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How Ferrari Got So Close To Winning The Italian Grand Prix

Ferrari had its best weekend of the 2023 Formula 1 season at its home at Monza.

Carlos Sainz

Ferrari had its best weekend of the 2023 Formula 1 season at its home at Monza. The Italian team threw everything at the race last weekend including new engines for both Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc and an aggressive setup to handle the high-speed track and its high kerbs.

The result was pole position for Carlos Sainz and the first time Ferrari had both cars finish in the top four all season. Sainz and Leclerc had a close call at the death but were all smiles in parc ferme. Team principal Fred Vasseur called it Ferrari’s: “best weekend of the year”.

Ultimately the strength of Red Bull’s RB19 saw it secure a one-two victory. Max Verstappen conceded he had to work for the victory and that made it more fun.

Why Were Ferrari So Fast?

Ferrari trimmed the SF23’s wing even further to run its lowest downforce setup of the year to take advantage of the long straights. In addition to the skinny wing and fresh power units, Ferrari added a new front wing with less downforce for balance. There’s no denying the SF23 was a difficult car to drive.

The result was a car that felt light to drive according to Sainz. “You go fast into the corners where the car feels incredibly light and you just hope it grips.”

Sainz and Leclerc performed heroics to drive without fear over the weekend, and at times the Monegasque driver copied Sainz’s lines through the turns.

Over the weekend, Ferrari had a seven-kilometre speed advantage over Red Bull. That came in handy as Sainz led the opening 14 laps, the longest a non-Red Bull car has led a race this season.

Not Just For The Tifosi

Ferrari’s best performance of the season gave the Tifosi, Ferrari’s fans, a lot to cheer about. The boos for Verstappen on Saturday illustrated just how partisan the Monza crowd was.

Ferrari left Italy buzzing from its excellent weekend and also identified the strengths and weaknesses of the SF23. Ferrari’s Jock Clear highlighted the forward steps the team made in the car’s mechanical balance and the way it rides the kerbs.

Ferrari’s struggles at high downforce tracks see them occupying third position in the constructors’ championship. In addition to the SF23 underperforming, there have been issues with reliability and strategy calls.

The Focus is On Singapore

Ferrari should see the performance in Monza as a jumping-off point. Third and fourth place in Italy reduced the points difference between them and Mercedes to 45 points.

Vasseur will have one eye on development for next year’s car but will be buoyed by the fight and resolve shown by both drivers.

“Carlos drove well all weekend and Charles also recovered well after getting off to a difficult start on Friday. In two weeks we start from scratch again in Singapore, and we can be happy with what we have done here. We knew our car would be more competitive on this sort of track and the SF-23 lived up to our expectations,” he said.

Sean Parker is a motorsport journalist and sports content creator at The South African. He has worked for the country's premier motoring publications, and is a Formula 1 contributor to, the Bet Central podcast, and Vision View Sports radio.

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