Ferrari upgrades aimed at letting real drivers follow AI sim-driver’s lead

Ferrari’s upgrade package at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix is tailored toward delivering a more consistent and predictable car that it believes will lead to more performance coming from the setup and its drivers.

Charles Leclerc topped both practice sessions on Friday at Imola, with FP2 in particular seeing Max Verstappen and Lando Norris both having off-track moments when on quick laps. Those incidents highlighted the points made by Ferrari’s senior performance engineer Jock Clear prior to the upgrade running, who noted the team’s focus on giving the drivers more confidence in how the car will react.

“Making the car more drivable is always going to give you performance because the AI driver that works 24 hours a day back at the factory, it can drive the car faster than the real drivers can drive it because it’s much less sensitive to perceptions,” Clear said. “It doesn’t get frightened, it doesn’t think, ‘Oh, can I really brake this late?’


“So we’re always looking to close that gap, and closing that gap is just closing the balance window and giving the car a very consistent balance high speed and low speed so they know 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. So when they were launched 18 months ago they were a bit messy — some speeds they were really, really good; other speeds they were like, ‘Oh my god this car’s terrible,’ and we’re all narrowing that balance shift or that balance window.

“So, yes, we are continuing to go in that direction and make a more benign car as we say, 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.”

Clear says even if the upgrades produce more potential downforce, the importance of getting the setup right should not be underestimated.

“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 recognize that that setup is not irrelevant. You can find one week to the next a good car can look like 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 — and we’re confident we can do that here in Imola. Close to the factory, two FP sessions, this is the right place to do it.”

After an encouraging start to the weekend, Leclerc says the key to continuing that form will be how Ferrari reacts to an expected change in conditions on Saturday.

“For now, everything went quite smoothly,” Leclerc said. “The feeling with the car is good. The upgrades on the car are working as expected, which also is a good step. And yeah, it’s been a very smooth day.

“It’s great being at home. It’s always a special feeling for Ferrari being here and having so much support around the track — it means a lot to all of us. It will be great if the weekend continues in that direction.”

Leclerc warned that a different sort of atmosphere could shake things up on Saturday, though.

“However tomorrow, the conditions will change massively. The wind will completely turn around, which will have a big effect on all the cars,” he said. “There we have to be the best at anticipating those changes.”

Story originally appeared on Racer