It wasn’t a good weekend for Scuderia Ferrari at the Miami Grand Prix and both teammates have admitted that the SF-23’s inconsistencies are causing havoc during the race. There aren’t so many reliability issues as we saw with last year’s F1-75, instead the SF-23 isn’t behaving at all the way it should going so far as to change its character within a corner.
Red Bull team principal, Christian Horner, is surprised that the grid is so far behind them in 2023.
“We’ve made a normal step, or what we thought, over the winter, and I think it’s more where did Ferrari and Mercedes go?” he said.
Where Did Ferrari Go?
It’s a sentiment many fans are feeling and Ferrari have explained what’s going on to the best of their knowledge.
“We were far too inconsistent from one car to the other and from one lap to the other,” said Ferrari team principal Frederic Vasseur.
These problems were especially present at the Miami Grand Prix where each driver preferred one tyre over the other.
“For Charles, we had much more performance on the Hards,” said Vasseur, “and with Carlos, much more performance on the Medium – and even with the same tyres from one lap to the other, we are a bit inconsistent.”
For a more blunt reason as to why the SF-23 is struggling, refer to the clip below.
It’s gotten to the point that both drivers vented to the media after the race to explain the strange difficulties they are facing. Charles Leclerc spilled the beans first.
“It was really difficult,” he said. “We were just speaking with Carlos and we basically agreed that we have a car that is so incredibly difficult to be on the limit and on my side, I don’t know what was going on but in the high-speed, I had the car moving a lot.
“Not from the rear, but just the overall platform of the car was touching like crazy, so we will check the car and everything, but it didn’t feel great.”
Leclerc explained that the window of the car is incredibly narrow and “whenever you get a little bit out, it has huge consequences on the balance and it’s from one corner to the other, and even in one corner, sometimes you can have huge understeer, which goes to huge oversteer, and this is obviously not ideal to have confidence in the car.”
There are several upgrades coming for the SF-23 with some being introduced in Miami while another set to be introduced in Imola and Leclerc believes that these will be “very important because now we are very far away – like very, very far away.”
He added that he can’t “find any explanations why we are so far in the race and so close in qualifying.”
When Carlos Sainz was told what his teammate said of the car he said, “He revealed it then. It’s very tough for us at the moment… We were battling inconsistencies of the wind, with unpredictability of the car, with the overheating of the tyre, which means we have very little flexibility in the race to play around with other cars with the strategy.”
He reiterated that the team has not given up and that the team “keep trying things.”
“We are trying every weekend, changing the car every weekend,” he said. “We just need to find out why are we on the fight for pole position on Saturdays and one second off on Sundays.”
A Learning Process
For the Tifosi, this is all very disheartening to hear, but at the same time it is quite refreshing for there to be such clear communication as to what’s going wrong. The team is “in the middle of a learning process” according to Sainz.
“… This [Miami] weekend will help us a lot to understand why, again, we can fight for pole yesterday, do a very good stint on medium [tyres] and push Fernando on the medium and suddenly put a hard on, do three or four laps pushing the tyre to try an undercut, and then this means that the next thing you’re going to finish 20 seconds behind a car that is… we were actually quicker on the medium.
“So we clearly need to understand why, and it’s at the moment very puzzling and very difficult to understand these things. It’s a very inconsistent car, it’s very picky.”
Ferrari have at least identified one problem, tyre degradation. Sainz admitted before the race in Miami that there was no way they could beat the Red Bulls because of this.
“The Red Bull is way too strong in terms of tyre degradation,” he said.
Sainz said the team would be happy if they finished behind Red Bull and ahead of Aston Martin who have proved to have very strong race pace in part due to their tyre management.
“Normally what we’ve seen this year is that the Aston and Fernando are a bit quicker in race pace than what we are, because they take better care of tyres, they have less deg, or whatever it is – which we are still trying to find out, and still trying to improve in our car.”
Will We See a New Aerodynamic Concept?
Given the plethora of issues with both the F1-75 and SF-23 perhaps it’s time that they took another look at the aerodynamic concept and take a page out of Red Bull’s book? Frederic Vasseur has ruled this out entirely.
“We have a flow of updates that will come… because we have the aero package for the level of downforce… for Miami, Imola, not Monaco, and Barcelona.
“At each race we’ll have an update on the car. We are sticking to the plan.
“We have made some adjustments in terms of balance and behaviour, and it was much better in Melbourne, and we’ll continue this direction. It’s not a B-car if that is what you want to say. We won’t come with something completely different. We will continue to update this one and we’ll try to update massively.”
The reason this must be done is due to the humongous task starting over would be, not to mention the huge cost and restrictions on aero development.
“To do a new project during the season,” said Vasseur, “to start from scratch, to do a new car with the cost cap, but also considering the restriction of the wind tunnel time, I don’t want to say that it’s impossible, but it’s very difficult.
“Also, on our side, we have the feeling, and I hope we are right, that we are going in the right direction, that we have still tons of room for improvement on the car.”
The updates in Miami did little to mitigate the issues, though we did see some promise in Melbourne. Perhaps the updates being introduced in Imola will provide a more satisfactory outcome?