With Charles Leclerc baffled by the inconsistent Ferrari SF-23, ex-Red Bull driver Mark Webber foresees trouble for the team in the present time and beyond as they work on future developments.
Ferrari introduced their new-look SF-23 challenger for the Spanish Grand Prix, which most notably featured reworked sidepods to follow a concept more in-line with that of the dominant Red Bull team.
But, while rivals Mercedes seemingly took a clear step forward with their alterations, the same was not true for Ferrari, Carlos Sainz finishing P5 while Leclerc managed only P11 after starting from the pit lane, following a shock Q1 exit in qualifying.
Speaking after the race, Leclerc, wide-eyed in confusion, admitted he does not understand what is going wrong with the SF-23, a car that has already been described as peaky, which is therefore not giving the drivers confidence to push at the limit.
Leclerc though said the inconsistency has spread to a point where comparing his first and last Spanish GP stint, both contested on the hard tyre, the SF-23 was “behaving in a completely different way” when he had made no changes to his driving.
Webber’s fellow former Red Bull driver David Coulthard said this indicates the kind of “fundamental issue” which he has never come across before.
“I actually really admire the honesty, don’t try to cover anything up,” said Coulthard of Leclerc on Channel 4.
“Really worrying the inconsistencies there, because it’s one thing when you’ve got a car that’s just not quick, you know, if you’ve got understeer that weekend, that’s what you’ve got.
“But if he’s effectively saying it is changing set of tyres to set of tyres, there is a fundamental issue there which I’ve never experienced.”
And Webber raised the point of how this influences Ferrari’s future plans too, as they must make decisions now based on this package for upcoming developments, which may make it difficult to iron out the problems considering the apparent lack of understanding.
It is a “double concern” which Ferrari are now faced with then.
“And the peakiness, the aero peakiness of the car, so in the higher speed it’s not overly predictable,” said Webber, “again, as DC touched on, it’s the last thing you want in a high-speed corner, things moving around on you, so you don’t want that.
“And that’s a double concern, because obviously they’re still developing, there’s things in the pipeline that are coming, how much do they trust what they’ve got now?
“So it can have a knock-on effect to steer what’s going on there because it’s hard to recover that in a short period of time.”
Ferrari do now have a free weekend where they can double down on their investigations, but then it is back to the action as Formula 1 heads to the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve for the Canadian Grand Prix.
Perhaps there Ferrari will find a better operating window for their SF-23, Sainz having declared Barcelona as the “worst circuit” for Ferrari to introduce the upgrades, though Coulthard is not too optimistic for their chances.
Put to him that you do not want to head to this track with a lack of confidence, Coulthard replied: “No, a high-speed street circuit, notoriously unforgiving.
“I don’t see how they can turn it around. Other than the fact [it is] slightly less downforce on that circuit and it may bring them into a window.”
Ferrari saw the gap from their P4 spot in the Constructors’ Championship grow to the teams ahead after the Spanish Grand Prix, with Aston Martin dropping down to P3, but still stretching the margin with a buffer now of 34 points over the Scuderia.