Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc are fifth and sixth respectively in the Drivers’ Championship.
Ferrari, which finished second in the F1 Constructors' Championship a year ago, is a distant and barely competitive fourth this year.
“For us, it is crystal clear what we did wrong with the car,” said Ferrari head of chassis Area Enrico Cardile.
Once mighty Ferrari entered the 2023 season with aspirations of contending for the world title after finishing second in the Formula 1 Constructors' Championship.
The top level of Ferrari management reacted to that runner-up finish by installing Frederic Vasseur as its new team principal for 2023. But this year has been an even bigger disappointment, as the SF23 car has proven to be an uncompetitive proposition.
That 2023 car has been plagued by sensitivity to certain conditions, and its drivers do not have confidence in how the car is going to react.
Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc complained at Zandvoort that he had repeated trust issues through three corners—unsure whether to expect “zero understeer or huge understeer.” He eventually crashed in qualifying.
Ferrari's unpredictable car, particularly when following a rival, has been a complaint on a regular basis. Excessive tire degradation on high fuel runs was evident from the outset of preseason testing.
Teammate Carlos Sainz and Leclerc are fifth and sixth respectively in the Drivers’ Championship—and are this weekend likely to be mathematically eliminated from a title fight they realistically were never in. While Ferrari is fourth overall, it trails Red Bull Racing by a colossal 339 points. Ferrari’s 201 points are only equal to the total amassed alone by Red Bull's Sergio Perez—the driver second in the championship.
It is a far cry from the early rounds of 2022, when Formula 1 welcomed its new era of regulations, and Ferrari looked poised to challenge for overall honors, with Leclerc indicating he could take the fight to ex-karting adversary Verstappen. That season unraveled amid poor development, operational errors and sub-par reliability, while inherent weaknesses were exposed once Red Bull extracted weight from its car and unleashed its potential. That trend has merely continued through 2023.
Verstappen has won the last nine Formula 1 races at a row—and is now shooting for a record 10. That's more wins than Leclerc and Sainz combined have scored in their entire careers.
On pretty much every metric, Ferrari is enduring a worse season than last.
In the absence of Imola’s round, which was cancelled at short-notice in May due to extreme storms in Emilia-Romagna, Monza’s event provides Ferrari with its one chance to shine on home ground.
The iconic high-speed circuit, which is now more than 100 years old, is the most-used circuit on the Formula 1 calendar, with the history and atmosphere seeping through once you pass the gates into the sun-kissed royal park in which the venue resides.
Its personnel are still treated like royalty, with drivers Sainz and Leclerc mobbed wherever they go, with the Tifosidesperate for a photo, an autograph, or even just a glimpse. Even in a down year, the enthusiasm for the Scuderia and its representatives remains undimmed.
Ferrari’s recent record at Monza, though, is not stellar; Leclerc triumphed in 2019 but that has been the Scuderia’s sole win on home turf since 2010.
In fact, Ferrari’s greatest success recently has come in the World Endurance Championship, winning at the Le Mans 24 Hours upon its return to the elite category. The Formula 1 team will pay tribute to that triumph at Monza, with special race overalls, and a tweaked car livery.
“We are lucky enough that driving for Ferrari we’ve got support everywhere but when we come to Italy, obviously it’s on a different level,” said Leclerc. “So it’s a very busy week, but also a very exciting one. I’m sure it motivates the whole team. So we are really looking to go out on track and hopefully have a great result this weekend.”
The focus for Ferrari, as it the case with its opponents, is of correcting its 2023 mistakes for the 2024 car.
Vasseur, installed at the start of 2023, was not responsible for the design input of this year’s car, which came under the stewardship of Mattia Binotto. Vasseur has also been in the process of restructuring some of Ferrari’s departments and recruiting fresh personnel, but contract stipulations mean arrival times at Maranello will be staggered, some not until 2025.
And while Ferrari has underperformed its distinguished opponents Mercedes are also striving to unlock a way to unseat the runaway Red Bulls.
Those teams have nonetheless been buoyed by the gains that are possible, as shown by Aston Martin over the last winter, and by McLaren mid-2023, and it is changing its design philosophy.
“For us, it is crystal clear what we did wrong with the car,” said Ferrari head of chassis Area Enrico Cardile. “Which are the weaknesses is clear. It’s not a matter of understanding what we should do. Now, for the future, it’s a matter of delivering a good product which will cope with the targets we have. So, we are not in nowhere land. We know what we have to do. It’s a matter of doing. It’s a matter of finding the right contents of the car, the right architecture or the car to achieve the target.”
Ferrari, Cardile emphasized, understood that “there are some architectural choices we did (that) were not right” and that the direction meant “it was constraining the development too much.”
The 2024 car “will not be an evolution of this year’s car, like this year’s car has been compared to last year’s car, but it will be a brand-new car, a different chassis with different design, and a different rear end to allow our aero [department] to better develop the car to achieve their targets.”
That will be music to the ears of Leclerc, who has never gelled with the SF-23, and Sainz, but for 2024 Ferrari has to turn belief into reality to ensure that its title drought does not extend into an unsweet sixteen years.