‘Ferrari’s slot gap separators are purely there to catch attention, won’t appear at first race’

Oliver Harden
Ferrari SF-23 is launched. February 2023.

Ferrari SF-23 is launched. February 2023.

Craig Scarborough, a respected Formula 1 technical analyst, is convinced Ferrari’s controversial front wing will not make it to the first race of the 2023 Formula 1 season and was included on images of the launch-spec SF-23 purely to divert attention away from other areas of the car.

Ferrari’s front wing design courted controversy when the SF-23 was unveiled on Tuesday and featured slot gap separators similar to those which Mercedes were prevented from fielding at last year’s United States Grand Prix.

It has since been claimed that the removal of a single word from the FIA rulebook could make aerodynamically shaped slot gap generators legal for 2023, but Scarborough believes the inclusion of the components on the launch images are part of a clever game being played by Ferrari.

Speaking via F1 journalist Peter Windsor’s YouTube channel, he said: “On the front of the car is the slot gap separators, the little supports that hold the little bits in between the front wing.

“Now they’ve copied something that Mercedes brought last year, which were these fin-shaped ones. Ferrari are done them ever-so slightly differently.

“To my understanding, I think these are illegal.

“I think this is a bit of subterfuge, just something to catch people’s eyes and maybe not look at some other little details on the car. That’s quite interesting.

“Personally, I don’t expect to see those vanes on the car when we get to the first race.

“They may appear in testing, perhaps, when you’re allowed to do stuff like that, but I think that is just a little bit of fakery going on.”

Although Ferrari claimed more pole positions that any other team last season, Scarborough was a vocal critic of the team’s design approach in 2022 and claimed the F1-75 was never “quite as good as we thought it was” after Charles Leclerc won two of the opening three races.

And he has admitted that he is disappointed to see the team retain a low-drag philosophy for 2023.

“Initial thoughts are that it looks a lot like last year’s Ferrari,” he added.

“They really have kept all of the concepts, particularly with the sidepods that we saw last year that worked quite well for them.

“A couple of nice detail changes but really the car hasn’t really broken the mould for Ferrari.

PlanetF1.com recommends

PlanetF1.com and Global Fan Network launch new F1 channel ‘On Track GP’
Charles Leclerc agrees Ferrari should not start 2023 with a No.1 driver
‘Small adjustments’ to Ferrari strategy set-up but it’s not just ‘one person pushing a button’

“We’ve seen lots of people take some of Ferrari’s ideas like that ridged shoulder of the sidepod but then mated that with the Alpine/Red Bull-style sloped sidepod to feed the air down to the diffuser and the beam wing.

“Ferrari have chosen not to do that and the sidepod still ends really high with a coke-bottle cooling exit as well, which is potentially really inefficient to release the air into that area compared with these big cannon outlets we’ve seen everybody else have.

“Ferrari are sticking to their guns. In my opinion, that’s a negative thing. That’s not how I would design a car but, then again, I’m not a Formula 1 car designer.

“Ferrari clearly think they’ve got something there and what they’re aiming for with this sidepod package is trying to reduce the drag of the car but not go for the maximum amount of downforce.

“Of course, we don’t know what’s going on underneath the floor of the car, which is really the important area.

“Ferrari don’t seem to have changed their key concept.”

Assessing some of the details on the SF-23, Scaborough explained: “They’ve gone for a slightly shorter nose and not that lovely, pointed Ferrari 640-style setup that they had last year.

“Throughout the rest of the car it’s all pretty sensible. They’ve followed very much the Alfa Romeo/Haas front suspension setup with quite a slope to the front wishbones but not especially high – certainly not as high as the Haas, interestingly.

“And, for me, one of those little cool things that you pick up on a new car is that at the back of the halo, just behind the driver’s shoulders, they’ve built a tiny little winglet – almost like the things that support the mirrors – which I’ve never seen on a car before.

“That’s pretty cool but, overall, I am perhaps a little bit underwhelmed with what Ferrari have put in front of us.

“It’ll be interesting to see how that car does develop through the year and how it stands up to the resurgent midfield, where Red Bull are at and what Mercedes can do recovering from their 2022.”

Reliability was a clear weakness for Ferrari in 2022, with a series of failures for Leclerc and team-mate Carlos Sainz forcing the team to run their engine in a detuned state in the second half of the season.

If those issues can be resolved, Scarborough believes a “battle of the concepts” is likely with Ferrari, Red Bull and Mercedes using different methods to achieve lap time.

He said: “In theory, they should be really fast [in a straight line]. There’s some assumptions that this aero package is working for them and they don’t have to crank up the rear wing like last year and that they have the power unit reliability problems sorted out.

“Their power unit last year certainly didn’t lack power but they just couldn’t run it in the modes they needed to in order to maintain reliability.

“The car should naturally have less drag than its rivals. The only way you could counter that – which is mainly from Red Bull and Mercedes’ point of view – is if they’ve got so much downforce from their underbodies, they don’t have to run as much rear wing anyway.

“That is another way of reducing drag rather than using the sidepods to reduce your rear tyre drag, so there’s two ways of tackling it.

“It will be a battle of the concepts. They could all end up being super-fast over a lap with quite different ways of creating the lap time between the corners and the straights, as it was last year and the last few years.

“I feel that Ferrari have probably dropped behind in overall performance from where I would expect Red Bull and Mercedes to be.”