The two Ferrari SF-23 cars couldn’t maximize their weekend. The initial statement arises from the fact that, after a pole on Friday, the result is quite disappointing. The Prancing Horse exits the weekend once again with a bitter taste, and to make matters worse, number 16 faces disqualification for excessive skid block consumption. At least Carlos Sainz, the author of a dignified race, gains a position and steps onto the podium following Lewis Hamilton’s punishment for consuming the wooden plank excessively, similar to the Monegasque driver.
Taking a closer look with our customary analysis, we examine the tire summary table for the 2023 United States Grand Prix. These data are crucial for a better understanding of the strategies that unfolded in this star-spangled championship event. Notably, none of the top drivers attempted to preserve a set of new Soft tires for the race. When it comes to Medium and Hard tires, however, the approach was notably different.
The preferred starting compound was the yellow-banded Pirelli. Simulations, in fact, identified the two-stop strategy as the most favorable option, utilizing the Hard tire in the middle stint and the Medium in the two remaining stints. Right from the start, Ferrari faced challenges in tire management, including pure pace and temperature control. Lando Norris and Lewis Hamilton established a significant gap over the Ferrari driver, with Verstappen closing in. During the initial stint, overall tire degradation was significantly lower than anticipated, leading to adjustments in tire models to conduct in-session simulations.
Around the 15th lap, Norris was informed that Hamilton was closing in, suggesting a change in strategy: “Plan A+5,” which meant delaying the pit stop by five laps. Charles, in agreement with the pit wall, considering that tire consumption wasn’t terrible, opted for “Plan B”: a one-stop strategy. Verstappen was the first to pit on lap 17, attempting an undercut by switching to Hard tires to keep the single-stop option open.
In the following lap, Lando Norris also headed to the pits. The McLaren driver chose the white-banded Pirelli, while Hamilton extended his stint in the hopes of benefiting from a potential Safety Car period and gaining a tire-life advantage in the next stint. The seven-time champion aimed to push but made a driving error, pitting on lap 20 to switch to the Hard compound, rejoining the race behind the reigning three-time world champion. The only advantage was having tires three laps fresher. However, this choice ultimately proved to be incorrect, even though it made sense as a race strategy.
Ferrari SF-23: Poor pace, confused working range management
Next, we present a graph detailing Hamilton’s performance in the initial stint compared to Verstappen. A quick glance reveals that the seven-time champion maintained a higher pace than the Red Bull driver for several laps. However, as they approached the first pit stop, their paces became similar, leading Max to opt for an early pit stop strategy through the pit lane. During these four laps, he was able to push hard, executing the planned undercut due to Lewis’s driving error.
Meanwhile, Charles Leclerc tried to postpone his pit stop as much as possible. This was done despite the strategists having no data in their hands, and the pace of his SF-23 was far from impressive. The idea, in hindsight, was to attempt something different to salvage a race that seemed to be heading in the wrong direction. However, this plan ultimately didn’t change the outcome. Although the Monegasque driver managed his tires cautiously, as he pointed out on the final team radio, there was no sense in being satisfied with tire management when the result was less than desirable.
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Returning to the race, the Ferrari driver eventually pitted on lap 24. The mechanics fitted a brand-new set of Hard tires to the Ferrari. Upon returning to the track, Charles Leclerc had to follow the Red Bull of the Mexican driver. As for Carlos Sainz’s race, the Maranello team opted for a double tire change, equipping the number 55 car with a set of yellow-banded Pirelli tires, on which the Spaniard pushed significantly without underperforming.
Taking a broader perspective, we can conclude that, on the whole, Lewis Norris, who took the lead from Charles Leclerc after overtaking on the first lap, was equally quick as Lewis Hamilton. Max Verstappen’s Red Bull was, on average, a tenth of a second slower during this period, which involved Max completing several overtakes. Both Ferrari cars had an average delay of around five tenths of a second per lap compared to the competitors analyzed, a pace that was far from the estimated performance and ultimately hampered the race.
In the following laps, the drivers managed their advantages, while the young talent from Hasselt pushed hard to recover and attempt to win the race by overtaking Lando Norris. The RB19 seemed to have very few overheating issues, especially at the rear. This was a significant advantage that allowed the Red Bull driver to press the accelerator without too many concerns.
In the second stint, we notice that the McLaren number 4 experienced substantial tire degradation on the medium tires, to the extent that they weren’t chosen for the final part of the race. Furthermore, their pace was not competitive when compared to Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen on Hard tires. Lewis Hamilton, despite running slower than the Dutchman, suffered less tire wear. As for Charles Leclerc’s SF-23, as we know, he attempted to extend the first part of the race in hopes of achieving a benefit that unfortunately didn’t materialize.
Norris pitted on lap 35 to switch to the white-banded Pirelli, followed the next lap by Max, who opted for the same compound. Lewis Hamilton, on the other hand, extended for only two more laps, as advised by the strategy group. Carlos Sainz also made his stop on lap 36, switching to the Hard tire and aiming straight for the finish line while keeping Sergio Perez behind, a successful operation. The SF-23 number 55 worked well on this compound, offering a slightly more permissive working range for temperature control in the United States Grand Prix.
Source: Alessandro Arcari and Niccoló Arnerich for FUnoanalisitecnica