The Miami GP weekend told us a lot about Ferrari’s season so far. Charles Leclerc crashed at the end of qualifying, on a high-speed corner, amidst gusty winds. In the race, while the Monegasque suffered in the early part of the race, with the medium tyres, his teammate Carlos Sainz struggled as soon as he put the hard ones on. This, in the first GP in which the Scuderia had significant changes in the car.
After five disputed stages, Ferrari lost the most points compared to last year, 79, against 32 for McLaren. In 2022, at this point in the championship, they were playing head-to-head with Red Bull.
There are those who say that the changes made to stop the cars jumping on the straights, which began in August last year, ended up being detrimental to the concept adopted by the ferraristas. But the problem seems to be another one: Red Bull manages to control the height of the car better than everyone else, and even for that reason it didn’t have problems with the jumps last year. Its design was superior from the start and, as the car’s weight decreased, this became more evident over time.
The difference, for Ferrari, is that before they were clearly the second best car. In 2023, there is something in the project that makes there a huge discrepancy between performance in qualifying (where they even manage to beat Red Bull) and in the race, when they are the third or fourth force depending on the track.
And that’s where Miami’s difficulties come in. The car is more sensitive to wind than others, causing drivers to lose control without much warning. Drivers, for their part, are looking for set-ups to make up for the loss in the race, and this makes the car difficult to control, as Leclerc realized in Miami, or they lose themselves completely, as Sainz did in Baku. The car has a very small window which works well. When you come out of it, it becomes unpredictable.
As drivers have different styles, this leads to different problems in the race and makes it difficult to understand the difficulties. Add to that the novelties used in Miami and which are just the beginning of a series of modifications, and you have a huge challenge in reading which is the best way.
Ferrari knows what its shortcomings are and ensures that it is evolving in understanding the paths to be taken. The great difficulty is controlling the height of the car in relation to the ground, especially when the car is heavy at the start of the race. It is in this sense that the car began to be updated in Miami, with a new approach to the floor intake and the diffuser.
The idea is to reorganize the air flow in the underside of the car to better stabilize the pressures (and thus make the car more behaved). In Imola, a new hull will arrive to make this update work better. A third stage is still expected for the Spanish GP, in early June.
That won’t be the end of Ferrari’s evolution, which also needs a more efficient DRS to have any chance of competing with Red Bull in racing. But for the moment, the riders (and the tyres) will be grateful if they have a more stable base to work from.
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