Formula 1 Racing

What GPS data reveals about Ferrari’s strengths and biggest weakness

Charles Leclerc, Ferrari SF-23

Ferrari will soon lavish the SF-23 with performance-finding upgrades. But for now, after a dismal start to the campaign, set-up tweaks alone have allowed the team to take a marked step forward in Australia and this weekend again in Azerbaijan. As proof, lead charge Charles Leclerc used the revised format for sprint race rounds to snare two pole positions across Friday and Saturday in Baku.

However, the Monegasque was knocked out of top spot after less than half distance of the shortened Saturday race. Sergio Perez added to his run of street track success by pouncing for victory with the aid of DRS. That Leclerc gave the Mexican and easier run, choosing not to fight the Red Bull before falling close to 5s adrift come the chequered flag underlines a clear weakness over a race stint.

How Leclerc bagged two pole positions in one weekend

Both of Leclerc’s pole laps are, unsurprisingly, very similar. For the run into Turn 1, the Ferrari begins to fall behind the Red Bulls as speeds head north of 205mph. Max Verstappen (on Friday) then Sergio Perez (on Saturday) arrive at the first corner in front. But Leclerc is able to fight back with the burst of acceleration for the sprint to Turn 2, even if he can’t match either RB19 for apex speed.

The acceleration of the SF-23 again comes up trumps for the remainder of the opening sector to ensure that there’s little to split the trio for Turns 3 to 7. Then, even if the Red Bulls are the kings of the tight castle section, neither can match Leclerc from the Turn 12 left-hander for the downhill run to the final corner. The only blemish for the red car is a slower apex speed through the tricky off-camber Turn 15 left-hander.

Charles Leclerc, Ferrari SF-23

Photo by: Andrew Ferraro / Motorsport Images

Then, for the longest full-throttle section on the F1 calendar, Leclerc benefits from the Ferrari’s acceleration once more. He cannot be matched for the pull between 90mph and 195mph before the potent Red Bulls finally hit their V-max to find an eventual 6mph advantage.

Why Leclerc was right not to fight Perez in the sprint race

A strong launch in the sprint race left Leclerc unchallenged into Turn 1. He then dictated the safety car restart – prompted by AlphaTauri driver Yuki Tsunoda shedding his right-rear Pirelli – to retain control. But when the DRS was activated at the end of lap seven of 17, he very soon appeared powerless to resist Sergio Perez. Despite the DRS zone on the main straight being cut by…

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