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Canadian Grand Prix 2023

How Ferrari made an aggressive strategy work to their advantage

Ferrari has been criticised for its aggressive strategies in the past, but this time they exploited everything to recover back into the top five.

Sainz canada
To news overview © RN365/Michael Potts

When both Ferrari drivers elected to stay out while everyone else pitted during the Formula 1 Safety Car prompted by George Russell in the Canadian Grand Prix, many were left wondering why they were gambling.

Would it be another poor strategy decision from Ferrari? One of the main weaknesses of the Ferrari SF-23 has been tyre degradation and the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve is known for being tough on tyres.

It's actually the original reason why Pirelli came into Formula 1 as tyre supplier to 'spice up the show' after a high tyre degradation race in 2010 led to a close finish.

Ferrari had much to prove after their woeful display at the Spanish Grand Prix, particularly as they came into Canada still not knowing the mysterious problems that plagued Charles Leclerc.

Ferrari understanding SF-23 updates

Despite the stoppages on Friday, the team had a solid start as both Leclerc and Carlos Sainz praised the "good feeling" they had in the SF-23 compared to previous races.

Although much of the car updates take inspiration from Red Bull and are aimed at making their car more drivable, the team still needs to optimise their setup window on the tricky Pirelli tyres.

Ferrari spent much of their Friday running on the Medium tyre, with both Leclerc and Sainz putting in 24 and 22 laps respectively on the compound.

Many of the teams knew tyre temperatures would be a limiting factor in the race, given the long straights which cool them a lot quicker than other circuits. So understanding how they would perform over a race stint was crucial in determining the strategy for the race.

The times set by both drivers caught the attention of Red Bull advisor Helmut Marko, who claimed Ferrari was much stronger than they were anticipating in the long runs.

			© RN365/Michael Potts
	© RN365/Michael Potts

The gamble on Medium tyres

When the Russell crashed 12 laps into the Grand Prix, it prompted a slew of activity in the pit lane as everyone reacted the opportunity to switch tyres.

Ferrari was wary of the Hard tyre potentially being difficult to get into the working window, which is why they kept both drivers out on the Mediums during the opening phase of the race while everyone else apart from Alex Albon pitted for the Hards.

The rain on Saturday caused the track to be much more 'greener' overnight, which led to the Hard tyres becoming more "vulnerable" on Sunday compared to Friday, according to Max Verstappen.

The times from Sainz and Leclerc on the Medium were still matching the ones done by both Verstappen and Alonso out in front, so after some consultation between their engineers over team radio they stayed out for another 10 laps without fighting each other on track.

L24 Sainz: "I have a bit of pace here."
L25 Sainz: "How many more laps on these tyres?"
Riccardo Adami: "We'd like to go another 10 laps."
Sainz: "Ok."
L26 Xavier Padros (to Leclerc): "We want a clean and fast stint, Sainz will not attack you."
L29 Adami (to Sainz): "Switch red, switch red."
Sainz: "I'm happy not to box yet."

Head-to-Head Lap 28 to 38

Lap Verstappen (H) Alonso (H) Leclerc (M) Sainz (M)
28 1:17.004 1:17.010 1:17.434 1:17.569
29 1:16.807 1:17.252 1:17.540 1:17.432
30 1:17.016 1:17.295 1:17.692 1:17.421
31 1:16.849 1:17.113 1:17.382 1:17.440
32 1:16.918 1:17.667 1:17.387 1:17.359
33 1:16.830 1:16.991 1:17.189 1:17.533
34 1:17.054 1:17.069 1:17.461 1:17.636
35 1:17.225 1:17.147 1:17.742 1:17.452
36 1:17.765 1:17.649 1:18.034 1:17.854
37 1:17.094 1:17.169 1:17.421 1:17.495
38 1:17.011 1:17.077 1:17.566 PIT
39 PIT

Drivers more 'at ease' with SF-23 consistency

Ferrari was holding off Sergio Perez comfortably by the time they pitted, which was helped by Albon who worked his way up to P7 by staying out on the Hards.

Much of the grip from the Hard tyre came later in the stint, which is where Sainz and Leclerc could maintain the gap to Perez as he started to struggle on the Mediums.

Leclerc's best lap of a 1:15.907 (Lap 47) on the Hards was nearly a second quicker than Verstappen's 1:16.607 earlier in the race on Lap 20. While that could be put down to fuel loads and track evolution, it is encouraging that it was not far off the 1:15.594 set by Verstappen on the Mediums on Lap 68.

Leclerc felt his setup direction this weekend enabled him to be more "at ease" with the car as it gave him more "consistency" on all compounds, a trait that both drivers have often criticised post-race.

Ferrari introduced their car updates with the aims to take the aero "peakiness" away, which has often been the source of their unforced errors.

It would be foolish to draw any conclusions about what this will mean for the rest of their season. But it is telling that on one of the toughest circuits for tyres - where even Red Bull struggled - Ferrari managed to be the only team in the top five to make the one-stop strategy work.

F1 2023 Canadian Grand Prix RN365 News dossier

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