Ferrari team boss Frederic Vasseur has ruled out the possibility of the Scuderia fielding a B-spec car later this season, insisting the team will stick with its scheduled update plan to evolve its SF-23.
Ahead of the start of its 2023 campaign, Ferrari was earmarked as a favourite to hit the ground running in Bahrain.
Instead, its car’s disappointing performance relative to Red Bull coupled with reliability issues has left the Italian outfit lagging its expectations, and with a fourth-place finish at Sakhir – courtesy of Carlos Sainz – as its best result year-to-date.
In Australia, where Charles Leclerc self-imploded at the first corner and where Sainz was dropped from P4 to P12 in the final standings due to a 5-second penalty, the Spaniard suggested that Ferrari should change the concept of its current-spec to help the team improve its package.
“We need to go and check something very different from where we are now,” said Sainz.
“I think the extremely good performance at the start of last season made us, I think, keep pushing with this concept, with this project of car.
“But I think we realise now that Red Bull has a clear advantage everywhere and that we need to start looking to our right and to our left.”
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However, Vasseur has rejected the idea of embarking on radical changes, and states that the Scuderia will instead stick with its significant update programme that will see new components introduced at each race.
“We have a flow of updates that will come, not for Baku, because we have the aero package for the level of downforce, and with the sprint race it is not the easiest one, but for Miami, Imola, not Monaco, and Barcelona,” Vasseur explained in a call with the media this week.
“At each race, we’ll have an update on the car. We are sticking to the plan.
“We have made some adjustments in terms of balance and behaviour, and it was much better in Melbourne, and we’ll continue in this direction.
“It’s not a B-car if that is what you want to say. We won’t come with something completely different. We will continue to update this one and we’ll try to update massively.”
Vasseur admitted that changing the concept of its car or “starting from scratch” during the season would be a heavy task given F1’s cost cap constraints and the team’s restrictions on aero development.
“To do a new project during the season, to start from scratch, to do a new car with the cost cap, but also considering the restriction of the wind tunnel time, I don’t want to say that it’s impossible, but it’s very difficult,” said the Frenchman.
“Also, on our side, we have the feeling, and I hope that we are right, that we are going in the right direction, that we have still tons of room for improvement on the car.
“It means that as long as we are still able to develop the car to get [downforce] points, and the aero to get a better balance, to get a better stability and so, I think it makes sense to push in this direction.”
For Vasseur, “pushing” also implies a quicker implementation of the Scuderia’s updates, a swiftness that the team has already initiated.
“You have always a plan of development before the season, and then you have to react due to the circumstances, due to the competitiveness of the car, and due to the behaviour of the car. We took action very quickly,” he confirmed.
“We brought some good updates in Melbourne, and we will continue. What we can do is to push to try to speed up this process, perhaps to take a direction a bit different in terms of balance and so on.
“But we can’t change massively the plan after three races and say, ‘okay, we have to go in another direction.'”
The success of Ferrari’s update programme will likely determine later this season how the team approaches its 2024 design, with its engineers either carrying over the base characteristics of its SF-23 or opting to follow an entirely new direction.
“The question is [really] about the cost cap: if you want to do a carryover or not,” said Vasseur. “And which parts do you want to carry over between one season to the other one – like the big components of the gearbox or monocoque.
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“It’s a question that we’ll have to manage with the cost cap.
“With the strategy of development, I think we have good updates. And we’ll see later on into the season if we want to do a continuous improvement of this one, and we have room for improvement, or if we have to change more massively the direction. We will see that much later.”
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