If Mercedes thought that Ferrari had put all their eggs in the F1 2024 basket by now, then it seems they have another thing coming as Fred Vasseur has given the call to attack.
F1 2023 has been a story of disappointment for both Mercedes and Ferrari, these teams coming into the campaign with eyes set on returning to the title picture.
Instead, Red Bull has only grown more dominant, winning 15 of the 16 grands prix so far, Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz inflicting the only wound by claiming victory in Singapore as Red Bull were unable to undo the damage of their qualifying woes.
Ferrari on the attack against Mercedes
With both teams long since out of the title picture, Mercedes and Ferrari could be forgiven for passing on engaging in a fierce scrap for P2 in the Constructors’ Championship and place all of their effort into F1 2024.
But, with Mercedes holding that spot, 20 points up on Ferrari, they will not receive such a reprieve with team boss Vasseur seeing zero benefit in offering one.
“You don’t have to postpone the fight, the fight is with Mercedes today, and we have to take it,” said Vasseur.
“It’s always the best way to prepare for the future, for the mindset of the team, for everybody to be into the fight is crucial. And we’ll keep this fight until the end of the season.
“It’s never a sacrifice, because I think that performance is coming from performance. It’s too late to go into the wind tunnel for this season, but what we can do on the current car will help us for next year.”
Ferrari brought upgrades for the SF-23 to the most recent round in Japan in the form of a new floor, though it was McLaren who headed the ‘best of the rest’ battle there, Lando Norris crossing the line P2 and Oscar Piastri P3, Piastri’s first F1 podium and McLaren’s maiden double podium of the season.
The margins are fine though, with less than a tenth covering Norris, Piastri and Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc come the end of qualifying at Suzuka, and Vasseur predicts the remainder of the F1 2023 story “will be a matter of hundredths”.
“We have also to avoid drawing too quick conclusions,” he continued. “Before the break, in Spa, we were also in good shape, but Charles started fourth. He was theoretically on the first row, but he started from pole position and did a good race.
“As it’s a matter of hundredths of seconds, sometimes you do a small step, you have the feeling that everything is changed.
“It’s not exactly the reality and from race-to-race, and from track-to-track. Even the drivers, sometimes the set-up is more fitting with Carlos or Charles.
“It’s sport, in the end, you can accept that one is doing a better job than the others from weekend to weekend. And I think that we have a positive competition, and this is also helping us to improve.”
Ferrari were able to gain ground on Mercedes though at Suzuka, Leclerc finishing P4 and a place up the road from Lewis Hamilton, while Sainz ran out of laps to pass the lead Mercedes after clearing George Russell.