While Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc couldn’t halt the Red Bull‘s success as they once again took the 1-2 finish, their ability to go head-to-head with F1‘s top team was an achievement in its own right after a challenging 2023 season. While the jubilant tifosi was delighted with Ferrari‘s performance, the spectral question of the value of this performance in Italy for the future still lingers.
Was this performance just a one-off in an attempt to gain a home advantage, or does it signify a long-term improvement with its SF-23 car? Ferrari didn’t hold back for the race in Monza. It unveiled a unique Monza wing with a flatter mainplane than other teams would typically select for their current generation of cars. Red Bull opted to hold back on introducing an entirely new wing package, choosing to just trim the upper flap.
Additionally, the team decided to use new power units, well aware that fresh engines often deliver more power. Rumours floated around the paddock that Ferrari had opted to push these units to their maximum power, which was dismissed by Vasseur. He stated in a firm tone, “We didn’t take more risks than Zandvoort.”
The team reaped the rewards of their efforts, and it was Ferrari‘s best performance of the year. The team took advantage of the lower downforce levels where the SF-23 seems to excel. This trend was especially noticeable at tracks with lower wing levels like Austria, Montreal, Canada and Spa-Francorchamps.
Ferrari‘s performance has seen highs and lows throughout the back-to-back weekends at Zandvoort and Monza. The car has proven to be more consistent in lower downforce levels, leading to increased driver confidence. However, this gain may be temporary, as higher wing levels at tracks like Singapore and Japan would likely see the team slip down the ranks again as teams such as Mercedes and Aston Martin vie for the top spots behind Red Bull.
Vasseur expressed his confidence that the 2023 pattern may alter soon, despite the odds. He noted that work carried out during the Dutch GP led to new set-up directions that may enable Sainz and Leclerc to shine, even at higher downforce tracks.
Vasseur pointed out that they had carried out tests during the Dutch GP to better comprehend their struggles with high downforce. However, he acknowledged, “But to understand, it’s one thing and to fix it, it’s another one. But at least we are trying to have a better understanding of the situation.”
The team understands the varying performance of the SF-23, although they’re holding their cards close to their chest. Jock Clear, Leclerc’s driver coach, refused to give away details but hinted at a broader understanding of the issues – asserting the complexity extended beyond straight-line speed.
Clear said, “Even if you look at Austria, or look at Spa, it wasn’t like we were only competitive on the straights, or we were just managing the hang on around the corners. We were competitive everywhere.”
Clear commented, “The kerb riding has been really good, because we worked on that for this event, and I think we can carry that forward. But I think we’re just going to take each race at a time.” However, he recognized that matching their performance in Monza consistently, particularly at very high downforce tracks like Singapore, would be challenging.
“That said, it’s not going to be a race we’re going to go to and look at this level of performance straightaway – unless we make some big improvements!” Clear concluded.