There’s encouraging news coming out of Ferrari with Marc Gene revealing the ‘676’ is giving a “very different” feeling to last year’s SF-23, a car they were not “completely convinced” by in the simulator.
Although last season Ferrari spoke of race wins and a title challenge, team boss Fred Vasseur later admitted Ferrari knew early on the car was not on par with Red Bull’s RB19.
“The first morning of the [first] test, I think that it was quite obvious already,” he said.
‘But we still have to wait to see the car on the track…’
According to Gene, though, the first signs of trouble were evident when Ferrari were carrying out their pre-season simulator work ahead of testing.
But there is good news for the Scuderia and their Tifosi with the Ferrari ambassador talking about a “very different” feeling already with this year’s ‘676’, as the car is currently called.
“Optimism? All we can tell is what the simulator tells us and the sensations of the drivers in the simulator. The track, in any case, is the one that rules and is the final judge,” he told Mundo Deportivo at their Grand Gala event.
“But it is true that last year at this point we were no longer completely convinced with the car from what the simulator told us and this year the sensations are very different.
“But we still have to wait to see the car on the track, which will be on February 13 and then the pre-season test in Bahrain.”
It’s the latter that will be the first big test as Ferrari’s ‘676’ goes up against the Red Bull RB20, the Mercedes W15 and the McLaren MCL38, the three teams expected to be up near the front of the field.
It begs the question, can Ferrari challenge for the 2024 World title with either Leclerc or Sainz?
“It’s difficult,” admits Gene, “because Red Bull had a very important margin last year and they say that this year’s car is much better. They are the favourites , obviously.
“Fighting with them for the World Championship is a bit optimistic to say, but to take one more step forward and be able to fight more assiduously with them, yes.”
According to Vasseur, this year’s Ferrari F1 car will be “95 per cent” different to last year with reports in the Italian media saying that while the team will continue with the front push and rear pull design, that has been tweaked with a “sort of keel” to increase the airflow towards the Venturi channels.
Changes to the gearbox layout and the introduction of a by-pass duct are reportedly just two big changes Ferrari will introduce as they bid to close the gap to Red Bull.
Last season Ferrari finished the championship in third place, 454 points behind Red Bull. They were, however, the only team aside from Red Bull to win a race with Sainz taking the chequered flag at the Singapore Grand Prix.