Vasseur: “We have to do a step forward” after shaky season opener for Ferrari

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The news at Maranello goes from bad to worse as Ferrari announce Charles Leclerc will take a ten place grid penalty for this weekend’s Saudi Arabian Grand Prix after once again replacing the control electronics in his Ferrari power unit. Vasseur remains positive however, revealing the team will bring upgrades to the SF-23.

Fred Vassuer addressing a crowd
Photo: @ScuderiaFerrari on twitter

Having suffered a DNF in the season opening Bahrain Grand Prix, Charles Leclerc is set to take a ten place grid penalty for this weekend’s Saudi Arabian Grand Prix. As Leclerc will now be taking a third control electronics module for his Ferrari power unit, he has exceeded the 2 unit limit for the year after just one race.

“I hope now it’s under control…”

Ferrari Team Principal Fred Vasseur explains that the team suffered two separate failures of the ECU on Sunday of the Bahrain Grand Prix, ultimately causing Leclerc to stop on track during the race.

“On Sunday, we had two different issues,” said Vasseur when talking to selected media. “The first one was on the Sunday morning, when we did the fire up, and the second one was in the race. Unfortunately, it was two times the control unit, the ECU.

“It’s something that we never experienced in the past. I hope now it’s under control, but we have a deep analysis on this. Unfortunately, we’ll have to take the penalty in Jeddah, because we have only a pool of two control units for the season.”

“I can’t be satisfied with the situation…”

Despite the disheartening news of an engine penalty in just the second round of a 23 race season, Vasseur noted Ferrari will be bringing upgrades to this weekend’s Grand Prix, and is hopeful of an improvement in performance.

“I hope so, for sure,” He said when asked if he expects Ferrari to more closely match reigning champions Red Bull. “I can’t be satisfied with the situation and I want to do a step forward.

“The characteristic of Jeddah is completely different compared to Bahrain in terms of grip, the layout of the track and so [on, meaning] that it’s a completely different story. Probably it will swing a little bit more to what we have today. We’ll also bring some updates in Jeddah and I hope that we do a step forward.”

Charles Leclerc in the pits at the 2023 Bahrain Grand Prix
Photo: @ScuderiaFerrari on twitter

“We have to fix the issue on the drivability also and to try to improve…”

He remains positive, expecting the Jeddah circuit to better suit the characteristics of the SF-23, most notably it’s straight line speed. He did however admit that the team’s pace was not as good as expected in Bahrain.

“Bahrain was not as good as expected and we have to react,” said Vasseur. “We are pushing on this, everybody’s motivated, everybody is working as a team to try to fix the issues.

“We had issues in Bahrain in terms of reliability and so we have to fix it. We have to bring updates, we have to fix the issue on the drivability also and to try to improve, but I think it’s the same for everybody.”

He went on to emphasise his confidence, hinting that Ferrari are aware of what areas need improvement and hoping that improvements will already be apparent in Jeddah.

“But trust me that I’m not negative at all. We had an analysis of what we did in Bahrain, we have a long list of things that we have to improve. You don’t need to be a genius to understand this on reliability and so on, but we are on it, and I hope that already in Jeddah we’re going to be able to have a first reaction.”

“We have mega room for improvement…”

Vasseur also denied claims that the SF-23 concept lacks in comparison to the Red Bull contender. He admits that the team struggled in Bahrain but puts their lack of pace down to setup issues and ignoring any suggestions that the team’s car concept is flawed.

“For me, it’s a problem of performance, it’s not a problem of concept,” He said. “We have the car that we have and we struggled a little bit with the balance over the weekend, it means that we have mega room for improvement on this path with our car with our package.”

He continued to comment on the lack of variety of tracks on which the SF-23 has been driven. With both testing and the opening race taking place in Bahrain, which Vasseur says is “not always very representative”, he admits the team need more data to fully understand the car at this early stage in development.

“First, we need to get the best of what we have and we have seen some room for improvement. But keep in mind that Bahrain not always very representative and we are still at the early stage of the car in that we did three days of testing and the race in Bahrain, only on one track, and we need to have a better understanding of the car itself to try to get the best from the package we have.

“I don’t understand exactly what the concept story is.”

“In terms of pure development, we are almost in the window…”

Overall, Vasseur seemed happy with the direction in which the team is going, noting good correlation between real world data and their simulations in CFD and the wind tunnel. He places the team’s gap to Red Bull more on Red Bull’s improvements, noting their weight improvement specifically, than on any shortcomings from the Italian outfit.

“The correlation is good, but if you compare with one year ago we have to keep in mind that also Red Bull made a huge step forward in terms of weight. But in terms of pure development, we are almost in the window that we were expecting.

“We know perfectly that we have to do a step forward if we want to match Red Bull.”