Ferrari’s performance at the Bahrain GP was somewhat underwhelming, especially given the progress made by Aston Martin – who could become new rivals for the Italian squad in 2023.
The SF-23, despite showing reasonable pace compared to Red Bull in qualifying, suffered to match the performance and tire management of Red Bull.
Charles Leclerc’s DNF only compounded a difficult weekend for the Maranello squad, with reliability issues again presenting themselves – despite significant work to address this area over the winter.
In any case, ahead of this weekend in Jeddah, team principal Fred Vasseur has spoken candidly – in a press conference prior to the Saudi Arabia GP weekend – about his perception of Aston Martin’s progress:
“Aston Martin did very well; they were competitive. I don’t know what would have been the outcome if Charles was able to finish the race, but that’s another story. I don’t want to race with ‘if, if, if ‘.
“But it’s true that they did a huge step forward if you compare with one year ago because I think they were out of Q1 – both cars. It’s a huge step forward and congratulations to them.
“Honestly, I don’t want to be focused on Aston, Mercedes or Red Bull. My job is to do the best [I can] with the team and to be focused on ourselves.
“It’s also an encouraging situation. I would say because it means you can do this step forward in a couple of months. And it’s also encouraging for us.”
It goes without saying that Ferrari – much like Mercedes – will be concerned at this new threat that has emerged from the midfield.
Red Bull’s improvements are also very significant, forcing the Scuderia to recover from its first-round difficulties and validate the team’s belief in the SF-23’s concept.
The characteristics of the Jeddah circuit are significantly different to Bahrain’s International Circuits, so there is still an element of uncertainty ahead of this weekend.
Ferrari will hope that a combination of set-up improvements, reliability precautions and – most importantly – raw performance in the SF-23 can push them to the front.
Aston Martin’s significant development, as mentioned by Vasseur, demonstrates that significant gains can be achieved.
It is now up to Ferrari to demonstrate they can take these positive steps.