals or through an immediate change in mentality, to ensure that the 2024 red car does not replicate the same problems as the SF-23.
“[…] Loic Serra, director of performance at Mercedes, will bring new energy and ideas for the 2025 red car. […] Cardile, who will receive the position of technical director, cannot be left alone in this phase: the project for the Ferrari 2024 is starting and it needs reinforcements.”