Despite taking pole position for the 2023 Formula 1 Azerbaijan Grand Prix last weekend, Charles Leclerc was unable to hold off the faster Red Bull cars of Sergio Perez and Max Verstappen during the race at the Baku City Circuit as Ferrari had to focus on conserving their tyres and defending against the Aston Martin of Fernando Alonso.
Charles Leclerc managed to secure a podium finish in third place behind the two Red Bull drivers, but his 21-second gap from the leaders highlighted Scuderia Ferrari’s need to improve their performance especially in terms of race. With this in mind, team principal Frederic Vasseur stated that the Maranello team’s upgrade program will begin to show results at the upcoming Miami Grand Prix, with additional smaller updates scheduled for the upcoming European races, especially at the Imola circuit and two races later in Spain.
“We will start to bring updates on the car from Miami and for the next couple of events and we will see how the car will react to the updates. The update is one thing but the fact that you are able to extract all of the potential out of the update is another one.” – the French manager pointed out.
Ferrari boss Frederic Vasseur refused to be pressed on whether the Italian side’s shortfall is exclusively due to mechanical issues or if there is an aerodynamic aspect involved. Although he thought Ferrari should not deceive itself regarding its performance, he did see the SF-23 car’s more predictable performance as a positive move forward. The Frenchman continued:
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“Overall, they were faster than us and we don’t have to bullshit ourselves,’ he explained – “Then to understand if it is coming from aero or mechanical is another story. I think so far what is obvious is that we are struggling with consistency. It’s true this weekend, all over the lap, all over the corners and all over the race. [But] I think the car was much more consistent this weekend and we are going in the right direction.”
One of Scuderia Ferrari’s key development areas is attempting to understand how their rivals are able to gain such a big advantage when using the DRS overtaking system, their main strength in this start of the 2023 Formula One campaign, which allowed the Red Bull RB19 cars to easily overtake Charles Leclerc’s SF-23 car last weekend on on the straights. In complete opposition, other cars encountered many difficulties in passing due to Baku’s shortened DRS zone.
“Clearly, one of the strengths of the Red Bull today is the DRS effect. We need to understand what they’re doing and I think we’re on it. We compensated part of the gap compared to last year, because it was already the case last year, but we still have mega room for improvement.” – the Frenchman pointed out, ahead of the next round of the season, the Miami Grand Prix.
According to Frederic Vasseur, the new sprint format in Formula 1, which was introduced last weekend at the Baku City Circuit, forced teams to bring smaller upgrades and to consider the type of circuit on which they will deploy them during the season. With only one hour of free practice, it is difficult for teams to make significant changes during sprint weekends, and even maximizing the potential of their current package is a difficult challenge.
“The format of the weekend means it is difficult to get the potential that I think is there. It is difficult with this format to introduce an update on the car, but it is the same for everybody and it is part of the game. It is true we will have to consider this in the approach for the next couple of events. Monaco is not the best place to develop the car, so we will bring small updates. This format pushes the teams to bring small updates and not to bring a big package.” – the Ferrari boss concluded.