Can Ferrari Finally Return to the Top in 2023?
In formula one, 2022 promised to be Ferrari’s year. When the Italian team revealed its new car, it captured the attention of the entire Formula 1 paddock with its provocative curves and black wings that hark back to the classic paint schemes. And with Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz behind the wheel, the team was the whole package.
In winter testing, things looked positive. While the Scuderia’s cars were not immune from the perils of porpoising, they were the bumpiest of broncos out on track. With decent mileage under their belts, Ferrari turned up to the first race in Bahrain and won.
Reliability issues for Red Bull and the strong pace from Leclerc and Sainz all weekend made everyone begin to wonder whether they’d be seeing scarlet red back at the top of the pecking order for the first time in more than a decade.
Things continued to look up for the following two races. While Max Verstappen took the chequered flag in Saudi Arabia, Leclerc and Sainz made up the rest of the podium, with the Monegasque just half a second behind the Dutchman, which was followed by another win in Melbourne, putting Ferrari and Leclerc at the top of the points tables as the teams left Australia.
However, despite this brilliant start, Ferrari managed to do what Ferrari appears to do best. They took a great start to a season and threw it all away. Through various strategy blunders, driver errors, and mechanic failures, the Italian outfit failed to win a race in the second half of the season.
Over the winter, the Scuderia replaced its Team Principal, handing Mattia Binotto his Hearty Italian sandwiches wrapped in a road map and poaching Frederic Vasseur from Alfa Romeo to replace him.
Eagle-eyed (and slightly older) Ferrari fans were quick to point out an important factor in Vasseur’s appointment, he’s French. The last time Ferrari had a non-Italian Team Principal was during the Schumacher era when Jean Todt was at the helm.
Hopeful members of the Tifosi are keeping their fingers crossed that he will bring a culture change with him.
Long-time Formula 1 fan will be having flashbacks to the 2010 innovation that was the McLaren F-Duct when they hear the term ‘S-Duct’. And for good reason as the two devices are similar.
The 2010 McLaren contender was a solid car that won five races at the hands of Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton, thanks, in part, to the periscope-looking contraption on the nose cone that allowed air to stall the rear wing whenever the driver used their leg to close a valve.
In 2023, Ferrari installed an S-Duct around the side of its car, allowing air to flow into the car and be funneled out around the rear wing to provide more downforce. Unlike the F-Duct, it doesn’t require any driver input, making it much safer.
Other teams have already questioned its legality with the FIA, but the governing body has given in the green light.
While the S-Duct alone won’t win Ferrari the championship, it’s evidence that it is a team that’s now able to think outside of the box and push the boundaries of the rules, just as it did during its glory years of 2000-2004.
From early performances, it’s clear that Red Bull is still the team to beat in 2023. However, Ferrari looks like they are not too far behind the Austrian outfit.
It’s now 2023, and things are looking very similar. Ferrari unveiled an impressive-looking car and had a solid program of testing. The team is now a strong contender for both World Championships. In the pre-Bahrain F1 odds, Leclerc was second-favorite for the drivers’ title and Ferrari third-favorite for the constructors’ trophy.
If the Italian team can have any chance of winning a title this year, it will have to make steps forward during the middle of the season.
Red Bull will be delayed by the development of handicap rules and a further penalty for breaching the 2021 cost cap. So Ferrari has an advantage here, but it remains unknown whether the team will squander it.