Ferrari Team Principal Frederic Vasseur has downplayed the extent of McLaren’s 2023 Formula 1 gains after the side scored a double podium at the Japanese Grand Prix.
McLaren opened the year admitting it had missed development targets with its all-new MCL60 car and subsequently only scored 17 points across the opening eight rounds.
Since introducing a revised car in Austria, however, the Woking side has elevated into podium-scoring contention, with further upgrades in Singapore enabling both drivers to finish inside the top three at Suzuka.
But Vasseur highlights that Lando Norris’ third-place starting berth in Barcelona with the old-spec car showcased McLaren’s underlying strength on high-speed circuits.
“I’m not sure if we have exactly the same reading of the season,” Vasseur argued.
“I think that they had a big issue at the beginning and then they recovered pretty quickly because, even in Barcelona, they were on the second row.
“I think it was Max [Verstappen], Carlos [Sainz] and then Lando and Lewis [Hamilton] on the second row, they were already competitive.
“And this kind of track is probably suited more with their car than us. But for sure it’s not just a matter of pure potential, it’s a matter of driveability also.
“Each time you will do a step forward you will also help the driver to do a step forward, and this can be a kind of snowball effect. Still, a small step compared to Red Bull!”
Ferrari has recently begun to get on top of the degradation troubles that had stymied its competitiveness earlier in the season.
Despite being unable to challenge McLaren for the podium places in Japan, Ferrari outscored Mercedes for the third consecutive weekend to close the margin in the Constructors’ standings to 20 points.
Vasseur has outlined that he is pleased with the improvements Ferrari has made regarding tyre management in 2023.
“I think it’s a step forward compared to the beginning of the season,” he assessed.
“But on the other hand, we were probably a bit too conservative, and I think it was true for everybody on the grid that we were more scared than the reality. It was under control in the race. And we think we did a good step forward on this one.
“It’s sure if you have a look on the first couple of races of the season, the degradation or the tyre management, were not always our biggest skill, let’s say.
“And coming to Suzuka with this track temp we were a bit at risk. But at the end of the day, I think we did a good job on this side.
“The race was under control, the strategy was well managed. We did well. A clear step forward compared to the first part of the season.”