A journey that started a long time ago: study of telemetry, meetings with engineers to shave off cents at every curve. He had to change his driving style, adapt to the unpredictable SF-23. He became Carlos, the man who fondles tires. The success of Marina Bay will be remembered for the ingenious tactic of offering the wake to Norris (it was one of the options evaluated in the pre-race briefings, but he decided how and when to use it). To execute it required masterful tire management. It is on this front that Carlos makes the difference compared to Leclerc.
Charles is gifted with a natural speed superior to his teammate (20 poles to 5) but with the 2023 single-seater his “aggressive” style, with which he sometimes manages to go beyond the technical limits in qualifying, often doesn’t pay off in the race. It was supposed to be the year of chasing the World Championship for Charles: he had supported the arrival of the new boss, Fred Vasseur, convinced of obtaining the status of first guide. Things have taken a different turn, Ferrari can’t afford to choose, they need both. And Sainz as a leader emerged at the moment of greatest need. With the triumph in Singapore he has obtained a big credit on the road to renewal – the contract expires at the end of 2024, the same date as Charles -, he is looking for at least a two-year agreement, discussions will begin at the end of this year. Highlighting the prowess of one by questioning the other (when Leclerc had a top car in 2022, the fight was one-sided) is a self-defeating game. Vasseur was also hired for his ability to manage the drivers, he will have to prove it when he has a full-time competitive vehicle.
The return to victory fuels hope and mystery. Many people inside Maranello were taken by surprise by the unexpected performance: the main problem, in fact, was linked to the ability to generate aerodynamic load.
At Monza Sainz and Leclerc were the fastest on the track, except in two corners (Lesmo and Parabolica) where there is a need to transmit energy to the tyres. In Singapore the bends are different: dry, and are tackled in low gears. Furthermore, three things happened: the unexpected collapse of Red Bull (it could be an incorrect evaluation of the settings already in the simulator, but whether technical directive 018 has anything to do with it will be understood in Suzuka); the absence of wind, an element that greatly disturbs this Ferrari; finally, the “fine tuning” operations carried out over the last month have made it possible to understand how to best use the range of rear wings available. Better late than never.
A new background will be brought to Japan, slightly revised in some details. These are updates that have been planned for some time, development in the wind tunnel was interrupted a month and a half ago (work is on 2024). But as the 2023 single-seater begins to react to treatment, pieces that were built and then put aside may come in handy in the final sprint. The objective is second place as constructors (the gap from Mercedes has dropped to -24 points). In a very tight battle – on Sunday the leaders were within 1”2 – a rider’s feeling can be decisive. Sainz, pilot-engineer is the extra weapon.