Ferrari‘s biggest weakness against Red Bull in the current Formula 1 season lies in managing tyres over a race stint, according to the Italian team. Although Ferrari made strides in unlocking better race pace in Australia and secured pole position for Baku’s sprint and main grand prix, Red Bull proved too strong in long runs. However, Charles Leclerc‘s late surge during the Baku GP raised eyebrows, even catching the attention of Red Bull‘s Max Verstappen, who questioned Leclerc in the pre-podium driver room after the race. Leclerc‘s fast lap towards the end of the race suggested there was still potential left in his tyres.
Despite the late pace, Ferrari boss Fred Vasseur believes that the picture in Baku has been blurred by tyre management tactics, explaining that Leclerc carefully managed the tyres early so that they would have more performance left late on. In contrast, Red Bull‘s Sergio Perez and Verstappen pushed their rubber past their best by running flat out. At the end of the race, Red Bull was faster than Ferrari, but Vasseur believes that Leclerc‘s tyre management gave his team an advantage.
Leclerc confirmed that he purposely took it easy after the safety car stops to better manage his tyres, having paid the price for pushing too hard in the sprint as he tried to chase eventual winner Sergio Perez. He added that tyre management had a significant impact on the team’s performance, and that the SF-23 had not shown enough performance so far.
The SF-23‘s struggles in reconciling its single-lap pace with longitudinal performance suggest that the car’s issues are more about set-up approaches rather than aerodynamics. Vasseur acknowledged that the team is struggling with consistency, but he thinks the team is going in the right direction.