Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Red Bull Ring, 2023

After getting on terms with Aston Martin, Ferrari’s next target is Mercedes

2023 Dutch Grand Prix

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There is a big gap in the constructors’ standings between Ferrari in fourth and Mercedes in second, but the former feel they can be Formula 1’s second fastest team on track.

Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc finished third behind the Red Bulls at the Belgian Grand Prix, but that was only his team’s third trophy of 2023. In contrast Mercedes have five and Aston Martin – who are third in the standings – have six.

However Ferrari team principal Frederic Vasseur insists the Scuderia are “moving forward”, based on their results heading into the summer break.

“If you have a look on the first 12 races, it’s clearly up and down, really tight,” he said. Tiny errors make a significant difference in the fight to be closest to Red Bull, and that can make it hard to identify where their strengths and weaknesses lie.

“The most difficult part of the job is to understand what is going well and what is going wrong and where we can improve,” he said.

While Aston Martin started as Red Bull’s closest rival but has since dropped back, Mercedes was initially off the pace but now is the second-best team on race pace. McLaren have also dramatically improved their form recently.

Meanwhile Ferrari’s form has fluctuated. They finished in the top five in seven of the first 12 grands prix, with their longest streak of top-five finishes only being three races. But Vasseur takes confidence from the way the team have bounced back from less competitive weekends in 2023.

“I think the reaction of the team from the beginning of the season was a good one. They remember that Jeddah was very tough for us and the reaction after Jeddah, for me, was a good one. Everybody was pushing in the same direction.”

He has drawn particular encouragement from how the team has closed on and overtaken Aston Martin. “We know that with the regulations and the cost cap, it’s not so easy to change completely the game during the season.

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“But if you have a look, we had in terms of performance compared to Aston Martin for example, they were much faster than us in Jeddah. And now we are not always, but in general in front of them.”

But while Ferrari did not enter 2023 expecting Aston Martin to be a threat, they are now focused on giving a more of a fight to Mercedes. However Vasseur admits they are unlikely to overturn their rival’s 56-point lead over them.

“There is a huge gap with Mercedes in terms of points,” he said. “When I have a look on the first part of the season, we missed too many opportunities.

“It means that we have to do a better job on this one to be much more opportunistic on the second part of the season. For sure we need something a bit special, if we want to catch up Mercedes.”

He believes they can make their SF-23 a match for the W14 in race trim. “Most important for me is to catch up Mercedes in terms of pace. It means that to stay in front of them in terms of pure performance in qualifying, to improve a little bit and to be in front of them in the race pace. Then I don’t know if we will finish second or not, it’s another story. But I want to do a step forward in terms of pure performance compared to Mercedes for the second part of the season.”

“So far we are a bit faster on average than them in quali,” Vasseur added. “We have to do the improvement on the race pace”.

The chasing pack behind Red Bull are so close together Vasseur is reluctant to predict who may come out ahead this weekend.

“We have a group behind Red Bull. Sometimes [competing] with Red Bull in quali, but not in the race so far. We have a group with Mercedes, Aston, McLaren, sometimes Alpine, able to fight for the first rows.

“That means that it’s an exciting challenge, an exciting situation because when you are going somewhere, you never know if you will be P2 or P10. But no misunderstanding, I would prefer to be sure to be one and two. But it’s exciting for the fans and for the championship.

“And I think it’s a bit of a mistake to anticipate too much, because that it’s so tight that I think it’s quite impossible to predict if in Zandvoort or in Monza we will be in a good shape.”

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2023 Dutch 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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8 comments on “After getting on terms with Aston Martin, Ferrari’s next target is Mercedes”

  1. Ferrari are in no mans land. They don’t have the pace to regularly fight for podiums, they aren’t consistent with top 5 finishes as well. They aren’t strong strategically or operationally. They have an average development path at best, which means they would only jump teams that drop the ball (like Aston).

    I think they best Ferrari can hope for in the near and long future is P3 in the WCC.

    1. I guess we’ll have to see whether Alonso (AM) get back into a run and how McLaren progress/stay at their current levels since both will have a go at beating Ferrari if they do well with strategy, development and execution, all things Ferrari is lacking in.

  2. After getting on terms with Aston Martin, Ferrari’s next target is Mercedes

    Optimism is not dead.

    Time to look carefully at the pit stop procedures and strategy, perhaps? Massa can vouch for this being a long standing issue.

  3. The interview makes it sound like an accomplishment, but Ferrari didn’t get ‘on terms’ with Aston Martin on its own merit, AM failed to keep up with its rivals in development. AM lost ground to all its competitors, not just Ferrari. In fact, I would say less so to Ferrari than to others like Mercedes, McLaren, even Alpine.

  4. Taking Aston Martin’s problems and turning them into your own accomplishments could be described as optimism, but also as delusion. Personally, from looking at the races and qualifyings themselves, it doesn’t appear to me that Ferrari has made any significant step forwards in any department from the start of the year until the summer break, so I would be very wary to look forwards to Mercedes rather than making sure those behind me don’t get back to their earlier form.

    1. Not to mention Mercedes haven’t had much time to optimise their recent updates thanks to all the wet weather and sprint races reducing practice time. I fully expect Mercedes to take a 2-3 tenths step forward from setup alone in the coming races. Sure Ferrari might be able to gain time too but it feels like their original development plans have been thrown out later in the season rather than after the first test like Mercedes did.

    2. Well it is one data point , but 3rd place on merit in a varied track like Spa is a good omen for Ferrari.

  5. Coventry Climax
    24th August 2023, 11:20

    They feel they can be the team behind RedBull, and yes, they can.
    But they won’t.
    Too many areas to cover and too many egos to overcome.

    “I think the reaction of the team from the beginning of the season was a good one. They remember that Jeddah was very tough for us and the reaction after Jeddah, for me, was a good one. Everybody was pushing in the same direction.”

    I’d say, if you want to cover more ground, everybody pushing in the same direction isn’t going to achieve that.

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