Ferrari: SF-24 power unit is safe, Montreal behind and setup work for Barcelona is underway

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The true Ferrari F1 team of the 2024 season is clearly not the one seen at the 4.361-kilometre Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve in Montreal. Under the Canadian rain, we saw the worst SF-24 car of the current championship. A terrible weekend for the Maranello team. So disappointing that it seemed like just a bad copy of the SF-24 that in previous races was competing to the tenth of a second with Red Bull and Mercedes. On Saturday, the “critic” Fernando Alonso commented after the qualifying session with his usual smugness to the media by saying: “We are dealing with smart people, right? We are ahead of Sergio Perez and the two Ferrari cars, who had already won the Championship in Monte Carlo.” Some resentment feelings that the Spanish driver cannot forget, mainly because he has experienced first-hand the lack of consistency that the Maranello team has been struggling with in the last 15 years.

Two retirements, zero points for Ferrari at the Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve in Montreal. The Canadian outcome is dismal, but Italian side must react immediately to this setback that interrupted the enthusiasm sparked after Charles Leclerc’s amazing success on the streets of Monaco in Monte Carlo, which was completed by Carlos Sainz’s third place, making it a double podium finish that led to a lot of discussions regarding Ferrari’s prospects of challenging for the 2024 Formula 1 Constructors’ championship.

It’s a team that arrived on Notre Dame Island with so-called “flat tires,” lacking the awareness that they could fight on equal terms with the most accredited rivals, and the facts showed that in the single lap, the red car ended up behind even Mercedes, Racing Bulls, and Aston Martin. The SF-24 was off the charts, indicating that something significant went wrong in the setup approval for Montreal’s layout. The feeling, which is almost a certainty, is that Ferrari, having to raise the car’s floor from the track surface, lost much more downforce than the competition, ending up with a car that did not transfer enough energy to the tires in order to bring them into the ideal temperature window.

It is true that the difference was made by a few thousandths of a second in Q2, but the Maranello team did not know how to react to the difficulties with the approach of those aware of their potential, allowing themselves to be taken by that climate of inadequacy that accompanied the North American weekend.

The drivers themselves seemed to lack energy and enthusiasm compared to the fighters we know, so it is fair to believe that something was wrong in the Ferrari garage last weekend, contributing to weaken the entire team.

If we add to all this the electronic problems with Charles Leclerc’s power unit, it is easy to complete a decidedly negative analysis of a trip to forget. Charles Leclerc’s engine did not suffer damage despite experiencing misfiring (irregular ignitions) that deprived the Monegasque driver of significant power for about 15 laps: team principal Fred Vasseur spoke of a loss of about 80 horsepower during this time, which was particularly visible as the track dried out.

Ferrari will precautionarily replace the power unit control unit, and in the Spanish Grand Prix weekend, everything should return to normal. Barcelona will be a crucial event: the Circuit de Catalunya is a sort of open-air wind tunnel that combines all the characteristics to see if a car is indeed competitive. A track that historically has not been favorable to the red car, as it combines a long straight and fast, long corners with a very technical third sector that seems designed to highlight the flaws of the red car.

In the debriefing at Maranello after the disappointing outcome of the Canadian Grand Prix, Frederic Vasseur did not conduct any "trials," hoping that the Racing Department would immediately find the thread, confident that the Maranello team’s potential is clearly a different one. The first simulations for the Spanish race track seem encouraging: the goal is to extract all the potential from the SF-24 with careful setup work. So far, the upgrade package that debuted at the Imola circuit has given positive indications, but it has not yet shown the numbers that the technicians led by Enrico Cardile, Ferrari’s Technical Director of Chassis & Aerodynamics, had seen in the wind tunnel. There is also an attempt to anticipate some new features in Spain, which we discussed in a previous article, but the French team principal prefers to proceed cautiously, putting only adequately verified parts in the car.

The Canadian blow was strong for Ferrari, but the broad-shouldered French manager did not waver. And he demands that the rest of the Sporting Management follow him, relying on the technical and human values that the Prancing Horse can bring to the field.

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