Fuel loads largely to blame for tyre-eating Ferrari SF-23 – report

Jamie Woodhouse
Carlos Sainz tests Ferrari SF-23 on the opening morning of pre-season testing in Bahrain. Bahrain February 2023

Carlos Sainz tests Ferrari SF-23 on the opening morning of pre-season testing in Bahrain. Bahrain February 2023

The Bahrain test suggested that Ferrari have problems again with tyre degradation, but the high fuel loads used reportedly exaggerated this.

As Ferrari fell behind Red Bull in F1 2022 for race pace, it became clear that a particular problem for the Scuderia was tyre life, the Red Bull RB18 seemingly much more accomplished than the F1-75 at keeping the Pirelli rubber in good health.

This undoubtedly will have been a key focus of Ferrari with the SF-23, as the Scuderia look to produce a fresh challenger which can write the wrongs of last season’s false start in their ambition to win F1 titles once again.

However, the three-day F1 2023 pre-season test in Bahrain did not paint a positive picture in that regard based on trackside observations.

While Ferrari completed the third-highest lap total out of the teams, notching up 416, the tyres were reportedly “jumping off a cliff” as F1 presenter Will Buxton termed it when they were put through the stresses of a race simulation.

But, La Gazzetta dello Sport are reporting that the excessive tyre wear suffered by Ferrari, especially with the C3, which will be the soft tyre for the Bahrain Grand Prix, was influenced by the fact that the Scuderia did not take the fuel out of the SF-23.

‘It seems, in fact, that all the series of outings, even the short ones, were carried out with a constant fuel load, with top-ups of 35/40 kg,’ the publication reports.

They add that the fuel load in the SF-23 would not have dipped below 20kg at any stage by the end of the runs.

With the report adding that it is suspected that Ferrari’s race simulations were done with the fuel load needed to complete the actual race distance, this would go a long way to explaining why the tyres were degrading at a faster rate.

‘Away from a comparison with Red Bull, the figure itself would not be too relevant, but considering that Red Bull’s individual stints have always been short, the direct comparison in terms of tyre degradation could be less penalising for the SF-23 than it seemed at the end of testing,’ their report concludes.

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More tyre issues would be a bitter blow for Ferrari

Standalone times in testing are seldom a good indicator for which teams are looking strong ahead of a new season, with value instead placed in how a team fares over the long runs, which in the case of Ferrari, could a bit of a worry.

If the team was indeed bogging the SF-23 down with excessive fuel, then that would indeed have caused tyre wear beyond what will be seen in real-race situations, but the Scuderia will be under the microscope come race day in Bahrain where we will see the true picture.

Even if the likes of Red Bull, expected to be a main title rival for Ferrari, were running a lighter fuel load for their race sims, it remains to be seen how well they will look after the tyres from a full tank. This was a strength of the RB18 in 2022, and a weakness of the F1-75.

This is already a pretty alarming sign for the Scuderia, who know from experience that it will be very hard to keep up with Red Bull when the tyres are not hanging on as they should. Watch this space.