The Ferrari F1 Team Hopes The SF-23 Will Go Where Mercedes Wasn’t Allowed

The Ferrari F1 team had a lot to make up for after 2022. Sure, the team took 12 poles and won 4 races, but they finished the season just over 200 points behind Red Bull, and just 39 points ahead of third place rival Mercedes.

It was a laudable performance but still far short of the glory years for the Maranello outfit. From 2000 to 2008 Ferrari won 7 constructors titles and 6 driver titles. Last season Charles Leclerc won 2 of the first three races in the F1-75. The team would score two more wins, Carlos Sainz. Jr. at Silverstone, and Leclerc in Austria. You’d think the team would have been in contention for both the constructors and driver’s championships.

But you’d be wrong.

While Red Bull was running away with the titles, Ferrari suffered 9 DNFs, including a double DNF in Baku, the third most of 10 teams. Much of the second half of last year, the team was forced to mute the engine to simply to finish races leaving them well short of competing for the top spots. And that’s why perhaps over the offseason they spent more time figuring out how to cure their reliability issues and less time on their 2023 car, the SF-23 which they debuted Tuesday.

The SF-23, the name marks a return of the format of the Scuderia Ferrari initials followed by the year of competition, has only minor changes on the outside. Much of the work has gone into the power unit with the focus on the reliability issues that kept them from season ending glory.

“Preparation work for the new season is usually one of the busiest times of the year and this winter was no exception. PUs have been frozen since last year, including fluids, oil and fuel and the only modifications allowed are those related to reliability, which was our Achilles Heel last season,” Enrico Gualtieri, head of the power unit area said. ”We focused on the internal combustion engine and the electric motors. At the same time, we tried to capitalize on the experience gained on track last season and looked at all the feedback and signs of weakness from the PU components we used. We also revised our assembly procedures.

“We tried to understand the root causes of the problems we encountered on track and used all our available tools to try and solve them. It involved all areas, from design to experimentation to try and test new solutions in a very short space of time. The work never ends, based on continuous improvement of the components to try and reach the required level of reliability.”

They also made tweaks to the chassis.

“Our 2023 car is an evolution of the one we raced last year, but in reality, it has been completely redesigned,” said head of chassis Enrico Cardile. “On the aerodynamic side, we increased vertical downforce to adapt further to the new aero regulations and achieve the desired balance characteristics. The suspension has also been redesigned, to support aerodynamics and increase the range of adjustments that can be made to the car at the track.

“The most obvious changes are in the area of the front suspension where we have moved to a low track rod. The front wing is also different, as is the construction of the nose, while the bodywork is a more extreme version of what we saw last season.”

The SF-23 looks a bit slenderer than the F1-75; the ‘bathtub’ contours at the top of the sidepods are still there with a depression to channel air towards the rear wing, and just like about every other car launched so far some of radiator area has been moved out and higher up around the car’s shoulders.

There could be a bit of controversy when it comes to the front wing. The front of the SF-23 looks flattened with front wing slots and gap separator that might be trying to create air vertices. Last season Mercedes tried a front wing with similar gap separators that the FIA ruled wasn’t in regulation and banned. However, towards the end of last season the FIA issued revised technical regulations that tweaked the sentence that said gap separators had to be ‘primarily’ for mechanical, structural or measurement reasons.

The SF-23 separators, unlike Mercedes last season, might just now fall within the regulations providing a ‘structural connection’ and might just be legal, and add an aerodynamic boost. Whether Mercedes will have some sort of gap separators remains to be seen; they debut their new car Wednesday.

Ferrari debuted the new car in front of about 500 fans at the company’s Fiorano track Tuesday. Whether it will look the same, at least in the front, and whether it will keep Ferrari in the title hunt in 2023 remains to be seen. The teams take to the track in anger for the opening race of the season the Bahrain Grand Prix, on March 5.

“Our whole team has put a lot of work into this new car and seeing it in front of us for the first time just feels amazing. It means that the start of the season is very close, which is always an exciting moment,” Leclerc said. “It felt great to drive it here at Fiorano today, sharing the experience with our tifosi and partners. We still have to wait for the first real laps at testing to make any real assessments though.

“Our target for the season will be to do even better than last season, bring home more victories and be more consistent. The biggest goal will be to win both championships and we will do everything to achieve this. “

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