What Ferrari did we see at Suzuka? Charles Leclerc, fourth at the finish line with the SF-23, paid a gap of 43″908 to the winner Max Verstappen with the Red Bull RB19. Reading the numbers, it seems that we have returned to the worst GPs of the red team, although the Scuderia confirmed its third place in the Japanese race and the Maranello team managed to gain four points on Mercedes in the challenge for second position in the Constructors’ championship which sees the Star ahead by 20 points.
Ferrari feared the Japanese track with the initial snake and the long fast corners in support which highlighted the defects and critical issues of a car that was difficult to drive from the start of the championship. That Suzuka was not Singapore was all too clear to everyone. The magic of Marina Bay dissolved in less than a week: Carlos Sainz’s success in the south-east Asian city state was quickly forgotten, because the Japanese pitfalls were clear to everyone in Sports Management.
Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz, Ferrari
And the same simulations had indicated a scenario that left no escape: Max Verstappen would be back where he deserved after the slip-up in Singapore, giving Red Bull their sixth Constructors’ title, but in Maranello they thought they had enough beer to keep McLaren behind.
And instead, both McLarens finished ahead of the reds. In the simulated predictions the papaya cars were considered serious threats to the SF-23, but were not seen as a cut above the red ones. Moreover, the results of Friday’s free practice had confirmed this thesis both on the flying lap and in the long run.
Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz with Ferraris ahead of Fernando Alonso with Aston Martin
Photo by: Andy Hone / Motorsport Images
The music didn’t seem to change in qualifying, although the two MCL60s were ahead of Charles Leclerc, fourth: 82 thousandths from Piastri and 49 from Norris didn’t justify any whining, except for the track position. The scenario changed, and indeed it did, in the race: the Monegasque had immediately understood that in the Japanese GP the uncatchable McLarens could not be challenged, but the game had to be played defending against the Mercedes. And so it was.
The data had left some hope for aiming for the podium, but the facts of the race said otherwise: if the 7″504 from Piastri had not seemed like an embarrassing gap, the 24″601 given by Norris to Charles shows the red’s usual shortcomings. The introduction of a new fund was not enough to change the behavior of Ferrari which suffered a progressive overheating of the tires and which, as a result, generated degradation of the tyres.
On certain tracks like Suzuka the SF-23 manages to defend itself in the flying lap, but in the race pace it is forced to suffer those, like McLaren, who have found in the latest updates the possibility of making an important leap in quality.
Ferrari SF-23 detail of the new bottom introduced at Suzuka
Photo by: Giorgio Piola
The feeling is that in Woking they found the solutions to be technically the second force behind Red Bull, while Ferrari’s performance will be much more conditioned by the configuration of the next tracks: Doha, in Qatar, is a fast track with stop-and-go characteristics. and-go. At Losail, therefore, the Scuderia should find a more congenial terrain for the red team: we will still see some small deliberate aero updates, such as the cross-country, before the summer break.
The pursuit of Mercedes continues, but the overly conservative approach is not always enough: with a little courage, even Sainz could have stayed ahead of the Mercedes and four more points could have been added to the chase for the Star. Evidently for next year there will not only be a need for a more competitive car, but also a more substantial barrier in unplanned choices. Fred Vasseur knows it and is working on it…