It may not be Singapore, but Ferrari started the Suzuka weekend confirming good signs of growth. Behind the leader of the day Max Verstappen, Carlos Sainz confirmed himself in FP1 and Charles Leclerc in FP2, with the Monegasque also author of the second best long-run, always behind the world championship leader.
The first data that emerged after the two free practice sessions is that relating to the new floor brought to Japan, tested in FP1 by Leclerc alone and also mounted on Sainz’s car for the afternoon session. “The results we expected have arrived – confirmed Charles – I don’t think there is a big gain in terms of performance, but overall it has made the car more coherent, and it’s a good feeling”.
The first day of activity on the track at Suzuka showed a Leclerc who was more at ease with the SF-23. Charles was the driver closest to Verstappen’s times (0.320 gap in the qualifying simulation), a margin that pays off in the first sector.
“It went a little better – he confirmed – in the last two or three races I struggled a bit with the balance of the car. Today I changed my riding style a bit and I feel that the feeling is better. Obviously it’s only one day, so we have to keep pushing to take another step forward tomorrow. Red Bull seems to be extremely fast this weekend, but I don’t think we are too far away.”
Charles Leclerc’s smile returned at Suzuka: the SF-23 also performed well in Japan
Photo by: Motorsport Images
The work carried out after Zandvoort, increasingly a watershed in the Ferrari season, is bearing fruit on all types of tracks, a confirmation that also arrived on the feared Suzuka. “We are understanding our car much better than before Zandvoort – confirmed Leclerc – and this helps us work in the right direction, the margins against McLaren and Mercedes are very small, but when we manage to put the car in the correct window of operation we know that we can be ahead. This is what we have done in the last few races, and this is the goal for tomorrow, but everything will have to be perfect. I fear, however, that Red Bull is unfortunately more competitive, we’ll see.”
Carlos Sainz, Ferrari SF-23
Photo by: Jake Grant / Motorsport Images
Sainz ended the day in fourth place, two tenths behind Leclerc, a gap made up in T2. Carlos dedicated himself above all to the aerodynamic setup and mechanical tests, trying different set-ups. “We experimented with a few solutions – explained Sainz – there were a lot of tests and when you’re involved in this type of test it’s a bit difficult to get into a rhythm. But that was our goal, now we have to put everything together and hope that tomorrow the car is the one I want.”
It won’t be easy for the poleman and winner of Singapore to annoy the Red Bulls, but Carlos believes that, especially in qualifying, not everything is written. “Max seems to be decidedly competitive – he reiterated – but on the flying lap we can be close, I don’t know if it will be enough to bother the Red Bulls, but it will certainly be a very close fight with McLaren and Mercedes, there will be six of us competing for the second row , but I’m convinced that if we do a good job tomorrow we can put ourselves in a good position.”