It was supposed to be the relaunch race and, instead, it risks becoming the final exam. The Spanish GP is a crucial stage in Ferrari’s bumpy journey. The SF-23 is a tough machine, difficult to drive, even more difficult to tune. Its operating window is so narrow that there are always too many variables affecting its behavior. And, punctually, something manifests itself that does not allow Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz to reap what is sown.
The redhead has sudden and unpredictable changes in performance that are making her fall in the paddock prices. In winter it seemed to be the car capable of challenging Red Bull: the illusion already melted away in the pre-season tests in Bahrain, but the hope was to remain second force, counting on growing with developments during the championship.
Carlos Sainz with a frown in Monaco: Ferrari has disappointed
Photo by: Ferrari
A prospect that the results are depressing: Sainz sixth at the finish line in the Principality, Leclerc even eighth. The Spaniard is sixth in the drivers’ championship, closely followed by his teammate. The Scuderia is fourth in the Constructors’ standings, thirty points behind Aston Martin, the big surprise of this 2023, which, moreover, races only with Fernando Alonso.
The balance sheet is simply devastating. Fred Vasseur’s management is seriously deficient: this Ferrari got bogged down just like the Romagna prey in a mud which, as the muddy water flows out, clings to the ankles solidifying preventing rapid, agile movements. But, while the territory that suffered the flood does not bow to the disaster, and struggles to quickly find a return to “normality”, in Maranello they have not yet been able to estimate the… damage. Because the list is long and always different.
The certainty of being able to fight for pole in Monte Carlo has also collapsed. Red Bull has confirmed that it doesn’t fear any track with Max Verstappen: the Dutchman puts his name in it when the RB19 doesn’t seem to excel and he does it in such a natural way that impossible things even seem easy.
Charles Leclerc looks far ahead: Barcelona is already in his sights…
Photo by: Ferrari
In Maranello they chose to go to Monaco without news to have time to take better care of the setup: commendable initiative, a pity that Aston Martin, Alpine and Mercedes in the Toboggan of the Principality introduced some updates and went better than the red, while the two Cavallino riders have never found the necessary confidence to invent the loop-the-loop.
In FP3 they looked for extreme solutions in terms of heights and Leclerc found himself a “grasshopper” who jumped all over the place with a bottoming that prevented him from tackling the Piscine chicane with the necessary aggressiveness. Instead of looking for a car that copied the roughness of the streets and sidewalks, he decided to extract more performance from a car that didn’t have enough to put itself in front of everyone.
The result was that a step back with less extreme solutions was necessary before qualifying, without the driver having had time to evaluate which car he would have in hand in qualifying. It’s pointless going over the mistakes made in the race, but it’s clear that if Ferrari had to hope for an anomalous GP to reap some miserable satisfaction, it didn’t even need the rain to change a well-defined picture.
Indeed, one more variable only served to disrupt the strategic plans even further, leaving the Cavallino fans amazed who no longer know which saint to turn to. Monte Carlo had to give the level of a growing Ferrari, before the debut of the updates in Barcelona.
Charles Leclerc, Ferrari SF-23
Photo by: Glenn Dunbar / Motorsport Images
In Montmelò we will see more Red Bull-style bellies, bottom and suspension: it is an important package that has been talked about for months, launched immediately after the first flops. He arrives on a perfect track for introducing new features (it was the preferred one for the development of the new single-seaters in the winter tests), so everything will have to work at its best right away.
We are faced with a Ferrari aware of having lost ground while the others were growing. It is a team that must react, but will have to give answers quickly, without there being too much need to “understand”. Weeks of simulations will have yielded some encouraging results: in Catalunya he would like to see the two drivers smile again because the worst will be behind them. Otherwise it will be better to think about 2024, saving resources and energy on a new project that will have to be born from a blank sheet.