Ferrari updates, Spanish Grand Prix, 2023

Why Ferrari say their change in design is the result of “discipline”, not “copying”

2023 Spanish Grand Prix

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‘Discipline’, rather than ‘performance’ or ‘handling’, was the word pinned to the aerodynamic upgrade package Ferrari brought for its SF-23 at the Spanish Grand Prix.

Long-serving Ferrari engineer Jock Clear, now Charles Leclerc’s performance engineer, spoke to media including RaceFans ahead of the race last Sunday about what had inspired the upgrades, their predicted effectiveness, and why it had taken this long for them to appear when a downturn in their performance became apparent during the second half of last season.

The team started last season “convinced about what we had,” explains Clear. “And then we all have to learn from what other people are doing, but we also have to learn from what we’re doing. We’re not copying anyone, per se. We’re looking at what they did, we’re going back to our tunnel and trying to find out if that works. Now, it’s appeared on the car now because it works.”

After Red Bull dominated the first races of 2023, Ferrari looked at some of the aerodynamic concepts on the car to beat and analysed why their rival was so fast. However it was never a foregone conclusion that those models would eventually find their way to the SF-23.

Although Ferrari have a higher Aerodynamic Testing Restriction allocation than Red Bull, and can therefore conduct more development work than the current benchmark team, their allocation is lower than each of their other rivals. So they have to be picky with what does go scaled-up into the wind tunnel, and then into the production.

Ferrari updates, Spanish Grand Prix, 2023
Ferrari revealed reworked sidepods in Spain
“As soon as you see what someone else is doing well and you get that in your tunnel, you’re disciplined enough not to have a ‘knee jerk’ and just chuck it on your car, because it won’t work,” said Clear. “But you have to give yourself a couple of months to get it sorted, to get it to work with your car, and then you say ‘yeah, actually I can see where they’re coming from there’.

“What you see is the result of that. It’s going to lead to a further development down that avenue. We’ve started to investigate a new avenue to go down and this is the result of that.”

That new direction could easily be labelled the ‘Red Bull avenue’, since there has been convergence across the grid of teams changing design philosophy in certain areas, making them visibly more similar to the RB19. The similarities in pace, however, have been far harder to achieve, and Ferrari knew that would be the case despite the extent of their Barcelona upgrades.

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“This has not made half a second or seven tenths of a second difference,” said Clear. “This is two, three tenths at best.

“But the positive thing is it’s two tenths in Barcelona, and Barcelona is a circuit which really exposes a car’s weaknesses. You can’t come to Barcelona and hide. So that’s the real positive: We’ve come here and we’ve made that upgrade work at probably one of the most exposing circuits.”

Carlos Sainz Jr, Ferrari, Circuit de Catalunya, 2023
Sainz enjoyed his best qualifying result of 2023 in the updated car
The result in qualifying was the best performance of the season so far for Carlos Sainz Jnr, who qualified second, and the worst for Leclerc. However the latter was convinced something was awry with his car after qualifying 19th. Ferrari chose to change the rear end of his SF-23, requiring a pit lane start.

As has been the pattern all season long, Ferrari’s race pace was not strong enough for Sainz to remain in the top three on Sunday and he slipped to fifth. Leclerc recovered to 11th place and after the opening lap only dropped 17.945 seconds to his team mate over the duration of the 66-lap race as he made his way past slower cars.

Clear reckoned Sainz’s front row start was “proof that the car has made a bit of a step forward and it’s incremental”, and cemented the importance of Ferrari’s discipline in only bringing the upgrades to the SF-23 once they were sure they were going to make a worthwhile gain – in lap time and in future development opportunities – from doing so

“I think you’ve got to avoid that knee-jerk where somebody says ‘I don’t give a damn, just get it on the car’. Because that never works. Your head of aerodynamics and your technical people have to say ‘until this works on our car, we’re just going to be spending money for no sake here, unless we get it to work’.

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“That’s the frustration of it taking until race seven to get it there. But that’s the discipline of doing it properly. And I think you saw the results of that [in qualifying].”

Ferrari updates, Spanish Grand Prix, 2023
Teams “cannot afford one-offs” under budget cap
However the change will have been in vain if Ferrari cannot go on and make further advances with its new platform. Clear thought it was “very difficult to say” whether the team had proved development potential of the upgraded car. “Obviously, again, we believe so. Otherwise, we wouldn’t have committed to this,” he said.

“With the budget cap being what it is, you can’t just afford to do one-offs that you think ‘well, let’s try this, we don’t understand why’. We understand why this package that we’ve got here works, and we think that has opened up a new avenue for us that we’re now going to exploit.

“Where that goes into the woods? We don’t know. We can see the next couple of corners, but we can’t see much further down the road. But certainly we’re relying on that sort of fundamental process of your aerodynamic development has to be coherent.

“So the fact that we’ve brought this suggests to all of us in the team ‘okay, the aero guys are happy with this being a coherent way to go, and that it will lead somewhere, and we will have to explore that further’. And you’ll see that further on in the year.”

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2023 Spanish Grand Prix

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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...

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3 comments on “Why Ferrari say their change in design is the result of “discipline”, not “copying””

  1. The Ferrari design isn’t bad needs some refinement and maybe a change in susspension to maximize the design beter on long runs (eating tyres)

  2. And this is exactly why they dont bring results and fallback when something changes and also why during a season their development is behind all the others. With the zero risk attitude you are not going forward and you will never achieve something better.
    Ferrari must do what AM did and MB (even if they were 1.5 year late in the party).

  3. The old design was too slow.

    The new design is too slow, too.

    Maybe they should try copying for a change?

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