Former F1 driver Ralf Schumacher has dubbed Ferrari “the biggest problem child” in the sport at the moment, believing they are unsure where their own problems lie.
It was a mixed weekend for their drivers at the Spanish Grand Prix, with Charles Leclerc calling the SF-23 “undriveable” through left-handed corners after qualifying on the last row of the grid in Barcelona, while team-mate Carlos Sainz placed his car second behind Max Verstappen.
The race was one of disappointment for both drivers too, with Sainz slipping back to fifth place come the chequered flag and Leclerc being unable to break into the points at all, with the Scuderia now 52 points behind second-placed Mercedes in the Constructors’ Championship in what is effectively a fight to be ‘best of the rest’ behind Red Bull for the remainder of 2023.
Despite the team having introduced significant upgrades in Barcelona, bringing in Red Bull-esque sidepods as part of a wider structural change to the car, Schumacher believes the Scuderia have more to worry about – and they do not know where their exact problems are within the team at the moment.
“The biggest problem child is Ferrari. Team boss Fred Vasseur seemed at a loss,” Schumacher wrote in his post-race column for Sky Deutschland.
“When I asked him how long it would take Ferrari to catch up with the leaders, his answer was: ‘First we have to identify the problem, then we can say how long it will take’.
“They don’t really know what the problem is, they’ve had the problem of the tyre degrading too quickly for a year and in Barcelona, apart from qualifying, they were simply too slow.”
There is still a long way to go in 2023, with the team in the process of negotiating the exit of sporting director Laurent Mekies as he prepares to become team principal at AlphaTauri next year, as well as working behind the scenes to improve the team.
With that all happening in the background, the six-time Grand Prix winner believes Ferrari may already have to write off their chances for this season and the start of next in terms of becoming fully competitive, with this seemingly being a year of transition at Maranello after Vasseur’s arrival as team principal.
“Ferrari still have a rocky road ahead of them,” he explained. “Vasseur has only been in charge for a few months, it just takes time and you have to give him that.
“He is in the process of bringing some new people into the team. It may take some time before they all start working and this work bears fruit.
“So it’s quite possible that Ferrari can forget about this season and the beginning of next year.”