Slightly past the halfway mark of the F1 calendar and Mercedes hold a 56-point lead over Ferrari. After a tough start to the 2023 Formula 1 season, the Italian side sits fourth on the constructor standings, five points behind third-placed Aston Martin. Yet, when action resumes at the 2023 Dutch Grand Prix after the summer break, Ferrari will have their eyes trained on Mercedes.
Frederic Vasseur was hired from Alfa Romeo to replace Mattia Binotto after a 2022 campaign that promised so much but ended in utter disappointment. The Ferrari team principal has experienced a slow start to his tenure, casting doubt on whether the Scuderia team is moving in the right direction. Tasked with propelling Ferrari back to glory, here are some of the issues Vasseur needs to address if his team are to claw back on Mercedes’ current advantage.
Despite an off-season of overhauling, the reliability issues that had plagued the car in the 2022 season remain. Charles Leclerc retired from the season opener in Bahrain after having a problem with this car’s control electronics unit. The unit had already been changed before the race, meaning he used the two units allowed for an entire season in one race.
The Monégasque had to take a 10-place grid penalty for using a third control electronics unit in the Saudi Arabian GP. To cast further doubts on the car’s reliability, both Ferrari drivers had new power units fitted for the Saudi GP. More issues, such as aero peakiness, have since emerged as the season has progressed. Ferrari needs to dial in their cars to make them more dependable and predictable for the drivers.
Apart from reliability, strategic shortcomings played a definitive role in Ferrari’s bungled title chase last year. Several times, a series of strategic mistakes cost Charles Leclerc valuable points allowing Max Verstappen to stroll to his second World Championship.
While these blunders haven’t reared their ugly heads as frequently and as devastatingly as in 2022, there have been instances of “miscommunication.” Notably in the Saudi Arabian GP, where the team was late in informing Leclerc he could push up, the Austrian GP, where Leclerc turned down a three-stop strategy by Ferrari, and the Monaco GP, where pitting Sainz midway through the race when he was battling Esteban Ocon for third place saw him finish eighth.
This year, the outright F1 betting markets have placed Ferrari at odds 7/2 to win the Constructors’ Championship (without Red Bull). If they are to pip the Silver Arrows to the P2 standing, the Scuderia team must take their strategy, tactics, and race management a notch higher.
A win amongst the rest of the chasing pack could salvage Ferrari’s season and act as a launching board for their 2024 season. But there is simply no room for strategy errors- they can’t afford to drop any unnecessary points during the second half of the campaign
Another problem from 2022 that refuses to go away is the high tyre degradation. F1’s most famous team has struggled on hard tyre compounds throughout the season. During the Spanish GP in Barcelona, Carlos Sainz spent the entire race managing his tyres, dropping from second to fifth in the process.
While Leclerc was optimistic following a podium finish at the Spa, Ferrari needs to fix the severe tyre degradation issue if they are to match Mercedes for P2. In Austria, upgrades had already been made to the car aimed at solving the issue and it remains to be seen whether the degradation in both clean and dirty air when following is resolved.