[Ferrari: Boosting driver confidence key to F1 progress
The Italian outfit has had a challenging first half to the 2023 season, with its car struggling to deliver consistent performances in races despite being quick over a single lap.
It has made some pretty good gains with recent upgrades, though, and feels that it is beginning to edge nearer the dominant Red Bull team.
Team principal Fred Vasseur thinks that critical now in making that final step to fight for wins is in delivering a car that gives drivers Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz more confidence because he thinks they are unable to extract all the potential out of it.
Reflecting on the opening phase of the season, Vasseur told Motorsport.com’s Italian site that lap time has been bleeding away because the car’s handling does not inspire faith.
“It wasn’t just a question of pure performance, because something happened that affected the drivers’ confidence in the car,” said Vasseur.
“When you enter a corner and you have a loss of load aerodynamic, it also causes a loss of balance. Therefore, you start to feel understeer. Add the wind, from one lap to the next which is never the same, and never has the same intensity, and the difficulties add up.
“We don’t have performance stability. So lap after lap we lose a little performance from our drivers, because they never have the same conditions and they lose confidence in the car.
“We have to try to put the drivers more at the centre of our priorities. It isn’t the easiest or even the fastest way [to progress] because it would be much easier to add downforce everywhere.
Frederic Vasseur, Team Principal and General Manager, Scuderia Ferrari, in the team principals Press Conference
Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images
“But it happens that from one weekend to the next we have very different performances. We have good sensations in one grand prix while, in the next, it can happen that we do badly.”
No copying tactics
With sorting driver confidence now the priority at Ferrari, Vasseur says that it is more important that his engineers focus on the team’s own car rather than pursue copycat designs like rivals have done.
“We are working to try to improve where we are weak because it is the right approach compared to trying to copy someone else,” he said.
“The hardest part of the job is understanding exactly where the weaknesses are and then fixing them.
“From this point of view, we made a good step forward after Australia and then another after Barcelona, even if there are still some weaknesses, especially in extreme conditions.
“Sometimes when you introduce a new package and you have little time to try it, you struggle to understand if you’ve used the wrong set-up. Maybe you were expecting to earn a tenth and a half and then you lost one tenth because you didn’t have the correct set-up.
“So once you introduce an update, it is essential to understand how it is exploited. Then there is also an impact related to the conditions, because we are still a little sensitive to the wind, especially when it’s quite strong like at Silverstone, which reached 50 km/h”.
Charles Leclerc, Ferrari SF-23
Photo by: Erik Junius
Leclerc and Sainz have both been open that the SF-23 is tricky to drive at the limit in gusts because its performance can be unpredictable.
Explaining the issues at play, Vasseur said that the characteristic was not so straightforward to deal with, as it relates to very specific conditions.
“The car is too sensitive when there is a diagonal wind,” said Vasseur. “We are working to try and improve in this area, because when the wind is head on we don’t have any kind of difficulty.”
Although the British GP was not a great race for the team, Vasseur has confidence that this weekend’s performance in Hungary will be better.
“I can say that we go better in the slow corners and the 90-degree corners than in the longer corners,” he said. “At least that’s what we’ve seen so far.
“We can hope for a pole position, but I think the key factor could be the wind. Spa could also be a track that goes well with the characteristics of our single-seater. There is the Bus Stop chicane, and La Source, and there are only two high-speed corners.”