Ferrari are the only team to knock Red Bull from their pedestal this season. With the new race weekend format in Baku it was Charles Leclerc who came out best in qualifying on Friday afternoon to claim pole position for the Grand Prix.
However, Ferrari have faired less well during the races this year finishing on the podium just once with LeClerc claiming third place in Azerbaijan.
Red Bull sacrifice qualifying pace
Ferrari performance engineer Jock Clear believes Red Bull a trading performance in qualifying to ensure they have superior race pace in Sundays.
“So, we can’t afford to take our eye off the qualifying ball, but certainly, we need to fully understand how we can get the race pace,” says Clear.
“We have to take our hat off to the Red Bull and say they are doing something very, very clever. That car works very, very well in race pace.
“We might also conclude that to do so, maybe they are giving up some qualifying pace.”
Ferrari worse tyre degradation
Ferrari appear to have worse tyre degradation than Red Bull when the cars are full of fuel which gives the Milton Keynes based team an advantage in deciding on race strategy.
“That’s why we can compete with them because they’re not optimal in qualifying.”
He added: “We have a good understanding of where the issues lie [with the SF-23]. It’s quantifying it.
“So, in some ways, we would say, ‘OK, we’re looking at what’s going on in the race compared to what’s going on qualifying’. We can see some differences.
New suspension now for Barcelona
The engineers at Maranello have designed a new suspension system which they were going to trial this weekend in Imola. However, this will now only debut in two races time because the Monaco GP requires a very specific car setup.
“Maybe what we can’t quite align is how those differences turn out.
“That’s the process that we’re going through at the moment, [it] is to identify what we can do, or what we can shift around in terms of our focus, to maybe bring that race pace back into line.”
“They are very, very quick along the straights, especially when the DRS is open,” adds Clear.
SF-23 needs to lose drag
By way of contrast the Ferrari SF-23 creates more drag even with the DRS deployed, something Clear notes Ferrari are attempting to solve.
“Again, we have to look at that, see what we can do better to shed that drag, because that’s free lap time.
“The driver doesn’t have to use too much skill to get from [one turn to another] as fast as possible. That’s clearly an area where they were very quick.”
Ferrari redesigned the fundamental aerodynamics of their car over the winter and have been reticent to bring upgrades to the car until they fully understand how it requires setting up.
Attempts to reduce peaky performance
A revamped floor has been delivered in efforts to negate the “peaky” nature of the Ferrari.
“With a new aero package over the winter, we’ve taken a while to find the set-up,” Clear revealed.
“This floor contributes to getting the car in a better window, as the drivers were reporting earlier it is peaky.
“We need to get rid of some of that peakiness. That’s probably the main focus at the moment, to make the car a bit more benign so the drivers have a bit more confidence.”
Ferrari are 146 points behind Red Bull after just five races this season and lie fourth in the constructors’ championship behind Aston Martin and Mercedes.
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