Qualifying performance proves Ferrari can rival Red Bull on race pace – Vasseur

2023 Bahrain Grand Prix

Posted on

| Written by and

Ferrari team principal Frederic Vasseur says their failure to reach the Bahrain Grand Prix podium does not show the team needs to change the concept behind its SF-23 car.

Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz Jnr qualified third and fourth respectively, but only Sainz finished the opening race of the season – in fourth place – as a power unit problem sent Leclerc into retirement.

While Toto Wolff has already conceded Mercedes need to rethink their car to beat Bahrain winner Red Bull, his counterpart at Ferrari believes their design has the potential to rival last weekend’s dominant winners. Vasseur said the team “don’t have to go into this direction” of changing the car’s design as its qualifying pace demonstrates it can be a threat to Red Bull on Sundays.

“I’m completely convinced about this,” he told media including RaceFans. “I never saw a car able to match the pace of another one in quali and not be able to in the race.

“Then it’s a matter of set-up and some choices on the car. But it’s not a matter of concept at all.”

Vasseur took over from Mattia Binotto in charge of Ferrari during the off-season. He was previously team principal at Alfa Romeo and Renault (now Alpine), and prior to that ran the highly successful ART junior formulae operation. His experience gives him confidence in Ferrari’s ability to be competitive.

“I’m sure [of] that because I never experienced in my life a car able to be quick on one lap for a conceptual issue and not be fast on the whole stint,” Vasseur added.

Advert | Become a RaceFans supporter and go ad-free

“It’s, from my point of view, more a set-up issue and a tuning issue. We have to understand what we are doing well and if it’s about cooling or something like this and to come back next weekend stronger.”

Leclerc qualified just under three tenths of a second behind pole-winner Max Verstappen. However Leclerc was closer to the Red Bull driver on their first runs in Q3 and opted not to do a second in order to save a fresh set of tyres for the race. He was 24 seconds behind the leader when he retired from Sunday’s race on lap 39.

Bahrain presents a set-up challenge to teams due to its highly abrasive track surface as well as the dust that can blow onto the circuit from the desert, meaning grip levels can vary around the lap. Vasseur believes the circuit’s characteristics exaggerated the team’s deficit to its key rival, but is under no illusions that they are behind.

“The picture of today is the picture of today,” he said. “Even if Bahrain is a bit extreme in terms of degradation and it’s also considering the health [state] of the track, the fact that you have a lot of traction phase with DRS and so on, it means that if you are not in a good shape that it’s becoming mega,” said Vasseur.

“But this is the situation. The track layout and the circumstances increase the picture but they don’t change the picture.”

As only one Ferrari scored points, the team is fourth in the constructors’ standings. It is the first time they have been outside of the top three since the 2021 United States Grand Prix.

Bringing the F1 news from the source

RaceFans strives to bring its readers news directly from the key players in Formula 1. We are able to do this thanks in part to the generous backing of our RaceFans Supporters.

By contributing £1 per month or £12 per year (or the equivalent in other currencies) you can help cover the costs involved in producing original journalism: Travelling, writing, creating, hosting, contacting and developing.

We have been proudly supported by our readers for over 10 years. If you enjoy our independent coverage, please consider becoming a RaceFans Supporter today. As a bonus, all our Supporters can also browse the site ad-free. Sign up or find out more via the links below:

Advert | Become a RaceFans supporter and go ad-free

2023 Bahrain Grand Prix

Browse all 2023 Bahrain Grand Prix articles

Author information

Ida Wood
Often found in junior single-seater paddocks around Europe doing journalism and television commentary, or dabbling in teaching photography back in the UK. Currently based...
Claire Cottingham
Claire has worked in motorsport for much of her career, covering a broad mix of championships including Formula One, Formula E, the BTCC, British...

Got a potential story, tip or enquiry? Find out more about RaceFans and contact us here.

27 comments on “Qualifying performance proves Ferrari can rival Red Bull on race pace – Vasseur”

  1. They just need to figure out a way to ensure they’re not taking PU penalties every race due to need to run the PU extra spicy.

  2. I had hopes for Vasseur but “I never saw a car able to match the pace of another one in quali and not be able to in the race.” doesn’t sound good. We’ve seen this countless times. Sure, to fix it they probably won’t need a radical change of car philosophy Wolff is hinting at but it for sure is not as simple as he suggests by just tweaking setup. To work these annoying tires correctly you need just the right amount of downforce in the corners. It needs to be smart and efficient so it doesn’t hamper on the straights too. That’s a tricky balance.
    Unless Vasseur thinks they got the basics wrong and run a car with extreme toe in that is cooking the fronts or something… Designing efficient downforce ≠ setup work

    1. You are right. I would say that al least the entire 2022 season, but certainly some seasons before that as well, Ferrari showed over amd over that they had the one lap speed, but seldom the race pace. So he actually couldnt be more wrong. I dinstinctly remember thinking countless times that Ferrari would be better of just setting up the race car and stop obsessing over pole. RB never compromises their race set up for quali.. Well maybe in Monaco.

      1. BW (@deliberator)
        16th March 2023, 7:24

        Actually, 2002 is a good example, where Montoya put his Williams on pole several times throughout the season. Yet the Williams had zero chance against the Ferraris in race trim.

  3. Qualifying & race pace don’t necessarily or definitely always go hand-in-hand, so I’m skeptical.
    Their race pace was already a weakness further into last season, so nothing seems different in this regard regardless of circuit characteristics or deg.

    1. The head of aerodynamic in Ferrari just resigned ….so it is total darkness for Ferrari

  4. That was a surprising short time for the Ferrari reality distortion field to affect Vasseur. I thought it would take a season or two.

    1. I thought exactly the same. He is already Binotto, without the cool nerdy hair. Ferrari must be serving psilocybin tea or something.

  5. The Ferrari and Red Bull cars are competitive. It means Leclerc and Sainz can compete with Perez during races. However, Verstappen is able to drive the same car around the circuit during a race significantly faster than the other three. And therefore he will still win races with 30 seconds margin or more…

    1. Not if the Showbiz Car has anything to do with it!

    2. Watch the side by side quali lap of VER and PER.
      Run it at .25 speed. Notice how quiet Max’s hands are compared to PER.

      1. I was referring to the Safety Car when it closes the field up, near the end of a race. Thanks but if I have to watch it back at quarter speed, then qualifying on TV is not good enough…

        1. That is to show the difference of driving style between the Red Bull drivers.

      2. @clayt while both drivers went for a setup more focused on the race, I believe Max went for a slightly higher downforce setup to Checo. I too noticed Max seemed much calmer in the corners compared to Checo.. But in reality there was very little performance wise to separate the drivers in Qualifying. A couple of small tweaks to the end of the lap for Checo and he would have had pole.

  6. The fact that Ferrari can match RBR in qualifying while trailing them massively in races suggest that they suffer massively once fuel is loaded on the car which is normal. The astonishing thing is that the RB19 is unsensitive to the fuel load which suggest that the chassis who is rigid enough to pass the rigorous FIA crash tests is also nimble and the suspension systems works magically to retain the car balanced across different fuel loads and conditions.

    Last year, the F1-75 was recognized for having the most peak downforce, but it also experienced more significant tire wear compared to the RB18, even before the introduction of TD039. Ferrari’s approach to maximizing ground effect and generating downforce from the floor differs from Red Bull’s focus on aerodynamic efficiency and working harder the diffuser, which has been a consistent trait of Newey across various regulations.

    Despite being able to match Red Bull in qualifying, Ferrari falls behind significantly in races due to their struggle with fuel loads which in my opinion is normal. However, what’s astonishing is that the RB19 seems to be insensitive to fuel loads, tyre compounds, track conditions… suggesting that the chassis is both rigid enough to pass the rigorous FIA crash tests and nimble too.

    Also the suspension system is working to maintain the car balanced all the time. That’s why it doesn’t suffer porpoising, nor eat its tyres… It’s like Red Bull have introduced a “passive” active suspension. It’s no surprise to me that Red Bull Racing (RBR) and Mercedes have consistently been the class of the field when it comes to mechanical parts, particularly the braking and suspension systems (when hydraulic actuation of the heave spring was permitted before 2022).

    Giorgio Piola pointed out last year that the F1-75’s front suspension was one of the major issues with the car, which Ferrari completely redesigned on the SF-23. He also noted that the SF-23’s brake ducts are more conservative compared to the complex solution mounted on the RB19, which is all about weight saving.

    I believe that the Ferrari car concept is not flawed. The aerodynamicists at Maranello have consistently been innovating since the last major structure overhaul made by the late Marchionne, who promoted David Sanchez as the aero team leader, now the chief designer.

    The novel designs of the sidepods/bargeboards in 2017, the front wing in 2019, and the bathtub solution in 2022 have all been imitated by rival teams. This pattern indicates that the aero team is capable of coming up with innovative solutions whenever there is a new rule change.

    However, the team is lagging behind mechanically and lacks the technical leadership required to put all the pieces together. To address this, Vasseur needs to maintain the good patterns while breaking the bad ones.

    In the short term, the team needs to understand what RBR is up to and attempt to copy it or get it banned for the following year. Additionally, Elkann needs to consider investing in the team and bringing in big fishes from both RBR and Mercedes who can transfer their chassis and mechanical knowledge to Ferrari.

    1. What an excellent read, @tifoso1989, thank you. You should write for RaceFans!

      1. @shimks
        Thanks for your comment ! Would be great though I lack pragmatism to be a professional journalist as I’m biased in my views towards Ferrari. Not to mention the consistent need to control my temper whenever the likes of Toto, Christian, Helmut Marko… speak :)

        1. one of the best comments ive read on this site for years

          1. +1 well written!

        2. Another classic post.
          Combining technical knowledge with seemingly behind the scenes or “fly on the wall” content ,local knowledge coffee shop etc. that may not be generally available. Plus posts that may have been available publicly, but not in my language that I am too lazy or incapable of seeking out. And the rare (these days) admission of not being “perfect”. That’s my type of person!

          (I wish Racefans had a “follow/ alert” notification for favourite posters.
          Maybe if I put some Bugs Bunny in their skyrocket it may be possible sometime. Appreciate all I get for free though.)

  7. Can’t fix your problems if you don’t admit to them.

  8. I don’t expect this guy to admit things are bad just one race into his tenure, but Binotto was saying this unrealistic and useless nonsense until the very end of his.

  9. It has been reported that David Sanchez, the chief designer at Ferrari, has resigned. This contradicts the claims made by Vasseur that Ferrari can match Red Bull. It is unclear who will be designing Ferrari’s car for the next year, as it is unlikely that engineers of the same caliber as Sanchez will be available to immediately join the team.

    The only possibility may be to come to an agreement with Haas to bring Simone Resta over immediately. Another option could be to hire Rory Byrne, who works as a part-time freelance consultant. I prefer the second option as Newey is a valid assertion of the French proverb “C’est dans les vieilles marmites qu’on fait les meilleures soupes” which means that the best soups are usually made in old pots…

    1. Rory was Adrian’s Kryptonite, but he’s going on 80, and who knows what he could do even if he wanted.

      1. He still around Maranello. I heard Antonio Ghini in motorsport Italia podcast talking about him saying that he often sees him at the Montana restaurant. He is not heavily involved though. Last year, Ferrari designed a mount for the T-tray that included a damper similar to the one used on the F2003-GA that was designed by Byrne to get around the plank wear issue.

  10. This is rather optimistic. The issues with tyre wear are not new, suggesting that Ferrari doesn’t fully understand the problem or is unable to fix them without making serious compromises elsewhere.

    Also, Sainz. Let’s not put it all on the car. He was way behind Leclerc even in the first stint, and had such trouble keeping the double set of hards (!) working that he lost a place to Alonso, and almost to Hamilton as well.

    I recall Todt ordering his drivers to Fiorano to practise starts in 1999. Sainz too needs to step up.

Comments are closed.