The fallout from Ferrari’s first 2024 F1 disaster

Ferrari pledged to conduct a “deep analysis” after a miserable weekend at the Canadian Grand Prix in which both cars failed to make Q3 and the team scored no points after a surprisingly poor Grand Prix for both drivers.

The stunning failure suffered by the Ferrari team during qualifying in Montreal, where Leclerc complained of a mysterious lack of grip, especially at the beginning of the flying laps, was caused by low tire pressure at the start.

The resurfaced track was smoother than in previous years, and the prevailing mixed weather and relatively cool temperatures meant that tire heating became a serious issue for a car that was deliberately designed to be kinder to the tires than it will be in 2023.

However, even when starting outside the top ten, you would normally expect a car as strong as Ferrari has been in the race so far this season, a car that the team expects to once again be in a close battle at the front with McLaren and Red Bull. Before the weekend, to complete the standings and finish well within the points.

How to break up Ferrari racing

Mercedes' greatly improved performance further complicated the picture in Canada, but sixth and seventh place – where the Aston Martins finished – should have been Ferrari's minimum target to limit the damage caused by poor qualifying performance.

But Ferrari's race was a total disaster. Carlos Sainz languished on the fringes of the top 10 after sustaining damage to the floor and wing following a collision with Valtteri Bottas, before swerving and inadvertently collecting the Williams of Alex Albon while competing for minor points.

Leclerc experienced what he called a “strange” engine problem that hampered his race from the second lap.

Between that and the ill-advised gamble of switching to slick tires before the track was sufficiently dry, Leclerc eventually suffered a lap before deliberately pulling his car into the pits with no hope of scoring any points.

This was nothing short of an embarrassment for the driver and team who had looked so confident of achieving such a convincing victory in the previous race in Monaco.

Is there a better racing speed hidden?

Leclerc revealed that he was “losing 1.2 seconds on the straights” in Montreal due to the engine in the first part of the Canadian Grand Prix.

Ferrari has yet to explain exactly what that engine problem is – only that it relates to what Ferrari team boss Fred Vasseur called the engine 'control', not the engine itself, suggesting it was software related.

Leclerc said he was making 10 engine switch changes every lap From inside his car while the problem persisted, and it was clear from the long delay in the pits when he finally stopped for slick tires that this problem was only resolved by turning off the engine and restarting the car.

Ferrari had hoped to have the opportunity to perform this power cycle under a red flag stop after Logan Sargeant crashed his Williams – but the red flag stop never happened.

It took a long time to fix the engine problem – 30-40 seconds according to Vasseur – and Leclerc's race quickly became a lost cause.

He said the car felt good through the corners on the medium tyres, and Vasseur said Ferrari was feeling “quite confident” about the race pace before the start – but “from the start things went wrong”.

Ferrari said Leclerc's engine was 80bhp down from where it should have been and was costing him 10-15km/h. [6-9mph] On the straight for 15 laps.

This meant that Leclerc had no real chance of progressing as the problem arose from lap two onwards.

Disaster solution

Qualifying outside the top 10, having your drivers publicly criticize your tire strategy in Q2, having reliability issues in the race, seeing one of your cars lapped by the front runners, then suffering a double failure and zero points on the weekend Max Verstappen and McLaren score A big goal, all of which led to a huge disappointment for Ferrari.

As Vasseur points out, Formula 1 is now so close to the top spot that among the leading teams – Red Bull, McLaren, Ferrari and perhaps Mercedes now too – any mistakes or poor performance will be punished mercilessly.

But he's also right that one bad race doesn't completely undermine what Ferrari has achieved so far.

Vasseur said Ferrari were “not world champions” after the strong weekend Leclerc enjoyed in Monaco, but likewise “we haven't gotten anywhere after a difficult weekend”.

He insisted that we will return to the pace of competition in Spain. “I'm not afraid after this kind of weekend.”

The key now is for Ferrari to carry out the in-depth analysis it promised after Canada and quickly absorb the necessary lessons.

As Leclerc reiterated after the race, Ferrari was expecting to be in the mix in Montreal – but that was certainly not the case.

Poor performance when you expect performance to be poor is one thing; Performing poorly when you expect to do well is another thing entirely.

Unsurprisingly, Vasseur has a 'don't panic' message to his team – to maintain the same approach and motivation as before, and to maintain full focus on developing the car and fixing the problems.

The good news is that identifying a clear reason for the tires not working properly in qualifying could mean that this is just a minor deviation, so Ferrari can expect an immediate return to form on other tracks.

But even so, it was a stark reminder of how easy it is to topple a strong performing team at this stage of a competition that has become so tight at the front of the grid.

In Formula 1 at the moment, the line between impressive success and embarrassing failure seems razor-thin.


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