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Italian Grand Prix 2023

How Ferrari's 'different animal' nearly upset Red Bull record

Ferrari came away from Monza with its best result of 2023 so far, but it was very nearly an iconic upset in front of the adoring Tifosi crowd.

Verstappen Sainz Leclerc Italy
To news overview © XPBimages

If you were not paying attention for the last 14 races, the Italian Grand Prix confirmed it: Perfection and luck will be needed to beat Max Verstappen in 2023.

Ferrari nearly provided a much-needed upset to Red Bull's win streak, but even the 'Monza curse' could not strike against one of the most dominant driver and car combinations of all time in Formula 1.

Verstappen and the RB19 leave the European part of this season undefeated, but it was very nearly a different outcome at Ferrari's home race.

Ferrari 'competitive everywhere' at Monza

Ferrari got as close as any other team to beating Red Bull on Sunday, with Carlos Sainz putting on a display worthy of the honorary 'defence minister' title.

Even though it only yielded a third place, with Charles Leclerc's fourth place, the duo produced Ferrari's best result of 2023 - taking away 27 points.

The team went all-in with its chances, giving both Leclerc and Sainz fresh power unit components including a new internal combustion engine, turbocharger, MGU-H and MGU-K.

It was also one of the few teams to bring a 'Monza special' rear wing, which exploits a key strength of the SF-23 that has been seen throughout the season at the high-speed tracks.

Ferrari Driver Coach Jock Clear explained to media, including RacingNews365: "From a trackside point of view, we've understood from those previous races, that there are conditions in which this car is competitive all around the track.

"You look at Austria, you look at Spa, it wasn't like we were only competitive on the straights, or we were just managing your hang on around the corner. We were competitive everywhere.

"We were competitive in the corners where normally we would really struggle - like Turn 11 - so it is a different animal here."

Monza Speed Trap

Driver Speed (KPH)
Hamilton 359.0
Leclerc 354.3
Verstappen 347.2
Sainz 336.6

Sainz puts in 'defence minister' performance

Red Bull compromised with its wing setup to produce a better race car, knowing the temperatures would be high at Monza at this time of year. As it turned out, Sunday was the hottest day of the entire weekend.

This meant Verstappen would find it tough to beat that minimal drag SF-23 in a straight-drag race into the Rettifilo chicane, with the Spaniard also employing tricks to break the tow down the start/finish straight.

Sainz's car positioning also helped him as the circuit got more narrow when they headed into the braking zones. It was ultimately a mistake induced by tyre degradation - a symptom of the SF-23 all season - that would enable Verstappen to make the move through Curva Grande.

Once Verstappen was past, Ferrari had only one option to salvage his race: Pit Sainz immediately and attempt the undercut.

Team Principal Frederic Vasseur later admitted Ferrari was unsure over whether the Hard tyre would last, considering the compounds were a step Softer than usual owing to Pirelli's Alternative Tyre Allocation experiment.

When asked whether the two-stop was favourable, Sainz said: "It did feel high deg for me. It did feel more like a two-stop than a one-stop.

"In the end we committed to a one stop because that's what our numbers suggested before the race but honestly, I was probably five laps short in each of these things.

"The last four laps I did on the Medium, I did it with zero rubber left. The last ten laps I did with the Hard, I did them with zero rubber left - that's why I was sliding around so much.

"I guess if other teams had a similar feeling [and] committed to a two stop, because for me a one stop was very tight and very on the limit."

Those who committed to the two-stop strategy ended up losing too much time in the pits, with Liam Lawson being the driver to finish the highest in 11th.

			© XPBimages
	© XPBimages

Red Bull better at managing race

Ferrari's has highlighted their 'aero peakiness' problem at the high downforce circuits before, a problem that was clearly still with it at Zandvoort as the drivers struggled to make it into the top five.

This is not helped by the fact Sainz and Leclerc have complained about the "zero flexibility" to push on the tyres, a trait that Sainz believes Red Bull has unlocked to enable their large win margins.

"If you compare us to Red Bull, they were clearly quicker for me, especially from lap five, lap six once the tyres coming to temperature and you're driving on a hotter tyre and with less grip than the first five laps when the tyre is new," said Sainz.

"There is where you clearly feel that the Red Bull can make a difference and can either manage more but keep a good pace, or they can either just push more for a faster pace and deg less."

It's clear Ferrari has a long way to go before they can translate their blistering qualifying pace into a credible threat to Red Bull's unbeaten run in 2023.

F1 2023 Italian Grand Prix RN365 News dossier

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RESULTS 2024 F1 Emilia Romagna Grand Prix - Qualifying