Ferrari team boss Fred Vasseur has questioned McLaren’s one-second maths with their in-season gains, saying he doesn’t think they have the “same reading of the season”.
McLaren’s results between Canada, the last race before they introduced their first big upgrade of the season, and Sunday’s Japanese Grand Prix have been a notable improvement.
So much so the Woking team has taken 137 points out of Aston Martin to close in on fourth place in the Constructors’ Championship.
Have McLaren shaved a second off the MCL60’s lap time?
Amassing five podiums in the eight races since their Austrian upgrade, one that was followed by another big update in Singapore, McLaren even recorded a season’s first double at Suzuka with Lando Norris second to Oscar Piastri’s P3.
It has team boss Andrea Stella speaking of a one-second improvement over the course of the season.
Speaking on the F1 Nation podcast after the Japanese Grand Prix, Stella said: “I think realistically, to be the second-best team [at Suzuka] you needed to be one second quicker than when we were in Bahrain, so pretty much I think the maths is correct.
“The performance is a consequence of having been able to develop the car.”
However, Vasseur doesn’t agree with his rival’s numbers nor his explanation that was down to the team’s two big in-season upgrades.
“I’m not sure if we have exactly the same reading of the season,” he told Autosport.
“I think that they had a big issue at the beginning, and then they recovered pretty quickly because, even in Barcelona, they were on the second row.
“I think it was Max [Verstappen], Carlos [Sainz], and then Lando and Lewis [Hamilton] on the second row, they were already competitive.
“And this kind of track is probably suited more with their car than us. But for sure it’s not just a matter of pure potential, it’s a matter of driveability also.
“Each time you will do a step forward you will also help the driver to do a step forward, and this can be a kind of snowball effect. Still, a small step compared to Red Bull!”
A ‘clear step forward’ for Ferrari in tyre management
And that’s what it comes down to for all the teams today, small steps to reel in Red Bull.
For Ferrari that has meant getting on top of their tyre issues as that was one of the SF-23’s biggest early-season weaknesses.
Vasseur believes Charles Leclerc’s fourth place at Suzuka is a clear sign that Ferrari are getting there.
“I think it’s a step forward compared to the beginning of the season,” said the Frenchman.
“But on the other hand, we were probably a bit too conservative, and I think it was true for everybody on the grid that we were more scared than the reality. It was under control in the race. And we think we did a good step forward on this one.
“It’s sure if you have a look on the first couple of races of the season, the degradation or the tyre management, were not always our biggest skill, let’s say.
“And coming to Suzuka with this track temp we were a bit at risk. But at the end of the day, I think we did a good job on this side.
“The race was under control, the strategy was well managed. We did well. A clear step forward compared to the first part of the season.”