At the beginning of this century, Ferrari still dominated in Formula 1, but since the last drivers’ title in 2007, seventeen years ago, the legendary team has been a regular customer in the sub-top. This was no different in 2023: Ferrari just missed out on second place in the team rankings, and with a heavily modified car, the Italian racing team hopes to win the battle of the pursuers and open the hunt for Red Bull Racing again, although there will be The arrival of Lewis Hamilton in 2025 is also viewed with great anticipation. We discuss Ferrari’s chances with editor-in-chief Mike van Weert and editor Shanna Lutgert.
In 2023, Ferrari was definitely Max Verstappen’s main competitor on Saturdays. Red Bull was good for fourteen pole positions during 22 Grand Prix weekends, mainly in the name of Verstappen. Mercedes was able to celebrate in Hungary on Saturday, where Lewis Hamilton was three thousandths quicker than Verstappen, and Ferrari was good for no fewer than seven fastest laps in Q3.
Although Ferrari was the only team to break Red Bull’s hegemony on Sundays, Carlos Sainz’s one Grand Prix victory is in stark contrast to the number of pole positions, and that immediately exposes the Scuderia’s problems: tire management and strategy. Ferrari has already made a lot of progress in terms of pit stops in the second half of the season, and team boss Frédéric Vasseur will now focus on eliminating other weaknesses.
What can Ferrari do in 2024?
At the end of 2023, Ferrari, Mercedes, and McLaren were quite evenly matched, and so the predictions also differ considerably when it comes to 2024. Only 22 percent of the editors see Ferrari finishing third again; the rest expect Ferrari either second (33 percent) or fourth (45 percent). Lutgert sees a positive outlook for the Italian team, and places Ferrari above McLaren and Mercedes. “I think Ferrari now understands what needs to be improved,” Lutgert suspects. ‘The team struggled with problems with tire wear in 2023 and here and there reliability wasn’t quite right either.’
Lutgert mainly sees Vasseur as a reason to expect a higher level. “Overall they were just a little bit faster than McLaren, and that’s why I expect them to dot the i’s and cross the t’s now. In addition, strategically speaking, things already went better in 2023 than in the previous seasons, and if Vasseur manages to do that even better in the upcoming season, I expect things will turn out well. Nevertheless, the battle with McLaren will be exciting, because McLaren will not suddenly have lost that momentum from the previous season.’
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Editor-in-chief Van Weert has less confidence in the Scuderia and predicts that the team will fall back to P4. “Ferrari had a good second half of the season in 2023, but the team could not yet match McLaren and Mercedes ultimately turned out to be just a little too strong,” says Van Weert. ‘Moreover, things are a bit messy in Maranello now and I think that the British racing stables just let better people make the more important decisions.’
‘Ferrari has been going wrong in this for years and a lot still needs to change to create a real race-winning team. There is certainly light at the end of the tunnel for the Tifosi, but I expect Ferrari will have to be patient for a while. The fact that there is no more talk about the championship is already a good start. Maybe that will take some of the pressure off. In recent years, pressure has been the last thing the team needs,” Van Weert explains the problem areas.
“Vasseur may not be Jean Todt, but he is an important factor of peace,” Van Weert explains about the bright spots. ‘Moreover, Vasseur is persistent, he does not shy away from political games, he has been in this position in the motorsport world for a long time and he therefore knows a lot. It is not surprising that Lewis Hamilton chose Ferrari. That has one hundred percent to do with Vasseur. Now he really needs a team under him that is very strong. Otherwise, the mistakes of 2022 and 2023 will continue to repeat themselves.
Red Bull remains out of reach
Although Lutgert predicts Ferrari as the best of the rest, she does not think that a serious fight for the title is yet possible. ‘While I expect an improvement, I don’t think they have built a car in a winter break with the same versatile sweet spot as Red Bull has. To challenge Verstappen, Ferrari needs an even more versatile car. It may be possible at some circuits, such as Singapore and Las Vegas. For the time being, I expect that they will still fall short on Sundays, but will excel again on Saturdays.’
Ferrari is looking to 2025 with a slanted eye
The contrast between the drivers is great: Charles Leclerc recently signed a new long-term contract with the most successful team in Formula 1 history, while Carlos Sainz already knows that he will have to make way for seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton next year. The Spaniard therefore suffered a blow, but was already in a similar situation at McLaren in 2020, and also performed well then. While he is looking for a new employer, the editors still see opportunities for Sainz to win the duel with Leclerc. Yet Leclerc is the favorite with 67 percent of the votes.
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Van Weert belongs to the majority who trust the talent of the Monegasque. The arrival of Hamilton in 2025 plays no role in this. “I don’t think the mutual relationship will necessarily be affected or that Sainz will behave unprofessionally towards the team. Yet I see both drivers making more mistakes,” says Van Weert, who fears the influence of the pressure. ‘Leclerc has wanted to prove for years that he can become champion and the idea of Lewis Hamilton coming to Maranello will not diminish this. Under pressure he just makes stupid mistakes and I don’t think this pressure will do him much good.’
According to Van Weert, there is even more at stake for Sainz. ‘Sainz is a bit more consistent, especially in the races, but he has to make sure he gets a seat somewhere. It’s nice that Audi is mentioned everywhere, but with the current state of Sauber you don’t really want to go there. Sainz wants to join a top team and that pressure could kill him. Pressure has actually been a kind of negative keyword in Maranello for years.’
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Can Sainz count on equal treatment?
Lutgert actually has more confidence in Sainz. The Spaniard was ahead of Leclerc in the championship for a long time in 2023, and only dropped from fourth to seventh place at the end of the season. According to Lutgert, the uncertain future will bring out the best in Sainz. “I think Sainz is entering a year where he basically has nothing to lose. The Spaniard dared to stand his ground anyway and indicated if he disagreed with something. I think he will show that even more this year, also to prove himself to the teams he can go to in 2025,” Lutgert predicts.
‘That will probably cause some tension and perhaps also some cocky behavior. I doubt equal treatment. Has that ever existed within Ferrari?’ Lutgert wonders. ‘In my opinion, Leclerc as il predestinato always seemed to be a bit favored, even though Sainz won Singapore and Leclerc was used there as a defender. Sainz seems intelligent enough not to do stupid things, but if he starts to become more selfish on track, then I am absolutely curious to see what he will achieve this year.’
According to Lutgert, the unorthodox contract situation can actually benefit Ferrari. ‘I think both drivers will have more motivation, because it would of course be good for Sainz to beat his teammate in his last season, with the team where he was actually sidelined. Beating Sainz is also important for Leclerc, because it sets the tone for the following year, when Hamilton arrives. And he would prove a lot if he wins the battle with Hamilton.’
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