If Scuderia Ferrari Monegasque driver Charles Leclerc is wrong to claim that the SF-23 at the start of the 2023 Formula 1 season did what they expected in Maranello, he is right when he talks about setting the development goals too low.
The front suspension is precisely one of those macro areas where the Italian side had invested a lot of resources and thought they had taken the right path, only to realize that Red Bull and Aston Martin, right from the start of the 2023 Formula 1 season, and Mercedes from Monte Carlo, had made much more significant progress. The result was a car with a more limited front end compared to the competition. The same goes for the chassis, which remained the same as the F1-75. The late regulatory changes in August 2022 certainly didn’t help in terms of timing, both for Ferrari and Mercedes, which stuck with the same chassis from the previous season. These chassis had significant limitations, especially in the case of Ferrari, with a high intrusion cone that limited a certain gain between the central and rear parts of the car. But even the rear end was no less, with too pronounced bouncing, which also limited the setup and performance of the SF-23.
All of this with less downforce produced by the car, which, in high-downforce configuration, accentuated all these flaws, causing big headaches for drivers and engineers. Ferrari had to run a medium-to-high aerodynamic load configuration at Zandvoort when the track required a level similar to Monaco-Budapest. The high-downforce package is causing problems for the Italian team because, as Carlos Sainz stated, “it’s not working as it should.”
Last week, Ferrari used the tests organized by Pirelli to gather useful information and try to identify and interpret the problem after an initial data collection during the first free practice sessions of the Dutch GP. What is happening at the Maranello team is not entirely new to Formula 1, as something similar happened in the past with Red Bull, both with the RB16 and the RB16B. Red Bull reacted in the winter between 2020 and 2021 by using the tokens available at the time to make significant changes to the rear of their car, as pointed out by F1 experts Piergiuseppe Donadoni & Paolo D’Alessandro for the Italian website formu1a.uno.
What is already underway in Maranello is a complete restyling of the rear of the SF-23. “The 2024 car will be a revolution compared to the SF-23, not an evolution,” as Enrico Cardile, the technical head of the project, has already stated in recent days. This is because it will feature a new chassis, as well as significant innovations in the rear suspension and transmission. This is where the greatest gains are found during the winter, especially in this new era of budget caps. Of course, without forgetting the front end, and the redesign of the chassis will help in this regard compared to the freezing of development chosen last winter.