Charles Leclerc has said that he anticipates the 2023 Ferrari to be slower in the corners than last year’s car due to a compromise made to be quicker down the straights.
Ferrari returned to winning ways at the beginning of last season by constructing a package for the all-new technical regulations that was the strongest in the field through the corners.
However, the offset of increased drag meant its subsequent struggles down the straights often left its two drivers sitting ducks when dicing against a slippery Red Bull car that was more aerodynamically efficient.
To combat the issue Ferrari has elected to amend its concept slightly this year to improve its speed in a straight line at the expense of cornering performance, with Leclerc admitting the team is yet to nail the sweet spot with the revised SF-23.
“As I was saying before, I think the car changed a little bit of characteristics this year. I expect us to be a bit quicker in the straights, maybe struggling a bit more in the corners,” Leclerc explained.
“And with this three day test, I can say that we are still working quite a bit on trying to find the sweet spot of the car in terms of set-up. So I hope there is some margin on that still, that we haven’t found the sweet spot yet.”
Despite unveiling a car that looked strikingly similar at surface level to its predecessor, Ferrari technical chiefs reaffirmed there had been wholesale changes made beneath the bodywork exterior.
Having driven the car at Ferrari’s Fiorano test track and in Bahrain, Leclerc has supported those claims and suggested he spent pre-season testing adapting his driving style to the changed demands of the SF-23.
While he admitted he eventually began to get more on top of the car in the final morning, the five-time race winner has underlined the team has work to do to provide competition for a “very strong” Red Bull outfit at the start of the year.
“It is a different car. You need to drive it a little bit differently, but that is what testing is for. I’ve been trying a lot of different driving styles. I seemed to find my way a little bit this morning, finally. But again as I said, we still have some work to do,” he added.
Leclerc completed 199 laps throughout the three sessions of running he was given in Bahrain to add to the 218 his Ferrari team-mate, Carlos Sainz, accrued.
While the Maranello-based outfit upheld an impressive reliability record and its performance runs were relatively encouraging, there were several long runs that made for more concerning reading.
However, Ferrari’s new team principal, Fred Vasseur, has maintained the Italian squad managed to get through the entirety of its programme and impressive lap times were not chased as a priority at any stage across the three days.
The 2023 F1 season gets underway next weekend as the Bahrain International Circuit hosts the opening round, where Ferrari achieved a 1-2 finish in last year’s race.
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