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F1 mid-season review: Long faces at Ferrari

An expected title challenge has not materialised, with the SF-23 proving no match for Red Bull.

Leclerc Sainz Silverstone
To news overview © Ferrari

Ferrari had been on a steadily upward trajectory ever since a dismal 2020 season, with the Scuderia returning to the top step of the podium for the first time since 2019 last season and finishing second in the Constructors' Championship behind Red Bull.

A natural progression would have seen the team mounting a genuine title challenge this year but this has not materialised, with Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz combining for only three podium finishes across the first 12 Grands Prix of the campaign as Red Bull has swept every available win.

New Team Principal Fred Vasseur has also had to deal with significant upheaval at management level. Racing Director Laurent Mekies has left the team to become AlphaTauri's next Team Principal, while Senior Design Engineer David Sanchez is heading to McLaren.

Vasseur has secured the services of Mercedes' Performance Director Loic Serra, though the Frenchman is not set to come on board until 2025, and the former Sauber CEO has complained of being "miles away" from having his desired line-up in place.

In addition to personnel changes, the Scuderia's operational efficiency has once again been called into question with slow pit stops costing the team points on more than one occasion.

A baffling decision not to pit Leclerc and Sainz for slick tyres in Canada also laid bare Ferrari's lack of convincing leadership, and the duo behind the wheel are seemingly showing signs of discontent.

Ferrari is notoriously trigger-happy when results don't go their way, with Vasseur being the team's fifth Team Principal in the last ten years.

Charles Leclerc

The Monégasque can legitimately lay claim to being the fastest F1 driver over a single lap, as his double pole position in Azerbaijan attests. Though Red Bull's long-run pace meant there was little chance of a win in Baku, Leclerc did well to finish the Sprint second and the Grand Prix third on what was probably his strongest weekend of the year.

Another highlight was a second-place finish in Austria – the scene of his most recent Grand Prix win last year – but the SF-23 hasn't proved a consistent package, with a low point coming at the Spanish Grand Prix where Leclerc could only qualify 19th, setting the stage for a lowly 11th place finish in the race.

There were also signs that the unforced errors that were so prevalent in 2022 had remained, with an unnecessary tangle with Lance Stroll in Australia preceding a Miami Grand Prix weekend where Leclerc crashed in similar circumstances in both practice and Qualifying.

Leclerc is now into his fifth season with Ferrari and seems increasingly disenchanted with the Scuderia's apparent inability to provide him with a car capable of challenging for the title.

Links - perhaps spurious - with a seat at Mercedes should Lewis Hamilton elect to walk away from F1 have emerged and if Ferrari's inconsistent form continues, Leclerc may start casting admiring glances elsewhere.

			© RN365/Michael Potts
	© RN365/Michael Potts

Carlos Sainz

Though Leclerc and Sainz are closely matched in terms of points [99 to 92] the Monégasque's peaks have been higher, and while the Spaniard has usually qualified well and raced consistently, there remains a sense that he isn't quite capable of matching the outright pace of his teammate.

Sainz has shown himself to be a strong personality, sometimes dictating strategy options to the pit-wall mid-race – though this may also indicate a lack of confidence in Ferrari's engineers to manage a Grand Prix effectively.

Like Leclerc, Sainz has being linked with a future move away from the Scuderia and to the nascent Audi team, which would reunite him with CEO Andreas Seidl, with whom Sainz worked in close quarters at McLaren a few years ago.

But all can still change as the developments at McLaren have shown. All it takes to make a giant leap is a well-performing upgrade package.

All is not lost, but the strong pace heading into the summer break must be sustained.

			© XPBimages
	© XPBimages

Mid-season reviews RN365 News dossier


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