Ferrari’s incredible Canada flop – what we know

Ferrari entered this weekend's Canadian Grand Prix, viewed by many as the favorite to take back-to-back Formula 1 victories in 2024, following Charles Leclerc's stunning success in Monaco.

But after failing to get either car into Q3 in Montreal, a podium finish now looks likely to be out of reach.

Leclerc was predictably reticent to accept the 'favourite' tag on Thursday, before the race begins at the reconfigured Montreal circuit, although he expected “we will be closely matched with McLaren and Red Bull”.

As it turned out, Mercedes were 1-2 in Q2, Leclerc was almost a second off the pace of George Russell in this section, and Ferrari outpaced the Aston Martins, both RB and Alex Albon's Williams.

What Leclerc was right about was that it was an incredibly tight fight.

Mercedes were well clear in Q2, which is a surprise in itself, but between Max Verstappen (who missed pole in intense heat with Russell) in seventh and Carlos Sainz in twelfth there was a gap of less than two tenths.

The question is – why did Ferrari end up on the wrong side of this uncharacteristic spread?

Sudden lack of speed

Friday was essentially a non-representative break, but the final practice on Saturday was a full hour of dry running and there were already warning signs for Ferrari.

Leclerc was eight tenths down in that session and complained on the radio that his Ferrari was “just slow”. This surprising lack of speed continued into qualifying.

“We are not fast enough and unfortunately that is all,” Leclerc said. “In FP3 we were nowhere in the dry. In qualifying we were nowhere in the dry either.

“I don't have any explanations at the moment. In FP3 we already felt that something was wrong. We couldn't see what was wrong and that was exactly the case in qualifying, where we definitely felt that something was wrong but there was nothing wrong that we could see.

“Grip was very poor, in the first sector in particular, and then once you slip in the first sector, it's a snowball effect and you never get the performance from the car.

“Very surprising. “I didn't expect that and it's obviously disappointing.”

Ferrari's initial theories

Ferrari is undoubtedly in a much better position than it was at this race 12 months ago – which was actually one of its best races as it was an extremely difficult car to work with for most of the first part of 2023.

The 2024 Ferrari has been deliberately designed as a less peaky, more moderate car, easier to drive and more biased towards race speed and efficient tire management than pure single-lap speed.

In this context, you might not necessarily expect Ferrari to be in the fight for first place, but it is clear that the sixth row of the grid is a long way from being displaced no matter how on par with McLaren (third and fourth here) and Red Bull Verstappen. In previous races.

But creating a car that's gentle on the tires will inevitably lead to tire warm-up problems – we've seen that a few times over the past couple of seasons with Red Bull struggling to get the fronts in particular working properly on a single lap – and this appears to have caught Ferrari in Canada.

The smooth, resurfaced track and cold conditions were combined with a car that simply wasn't able to operate the C5 Pirelli's fronts properly.

“The pace was good yesterday [Friday] “In both cases, wet and dry, we struggled a little bit more since this morning to get the tires running in Turn 1,” Ferrari team principal Fred Vasseur explained. “We lose more than 50% of the gap in the first turn.”

Sainz emphasized that Ferrari “lacked cohesion” in Canada and also “our ride doesn't look as good as it did in Monaco.”

Additional own goal

Another effect of the track surface being so new, combined with the very mixed weather, is that grip levels started low and improved dramatically in the early part of qualifying as more rubber was put on.

This meant that even the leading teams were consuming extra sets of the new Pirelli soft compounds in order to secure safe passage into Q2.

In order to ensure a fresh set of tires were still available for Q3, most teams had to advance through Q2 with just one new tire.

That wasn't as bad as it could have been, because the low-grip surface and cold conditions meant it was possible to do competitive times on the used rubber.

However, it still makes sense to have the best set of shoes available at the end of the session when the track is at its theoretical best in terms of available grip.

But Ferrari didn't play Q2 that way. Ferrari made what Vasseur called a “50/50” call to send its drivers on new rubber for their first rounds in Q2, leaving them on old tires for the business end of that session.

Sainz explained to Sky Sports Formula 1 that this decision was made because Ferrari mistakenly feared that rain might disrupt the end of Q2 and therefore the track would be better earlier.

This is not the first time Ferrari has been implicated for misjudging weather reports during qualifying – and Leclerc in particular appeared upset by this latest lapse in judgement, repeatedly saying it was something he needed to review with the team.

A costly mistake

Leclerc's acute disappointment will no doubt be based on his feeling that with the extra grip available from the new tyres, even taking into account Ferrari's general struggles here, he could easily have gained the four-hundredths of a second needed to advance to Q3 – at this point Point being, as the top seven spots covered by .280 showed, anything was possible.

Vasseur revealed that Sainz was actually “three tenths faster than Charles at the final corner and made a mistake” – so had it not been for that mistake Ferrari would almost certainly have had one car in Q3 and probably at least in the battle for the top six in the standings. network.

“It's like that. We have to be happy with the fact that the battle is so tight,” Vasseur added, also highlighting Sergio Perez's second consecutive Q1 exit in the car leading the Constructors' Championship as further evidence of how easy it is now. On the wrong side in marginal positions.

“Definitely when you are in 11th and 12th place, you are not happy. We will push and we will come back. We have to come back stronger next time.”

Another emerging pattern is that neither Ferrari nor Red Bull have been relatively competitive as they were at the start of the season since their car upgrade at Imola, while McLaren and now Mercedes have become really strong.

Could Ferrari and Red Bull have gotten themselves into some trouble as the competition heats up?


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