Leclerc: Ferrari’s 2024 F1 car “definitely a step forward” compared to “peaky” SF-23

Photo Credits: Scuderia Ferrari
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Charles Leclerc is confident that Ferrari will be able to solve the issues that plagued its 2023 F1 season with their brand new SF-24, which he described as a definite “step forward” compared to the SF-23, which was “peaky” and very sensitive, especially to wind conditions.

Despite being the only team to win a grand prix apart from Red Bull in the 2023 season, Ferrari endured a much more difficult season compared to 2022, with a car that was nowhere near good enough to challenge for wins consistently, let alone for a championship like its predecessor. However, they were still able to score several pole positions, especially in the latter part of the season – but struggles with race pace and tyre management cost the Scuderia crucial points.

Ahead of the 2024 season, the team has now officially launched the SF-24, with some livery revisions including the addition of more prominent yellow touches, and, most importantly, an improved mechanical and aerodynamic platform for the drivers and engineers to work with.

“The new car looks great,” said Leclerc, who will be entering his sixth season at the Scuderia. “Obviously it’s always a very special emotion to see the new car for the first time, as it’s so many months of hard work here at the factory, discussions back and forth with the engineers. To finally see the end and to see the final product, the final car, just in front of my eyes feels amazing.

“So the colours are nice, there’s a bit more yellow and obviously we still keep the red, so I’m really happy with that.”

The Monegasque is cautiously optimistic that the new car is a definite “step forward” compared to the SF-23 based in his runs in the team’s simulator – but he understands they need to confirm the correlation between the data and the on-track runs to guarantee that it’s working as intended in pre-season testing, a week from now in Bahrain:

“On the simulator the feeling is good, the car is definitely a step forward compared to last year.

“We’ve been focusing on the main weaknesses we had last year as we do every year and for now the car on the simulator has been reacting extremely well,” he said. “But there’s obviously another important part to all of this, is how much it correlates to then the real car once we put it in Bahrain for the first time on the track.

“So this will be a crucial moment that will tell us whether we did a good job for this season, but until now so far so good and everything we’ve tested on the simulator was positive.”

After the launch, the team ran a shakedown at their test track in Fiorano, with both Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc putting in their first laps on the new car.

Speaking of the main areas where the team focused on improving compared to 2023, Leclerc didn’t hold back in saying that they had a “very difficult” season last year, and will be focusing on improving the car’s peakiness when it comes to changing weather conditions – especially the “huge” impact of the wind on the car’s behaviour:

“I think last year was a very difficult season for the team, however we have worked extremely well and it was very clear the direction in which we needed to work in order to achieve better results this year.

“I’m sure that the team has done a great job, so the few difficulties that we encountered during 2023, I’m confident that they will not be there in 2024 anymore and that should be a good sign.

“I think the main area where we had to work on was the sensitivity to the change of conditions. We had a very peaky car last year, where it was very strong whenever we had all the perfect conditions, but whenever one of these factors, whether it’s temperature, wind, speed, force or direction, it will have a huge impact on our car.

“And this we wanted to change for this car, to make it better and easier to drive as it was very difficult whenever it was windy conditions. This is something that I would like to see changed for this year.”

The 26-year-old is keeping his feet on the ground when it comes to a relative closing up of the pecking order in 2024 given the stability in regulations, warning that it will only be clear whether the field has closed the gap to Red Bull or not when they get going in Bahrain:

“It’s always impossible to predict whether we will be closer to our main competitors or not. Formula 1 is obviously a relative sport, but at the same time we are focusing on ourselves and from one year to the other we always try to look at what we can do better as a team without focusing too much on the others.

“We don’t know where the others are at in terms of development, so we’ll have to wait the real first laps before to judge where exactly we are.”