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When the new era of Formula 1 cars started last year, Ferrari were challenging Red Bull at the top, even winning four races in the first half of the season. Its performance dropped off in the remainder of the season though, and this season has been even worse.
Disappointment in the first half
Ferrari were second in the constructors’ championship last year, although Mercedes appeared marginally better towards the end of the season. But this season has not gone well at all, with the Scuderia down to fourth, with just three podiums.
No performance, but improvements in areas
The big change at Ferrari for this season was the replacement of Mattia Binotto with Frederic Vasseur. The problem though lies in the performance of the SF-23, with Ferrari claiming just a podium in the first eight races, although Charles Leclerc retired late in the Bahrain Grand Prix from third.
There have been positive aspects in the season though. Strategy errors were a big talking point over the past few seasons, but this issue has been eradicated for a large part this season. For sure the results have been up and down, but rarely is this down to strategy decisions. The only glaring error happened during the British Grand Prix, although that was very much linked to bad timing with the safety car.
The team was clearly behind Aston Martin and on par with Mercedes in the first races, so podiums were a tough ask. Leclerc got the first one in Baku, in a race he surprisingly started from pole position. He has since followed it up with two more, in Austria and in Belgium, although he has not been able to challenge for a victory yet, with Max Verstappen and Red Bull on amazing form.
There have been puzzling weekends though as well. In Miami, Monaco and Hungary, Ferrari were nowhere in terms of pace, compared to their competitors, Aston Martin, Mercedes and -lately- McLaren. The most curious case is the one of Leclerc in Spain, where the car was undriveable, thus he qualified nineteenth and finished thirteenth.
If there is something consistent about this season, it is the performance of Carlos Sainz. The Spaniard has only missed out on points on two occasions. The first was in Australia, when he caused an accident in the late-race restart and earned a five-second penalty which dropped him from fourth to twelfth. The second was in Belgium, when he was forced to retire after sustaining damage following contact with Oscar Piastri in the first corner.
Other than that, Sainz has not stood on a Grand Prix podium yet in 2023, with his third-place finish in the Sprint at Austria his best moment of the year. He has finished between fourth and sixth seven times in his campaign so far, which has been characterized by constant clashes with his team, especially over team radio.
Leclerc with the performance, Sainz with the consistency
When it comes to the high points of the season, almost all have been achieved with Charles Leclerc. The Scuderia’s three podiums, with a best of second in Austria, and its only pole position at Baku have come with the Monegasque behind the wheel, but he has also suffered two retirements. The first was because of a powertrain failure in Bahrain and the second came just two races later, then he spun at Melbourne. He has also had a few accidents along the way, most notably in Baku and Miami during qualifying.
On the other hand, the consistency of Carlos Sainz helped him lead his teammate in the standings until his retirement in Belgium turned things around. The pair are actually very close, with Leclerc in fifth, on 99 points, and Sainz in seventh, just seven points behind.
But in their head-to-head stats, Leclerc comes out on top. The gap is clear in the qualifying battle, where he comes out on top with a score of 8 to 4. Things are similar in races, with the Monegasque beating his teammate on six occasions and losing to him on three.
A lot to be settled
Ferrari is in the midst of plenty of battles at the moment, both in the constructors’ and the drivers’ championships, so the rest of the season is important and further upgrades are expected to be seen in the remaining ten races.
Battles in the standings
From the team’s perspective, the big battle is the one between them and Aston Martin, with the British team holding a five-point lead for the time being. Mercedes might just be out of reach, with 56 points separating the Scuderia from second position. McLaren is also expected to be outside the fight despite its recent resurgence, as it is still 88 points behind Ferrari.
The rest of the season will be significant for the drivers too, both regarding who comes out as the top dog in the team, as well as where they might end up in relation to the competition. Fifth-placed Leclerc is currently on top in a tie with George Russell, but both are fifty points behind the battle for third, between Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton.
Seventh-placed Sainz is certainly able to challenge for fifth, as he sits seven points behind the two drivers ahead of him. He is 23 points clear of his former teammate, Lando Norris, who has gathered enough momentum in the last four races to be considered inside the fight as well.
Next season and beyond
Both drivers are currently confirmed to return to the team for 2024, but what happens between them has been the source of speculation. The latest rumours mention that Leclerc is closing in on an extension with the Scuderia for the future.
In the meantime, contrasting news are coming out regarding his teammate. Carlos Sainz is said to be close to an agreement with Audi for 2026, when the German manufacturer will join the Formula 1 grid via the Sauber squad (which is currently known as Alfa Romeo).
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