Ferrari drivers Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz may well be wishing they were driving their 2022 challenger rather than the current SF-23. The Red Team were pushing Red Bull hard for the early part of last year’s Formula One season but now lies a lowly fourth in the constructors’ championship after just seven races this year.
Sergio Perez who by his team mate’s standards is having a poor season after the Spanish GP has 17 more points than the Ferrari duo combined.
Benedetto Vigna – Ferrari CEO
Ferrari big Barcelona upgrades embarrassing
Of course Aston Martin have made big move forwards this year but this does not explain who Ferrari have become so poor in relation to Mercedes.
Ferrari brought a suite of bodywork upgrades to Barcelona but their weekend was embarrassing.
Despite qualifying fifth Carlos Sainz finished the race over a minute behind the winner though he believes the upgrade was not the disaster many have suggested.
“I think the update gave us what we believed it would,” said Sainz, “but we introduced it at maybe our worst track.”
Ferrari CEO a technologies man
George Russell messed up his qualifying and began the race in Barcelona in twelfth however the Mercedes driver came through the field and easily passed Sainz’s ailing Ferrari finishing 13 seconds ahead of the Spanish driver.
All is clearly not well with the SF-23 challenger yet more worryingly it could well be the Ferrari senior management disrupting the team’s ability to progress.
Benedetto Vigna was appointed Ferrari CEO back in 2021 and with chairman John Elkann observing, “his deep understanding of the technologies driving much of the change in our industry… with further strength Ferrari.”
If the Italian media are to be believed then Vigna is clearly using his platform within road cars to intervene within the Formula One team as well.
Leclerc and Binotto confrontations
Whilst Leclerc had visible moments of confrontation with previous team boss Mattia Binotto, his sudden departure with no replacement lined up by Ferrari has been blamed upon a rift with Vigna.
However, Vigna’s influence may have penetrated the Scuderia deeper than anyone previously believed.
The Ferrari car last year was good through the faster corners whereas in Barcelona last weekend its successor proved be extremely poor in this area of performance.
Such a fundamental shift in car characteristics from year to year is unusual but rumours of Vigna’s interference may explain the sharp change of direction.
Ferrari “image” damaged being slow on straights
The trade off Ferrari made last season was to accept the car would be slower in a straight line to benefit from the incremental high speed corner pace.
One story in the Italian press has suggested this was unacceptable from Vigna’s perspective it was “inappropriate” for Ferrari’s brand image to be markedly slower down the straight than the Red Bull car.
While such as the shift in Ferrari concept for their F1 car is not as marked as the one Mercedes have made with their W14b, such a shift in focus will have hurt the original design path Ferrari engineers had plotted.
This may explain why the team expect their big new upgrade to run well in Canada where there are no high speed turns. The lower speed corners will presumably allow the team to run a setup more akin to Baku and Miami with softer suspension and good straight line speed.
Vigna questions Vasseur decision
It appears Vigna has got a thirst for power within the Scuderia given the early reports he was micro managing the new team boss Frederic Vasseur.
Italian reports revealed Vigna had questioned why Vasseur had travelled to Bahrain testing as the guest of Mercedes’ boss Toto Wolff. Vigna believes those optics are not good and the Ferrari boss should not be fraternising with the enemy.
Italian motorsport.com revealed after Vasseur’s selection that Vigna had expressed a desire for a more active role along side the new Scuderia team boss.
Ferrari will be posting their hopes for a mid season revival on the results of their upgrade at the coming race in Montreal.
Ferrari take hyperbole at Le Mans
The Formula One aerodynamic testing handicap is set on the order of the teams in the constructors’ championship table at the end of June. This time last year Ferrari were second, their current fourth place will provide the Scuderia with around 15% more wind tunnel and CFD allowance than is their current allocation.
Ferrari have claimed the “hyperbole” at this weekends Le Mans 24 hour event having returned to the top flight of endurance racing after a 50 year absence.
Vigna congratulated the Le Mans team’s efforts but had words of encouragement for the F1 team who had suffered a miserable weekend in Barcelona.
“Sometimes you slip four stories and can’t see the end. But with work, with passion, with skills and with your heart you eventually get back up,” remarked Vigna.
“It applies to life, as it does to F1: it’s not easy.”
Gone in 2.07 seconds! ⏱️😮
— Formula 1 (@F1) June 6, 2023