Michael Schumacher’s former race engineer spots major Ferrari ‘problem’

Thomas Maher
Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz pose with Max Verstappen after qualifying for the 2023 Italian Grand Prix.

Ferrari's problem in 2024 has a "first and last name", according to Luca Baldisseri.

Michael Schumacher’s former race engineer believes a major problem is stopping Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz from achieving title glory.

Luca Baldisseri, a key member of Ferrari’s most successful era in Formula 1 as the Italian was the race engineer for Michael Schumacher during his title victories between 2000 and 2003 before switching to race strategy, believes a major problem stands in the way of the Scuderia’s chances of returning to the front of F1.

Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz head into 2024 full of optimism about the direction of Ferrari – entering their second season under Fred Vasseur’s watch – having enjoyed an upward trend in momentum in the latter half of 2023.

Luca Baldisseri: Ferrari’s problem has a first and a last name

Ferrari take the covers off their new F1 2024 car on February 13th, with the aim of tackling Red Bull for title glory.

Baldisseri, who now works with Formula Renault Eurocup team Global Racing Service, does not attempt to hide his ongoing support for Ferrari but said Max Verstappen remains the biggest hurdle the Scuderia faces.

“I’m the guy for Vasseur, for Leclerc, for Sainz, and for everyone who works within the racing department,” Baldisseri said in an interview with Leo Turrini, as quoted by Italian publication FormulaPassion.

“But they have a problem. And this problem has a first and last name. Max Verstappen.”

Verstappen, who is coming off the back of a third consecutive title heading into 2024, is rapidly establishing himself as this decade’s iconic driver – and Baldisseri said it’s down to the Dutch driver’s ability to elevate the Red Bull beyond its normal performance level.

“Every generation has its symbol,” Baldisseri said.

“[Ayrton] Senna, Schumi, [Lewis] Hamilton. Now it is the Dutchman’s turn.

“He is in the cockpit of the fastest car, but he is also the best. Driven by [Sergio] Perez, the Red Bull is less stratospheric. There is an additional difference determined by the driving.

“Like Schumi’s Ferrari when he was at the top: only Michael knew how to make it irresistible.”

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Luca Baldisseri: The Red Bull in front is being driven by ‘an alien’

Last month, Baldisseri spoke with Italian publication Gazzetto dello Sport, in which he said that, even in 2023, Ferrari’s SF-23 might not have been that far off Red Bull’s dominant RB19 – at least, if one uses Perez as the benchmark.

“When I analyse a single seater, I always do it by looking at the performance of the second driver,” he said.

“And in that sense, it is even clearer that Ferrari’s performance was not much less than that of Sergio Perez’s Red Bull. The other car was further ahead because it was driven by an alien.

“Also because the rules remain stable, which should help us get further there. To know exactly what is needed, we really need to work in the team.

“However, it is one thing to catch up with Red Bull, another, slightly more difficult thing is to catch up with Red Bull and Verstappen.”

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