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Ferrari Challenge Red Bull F1 2024

Ferrari Eyes Red Bull’s Lead with Optimistic Vasseur

27/02/2024

Amid winter tests, Ferrari emerges as a strong contender against Red Bull, driven by Vasseur’s confidence and promising feedback from Leclerc and Sainz.

After winter testing where Red Bull appeared to have an edge, Ferrari might be the team best equipped to challenge the reigning champions. Its director, Fred Vasseur, is yet to make a definitive statement but remains confident following the feedback from Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz.

“After the SF-24 completed over seven race distances during testing, where each team pursued their unique programs, the time has finally come for everyone to show their cards. Starting with Thursday’s free practice, we’ll begin to get a sense of the pecking order,” Vasseur stated.

“Charles and Carlos felt comfortable driving the SF-24, aligning perfectly with our design goals. We’re up against formidable opponents, and I hope we adopt the same approach we had at the end of last season.”

“We should not shy away from bold decisions if we believe they can significantly enhance our performance. The car looks competitive, Charles and Carlos are in top form, and the team’s atmosphere is highly focused; we’re determined to achieve a strong result.”

“Three days of testing are not enough.”

To best prepare for this season, Ferrari has explored numerous setup and engineering solutions, as explained by track engineering director, Matteo Togninalli.

“We focused on mapping and understanding the car, emphasizing drivability and race pace. Since the tire specifications are the same as last year, we spent less time analyzing this aspect and more time focusing on the car itself.”

“Despite losing track time due to drain cover issues, we collected all the data we wanted and completed the planned mileage, crucial for reinforcing reliability aspects.”

“Of course, three days of testing are insufficient to fully understand and optimize a new car, but we’ve gained a general first impression. The correlation with simulations and the simulator, as well as with the wind tunnel, was quite good, which is clearly a positive sign.”

“On the track, the car behaved as it had in simulation sessions with both drivers, both in absolute terms and compared to 2023, and we were also able to see how the car responded to various changes. This is very important for using the different tools that help us optimize and develop it.”

“The drivers reported that the car performed well and was consistent under various conditions, meeting one of our goals, as this can be beneficial for race pace and tire management.”

A “not very different” hierarchy from the end of 2023

The Italian is unsure what to expect in terms of the hierarchy but warns that last year’s pecking order could repeat this season, or at least not change significantly.

“Getting a clear picture is very complicated because each team had its own program in terms of fuel load, tire usage, and generally how they worked on the circuit.”

“Additionally, the Bahrain track is prone to major changes in terms of temperature and wind throughout the day, which significantly impacts lap times, making it impossible to compare lap times achieved at different times of the day.”

“Overall, I expect the situation to be not very different from what we experienced at the end of 2023, with the reigning champions and our other close rivals all showing good potential. It’s really not possible to define a hierarchy at this stage, but the gaps between teams will likely narrow.”

Advantage to the team that “understands” its F1 best

He finally explains that the differences will be more about how to exploit the cars at the beginning of the year when some teams may be less comfortable with the settings. Over time, the margins will only be due to intrinsic performance and will reduce accordingly.

“At the start of the season, the most important elements are understanding the car and reliability. At this stage, the team that has best understood how to make the car work and has a clear idea of how to get the most out of it can have an advantage.”

“As the season progresses, this aspect tends to fade, and the differences then boil down to the pure potential of the cars. The aspects related to reliability are also better understood and improved as the cars accumulate more mileage. This means that at the start of the season, everyone is more exposed.”

“Changing weather conditions are also a factor in Bahrain, particularly track temperatures and wind, which can affect performance and car balance, so a team’s ability to adapt to these changes is fundamental.”

“We can expect quite significant tire degradation during the race itself, compared to the seasonal average, and managing this degradation will therefore also be a key element of race pace.”

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