“I don’t think it was due to tyre wear” admits team boss Frederic Vasseur who talks openly about Ferrari’s huge problems. Even with the new update, Ferrari’s old problem was confirmed again in Barcelona.
While they were able to finish second in qualifying with Carlos Sainz, they were once again bogged down in the race and did not finish higher than fifth. It is not only the race pace itself that is fundamentally not so good, but also the wear of the tyres, where the competition has advantages.
But Ferrari team boss Frederic Vasseur stresses that the problems in the race were not due to tyre management:
“I don’t think it was due to tyre wear,” Vasseur says of Sainz’s drop in the race. “That’s not the main problem.”
“Carlos was able to run a decent pace in the last laps. That means it’s not like we’re losing tyres. And Charles was complaining about the balance from the first lap in the first stint, and from the first to the last lap.”
What the data suggests
On average over the season, the SF-23 wears its tyres by 0.053 seconds per lap. In comparison, Ferrari’s closest rivals manage their tyres much better. Red Bull’s wear is 0.031, Aston Martin’s 0.037 and Mercedes’ 0.039 seconds per lap.
However, in Barcelona, the Scuderia’s tyre wear was actually better than the season average gap, 0.067 seconds per lap with the new update, while Aston Martin was 0.049, Mercedes 0.062 and Red Bull 0.064. However, Ferrari’s rivals sometimes did two stints on the soft tyre, which had more wear.
Ferrari, on the other hand, went for soft-medium-hard for Carlos Sainz and hard-soft-hard for Charles Leclerc. Thus, despite the harder tyres, the Scuderia had more tyre wear than the competition, which again clouds the picture somewhat.
This data was formulated by data specialists PACETEQ.
“We have made progress with the car”
Nevertheless, Vasseur emphasises that progress has been made:
“We have made a step forward in terms of potential,” he says. “The reference in Miami. At least in qualifying pace, we were able to put Carlos on the front row – a step forward, probably.”
“In the race, you could say we took a step forward compared to Aston, but that’s not nearly enough. We still have a huge performance delta with Mercedes, from quali to the race. That’s what we need to focus on, and we need to race well on Sundays and definitely get points.”
Looking at the race pace in Spain, Ferrari were 0.64 seconds per lap slower than Red Bull with Max Verstappen at the front, and that was despite the Dutchman showing far from everything.
An indication of this is his final stint on the soft tyres. The world champion consistently set mid to high 1:17s before slipping out with 1:16.3, the fastest lap of the race, only to set high 1:17s again afterwards. That clearly looks like pace management.
Vasseur worried by Mercedes performance
But it wasn’t just Red Bull that Ferrari didn’t stand a chance against in Barcelona, it was Mercedes too, which worries Vasseur:
“We have to close the gap to Mercedes!” he says. “I think we are probably a bit faster than them in quali and a bit slower than them in the race.”
“But I think once we solve the consistency situation, we can imagine to fight with them the whole race and probably we will be able to do that, depending on the track layout and the tarmac. With Red Bull it’s a different story, especially with Verstappen. He’s still much faster than us in quali, much faster in the race. It will be a different story.”
Although they don’t necessarily want to admit it at Ferrari, tyre wear continues to be an issue in the race, but that can’t explain the complete gap. The SF-23 just struggles immensely with lots of fuel in race trim, but why?
Shakira with Lewis Hamilton, Mbappé, and Neymar in Barcelona last night. 💃🏽pic.twitter.com/ar3ztX5c8I
— shakirastuff | fan account (@shakirastuff_) June 5, 2023
Why is Ferrari so slow in the race?
“It could also be related to the downforce level from team to team,” Vasseur ponders. “I think the main problem for us is not the potential on the lap, this kind of corner or that other. The main problem is consistency.”
“Charles, for example, was on the same tyre compound in the first and the third stint. The first one wasn’t quite up to scratch, and the last one was okay for that. And Carlos did a good first stint, a good last stint, and in the middle he lost 15 or 20 seconds to the competition.”
So no clear pattern can be discerned. One time Leclerc is slow on hard tyres, one time he is fast. Sainz, on the other hand, managed a good last stint on the harder compound, but on the medium in the middle section the pace was gone. So how do you finally get consistency?
Vasseur: Problems not easy to fix
“We have 1000 people working on it now, but it’s very difficult to understand and fix it because it’s not always the same problem,” Vasseur explained.
“It’s also true that in quali you are in free air and in the race, for example, you are not. Charles struggled a lot in the first stint, but the guy in front of him also struggled.”
“Maybe we can control the development a little bit in terms of consistency and have something that is easier to drive and that we can control a little bit with. That’s the direction we’ve been going in the last couple of months or weeks.”
“And I think we are a little bit more consistent than we were at one point in time. The problem is not so much with the chassis, it’s more from stint to stint, because if you had something like that you could say it’s always there. But we also had stints in free air that were very difficult, like Carlos’ second one.”
“And the concept for me doesn’t mean that we are going in a different direction in development with the shape of the side box. But we’re going to unleash a new development potential and we’ve done that with this package because we have new parts and upgrades for the next races and we’re going to make some steps.”
Are there only ‘bad’ tracks to come for Ferrari now?
So what can we expect from Ferrari in the next few races? With Canada, once again a street circuit is coming up, which has rather slow corners as well as a smooth asphalt and hard braking phases. Maybe not a bad track for Ferrari in theory, but after that comes Spielberg, Silverstone, Hungary and Belgium, tracks similar to Barcelona with fast corners.
“It’s really difficult to predict from track to track where we will perform or not,” says the Ferrari team boss. “We are starting to get a better picture of the car now and we know where we are performing. I don’t think it has anything to do with the layout of the track or the tarmac.”
“Miami was completely different, at least in terms of the tarmac, and we had exactly the same picture between qualifying and the race. Mercedes is a good reference because they got a big package in Monaco and the delta is almost the same. That means that what paid off for us in terms of performance is there. I think we have made a step forward, but the consistency is just not there.”