The dark evil. The invisible enemy. The replacement of the engine in Jeddah, drawing on the second seasonal unit of the three granted for the entire championship, sparked a series of fair reactions from the media: how is it conceivable that the entire power unit would be changed after just one GP on both single-seater, without suspecting a serious reliability problem?
It is legitimate to think so, especially since Charles Leclerc left Bahrain with a zero in the standings, the result of a retirement caused on lap 41 by the control unit which went haywire due to a problem with a cable harness. In reality, the short circuit had already burnt another CE and a battery on Sunday morning, igniting fears and concerns.
Carlos Sainz, Ferrari SF-23
Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images
Which didn’t shut down after yesterday morning’s free practice, conducted at a reduced engine pace with prudent mapping. Ferrari did nothing and said nothing to give an explanation that went in another direction. But if there was a real engine alarm maybe they would have prepared a stock for the customer teams as well. And that hasn’t been the case, at least so far…
And, then, we have to go and look for other keys to explain what is happening. Ferrari is the team that has dared the most, bringing many innovations that are not just aerodynamics. Friday’s obsession was to understand if the tire degradation seen in Sakhir would also be seen in Jeddah, a citizen with other asphalt characteristics.
The type of track facilitates the task, but the modifications are also playing their part. Drivers found the SF-23 to be more consistent over long runs, though it showed no signs of reducing the understeer that seems endemic.
Ferrari SF-23, the rear wing with the mono-pylon more loaded than the one used in Bahrain
Photo by: Jon Noble
In reality, in Maranello they worked all night on the simulator and not just to make the engine response less abrupt at certain speeds: the power comes on too brutally and triggers an understeer that doesn’t help performance or tire life.
The Arab one is a track that engages the front tires in a particular way, so softening the power delivery in certain transients doesn’t mean removing horsepower, but finding the best traction to exploit the potential of the SF-23.
And, then, the sensation is that Enrico Gualtieri’s working group is trying to “specialize” the units to the different characteristics of the tracks, it being understood that the parts used are the same: Bahrain, a classic stop and go circuit, requires of the power unit made up of violent accelerations and braking, while Jeddah has high-speed journeys that require, for example, completely different hybrid strategies.
Enrico Gualtier and Enrico Cardile the two engineers who have the fate of the SF-23 in hand
Photo by: Ferrari
Tuning the engine to these needs can allow each unit to be exploited in a more specific way, without leaving the homologation constraints of the parts. Is it all true or is it just marketing to hide other troubles that could be caused by temperatures that are difficult to control, as critics claim.
We’ll find out from qualifying and tomorrow from the outcome of the race: the Red Bulls, in particular that of Max Verstappen, seem uncatchable, but if at least the Aston Martins, the second force ascertained also in yesterday’s free practice, end up behind the redhead, it can be said that the Ferrari world championship has yet to begin, opening up some trust credit on a team that always seems to be under a fierce bombardment. And with different friendly fire…
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