Watch out Red Bull? Ferrari discover areas to ‘attack’ with upgraded SF-24

Oliver Harden
Charles Leclerc lowers himself into the cockpit of his Ferrari on the Imola grid

Charles Leclerc lowers himself into the cockpit of his Ferrari on the Imola grid

Ferrari senior performance engineer Jock Clear has revealed the team have identified car setup as a key area to “attack” as they aim to close the gap to Red Bull during the F1 2024 season.

Having been the only team other than Red Bull to win a race in F1 2023, Ferrari have made an encouraging start to the new season with Carlos Sainz collecting his third career victory at the Australian Grand Prix.

Ferrari placing emphasis on SF-24 setup in bid to catch Red Bull

Additional reporting by Thomas Maher

With McLaren also claiming an early-season win with Lando Norris in Miami, there is renewed hope that Red Bull and Max Verstappen’s advantage over the opposition is rapidly reducing.

Ferrari introduced a major upgrade package – including modifications to the sidepods, floor and rear wing – at last weekend’s Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, but were unable to join the fight for the win between Verstappen and Norris, who were separated by just 0.725 seconds at the chequered flag at Imola.

Sainz and team-mate Charles Leclerc, however, insisted Ferrari’s upgrades were working as expected, with the former accusing the media of overhyping the scale of the update in the buildup to the weekend.

Analysis: Ferrari’s latest SF-24 upgrades

👉 Uncovered: Ferrari’s major SF-24 upgrades that could power them to Monaco win

👉 Significant rear wing change for Ferrari catches the eye in Imola paddock

Speaking to media including at Imola, Clear revealed Ferrari are playing a growing focus on setup as the Scuderia aim to reel in Red Bull.

He said of the Imola update: “It’s an organic development of the car.

“We know what route this car is taking from the beginning of the season, because you choose your development path and we’re carrying on that development path.

“I think when Charles talks about the weaknesses of the car, obviously, we’re six races in and there are areas that we’ve identified.

“All of those areas are never going to be any worse if you just bring a car that has more potential, so there’s always that underlying development route and all teams will continue to go down that development route.

“Clearly there’s things that we can do to help the weaknesses of the car – and I think that’s more of a setup thing.

“This development is carrying on an organic growth – it’s just more chocolatey with a bit more flavour.

“The setup, I think, is what we’re probably still working on. We have some developments in that area as well, so I think we’re looking to maybe move the setup around a bit to extract more from the car and to really target those weaknesses that we’ve identified in the first six races.

“But I think those two development paths carry on in parallel always.

“Throughout the year, you’re always looking to get more out of the tyre contact patch, but on an aerodynamic side you’re always going to get more out of the tyre contact patch if you just give it more vertical load.

“We’ve brought on more chunky aero package, but we’re also always working on the setup and I think there’s things we’ve found in the last couple of races – or there’s things we’ve identified in the last couple races – that I think we can we can attack.”

Clear explained that achieving a “more benign car” is a target under F1’s existing ground effect regulations, stressing the importance of setup when it comes to extracting consistent performance from the current cars.

He said: “Making the car more driveable is always going to give you performance, because the AI driver that works 24 hours a day back at the factory can drive the car faster than the real drivers can drive it because it’s much less sensitive to perceptions.

“It doesn’t get frightened, it doesn’t think: ‘Ooh, can I really break this late?’

“So we’re always looking to close that gap and closing that gap is just closing the balance window and it’s giving the car a very consistent balance, high speed and low speed, so they know that what they’re going to get.

“I think, over the last 18 months or two years, that’s something that everybody’s working on, probably because we’re a new generation of cars.

“When they were launched 18 months ago, they were a bit messy: some speeds, they were really good; other speeds, they were like: ‘Oh my God, this car is terrible.’

“We’re all narrowing that balance shift and that balance window, so we are continuing to go in that direction and make a more benign car.

“But we can’t ignore the fact that if you give the car more vertical load from downforce, it will go quicker, so those two come hand in hand.

“There’s probably still more to be got from the setup, because this aero package will tilt that aero platform slightly in terms of high speed/low speed, and therefore we have to redial the car in from the setup point of view.

“It’s always important to recognise that setup is not irrelevant. You can find from one week to the next that a good car can look a bad car and that’s just in the setup.

“Some circuits suit cars better, but it’s our job here at the circuit to set the car up in a way that it gets the most out of this package.”

Read next: Carlos Sainz out of contention for Mercedes seat… for now