New Ferrari theory emerges with Red Bull speed leading to CEO interference

Thomas Maher
Ferrari's Carlos Sainz at the Spanish Grand Prix. Barcelona, June 2023.

Ferrari's Carlos Sainz at the Spanish Grand Prix. Barcelona, June 2023.

Was Ferrari’s 2023 design philosophy affected by a technical demand from CEO Benedetto Vigna?

Ferrari have had a tough start to 2023, with the SF-23 scoring just one podium finish in the first seven races as Charles Leclerc came home third in Azerbaijan.

Aside from that, the Scuderia have struggled to keep apace as even the second-quickest team in F1, a position they held throughout 2022 in the first year of the ground-effect regulations.

Both Aston Martin and Mercedes have taken steps that suggest they have slotted in behind Red Bull, with Ferrari there or thereabouts depending on the venue. In Spain, a front-row start for Carlos Sainz underlined good single-lap pace, but both Mercedes drivers overtook him as the W14 showed much stronger race pace.

While Leclerc was bewildered by his car’s performance as he failed to trouble the points-scorers after being eliminated in Q1, Sainz pointed out the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya was perhaps the worst venue for Ferrari to roll out their new upgrade package as the team showed up with a new-look SF-23.

Ferrari do not appear to like high-speed, fast, flowing corners, with the Spanish venue comprising almost nothing else.

Was Ferrari straight-line speed “inappropriate” for their image?

According to respected F1 journalist Mark Hughes, a rumour has emerged that Ferrari CEO Benedetto Vigna made demands of the technical staff to ensure a car characteristic was changed for 2023 due to its “image”.

“Fast corners are not the car’s forte,” he wrote for Motorsport Magazine.

“Last year they were but there was a deliberate trade-off of that for straight-line speed with this car. That seemed a questionable shift when they announced it at the launch and even more so now.

“There’s a story it was because the boss Benedetto Vigna didn’t like the idea that the Ferrari was always slower on the straight than the Red Bull last year, that it was ‘inappropriate’ for Ferrari’s image… For the team’s sake, one must hope that is not true, and that a crucial part of the technical concept has not been influenced by ‘image’.

“Regardless, because of where the Ferrari’s aero efficiencies are, around Barcelona its lap time does not respond as well to more wing than other cars.”

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With some time to refine their findings from their Spanish GP data, Hughes believes Ferrari can be more competitive at next week’s Canadian Grand Prix as their upgrades are refined at a track that should better suit their strengths.

“In Montreal, there is no high-speed corner demand, and as such its suspension can probably be run softer,” he said.

“Which might be expected to regain the car the great low-speed corner performance it showed in Baku and Miami. There’s every reason to believe it will be in much better shape in Canada than it was in Spain.”

Benedetto Vigna issues rallying call to Ferrari troops

Speaking at a recent Bloomberg Capital Market Forum, the Ferrari CEO had a message to send to his company.

“Nana korobi, ya oki!” he said, turning to a Japanese proverb for inspiration. It translates as “fall down seven times, stand up eight”, fitting at this point of the season after seven races completed.

“It applies to life, as it does to F1,” he continued.

“It’s not easy, sometimes you slip four floors and you can’t see the end but with work, with passion, with skills, and with the heart, in the end, we recover.

“I’ve been there many times.”