Ferrari has initiated comprehensive modifications to its 2023 car in a bid to rectify the erratic and often severe handling issues that have affected drivers Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc. The inconsistencies in performance have been a barrier to the drivers’ progress throughout the season.
While both Sainz and Leclerc have shown promise during qualifications with the latter clinching two pole positions, they were often seen losing pace in more challenging circuits due to the SF-23‘s high-downforce weakness. This flaw not only impacted the drivers’ confidence but further deteriorated the car’s tyre wear.
Identifying the handling problems as an inherent limitation of the existing chassis, the team is now set to focus on the development of the 2024 project which will introduce a redesigned chassis and rear end. Adding momentum to their preparations for the upcoming racing year, Ferrari has started utilizing the Friday first practice as a test session, experimenting with various set-ups before finalizing a track-specific arrangement.
There’s a potential downside to this approach – it could potentially jeopardize Ferrari‘s position in the 2023 constructors’ championship where it competes against Mercedes and Aston Martin for the second spot. Yet, Sainz supports this shift in focus towards the 2024 season. He told F1 Initiative, “Don’t get me wrong, there is still a constructors’ championship to fight with Mercedes and Aston Martin for. We still believe we can come out on top if we do a perfect job, but there is also the fact that we need to use these practice sessions to keep trying things.”
He indicated a clear understanding of the enhancements needed for the next year’s car. However, the challenge lies in the execution of those changes. “We are fully focused now on the simulator, in the wind tunnel and in the free practices, taking time to still keep experimenting with things to make sure that we have everything covered for next year’s car,” he added.
Sainz also emphasized the value of proper assessment and learning from every circuit. There are circuits that may not provide much insight but others could offer crucial learning opportunities he said.
Despite fervent on-track experiments during FP1, Sainz maintains, Ferrari needs to trust its development mechanism at Maranello, which he claims has facilitated substantial in-season progress. “In the end, the best tooling is still the simulations, the simulator, the wind tunnel. On-track, you just put on the pieces that we think are going to make things better, but it is very difficult to measure things,” said the Spanish driver.
He also pointed out that the constant change in tyre options during practice sessions, from medium to soft, could distort the effectiveness of their tests. This underscores the need for a holistic trust in their process, simulations, and feedback from the drivers. As Sainz concluded, “When we drive, it is pretty crystal clear what we need for next year. Now we need to see if we can put everything together and produce a better car.”