At the 2023 Italian Grand Prix, Ferrari made a spirited effort to try and end Red Bull’s winning streak, with Carlos Sainz qualifying on pole, a position he defended incredibly hard from both Red Bulls and his teammate Charles Leclerc to eventually finish third, his first podium of the season. It was Ferrari’s best weekend of the season so far and enough to overtake Aston Martin into third in the Constructor’s Championship.
But was this just a one-off from the Scuderia to give the Tifosi something to shout about, or is it something Ferrari can replicate? Stick around to find out where we think they could do it again…
Let’s break it down: Monza as a track, played perfectly into the strengths of Ferrari’s 2023 car. Their power unit is strong and generates a lot of straight-line speed. On Carlos Sainz’s pole lap, his top speed was seven kilometres per hour faster than Verstappen’s and he was consistently faster than the Red Bull at Monza’s straights. It’s why Ferrari also brought the smallest rear wing possible to try and maximise its top speed advantage.
Monza has some low-speed corners to break up the high-speed sections, and Ferrari has been very strong in getting the balance of their car right through them. Sainz didn’t need as much steering lock as Verstappen through Turns 1 and 2, as well as the second chicane because the Ferrari rotates its steering better than the Red Bull does. It’s a big part of the reason Leclerc outqualified the Red Bulls in Baku earlier this season, another track with long straights and multiple slow corner sequences.
It’s understood that Red Bull in general prioritises race pace over outright speed, its unique suspension layout combined with its excellent floor setup means they have better rear tyre grip and aerodynamic balance over longer stints, but as a compromise they struggle to get heat into their tyres at the start of a qualifying lap – which we saw in Hungary. Max struggled to find a sweet spot across the Monza weekend, saying on Saturday: “I can’t really complain because I’ve had so many weekends in a row when we put the car on the track and it was easy. But here it was a bit more difficult to find the right trade-off. At Monza, you’re often just one side or the other of that trade-off.”
But that trade-off was exactly why Verstappen was so unphased at Sainz leading during the opening laps of the race. Max could see from Lap 4 that Sainz was sliding the rear of his car just to stay in front. It was hard for Max to pass Sainz even with DRS due to Ferrari’s excellent top speed and battery deployment, but over that first stint, Sainz cooked his rear tyres, eventually locking up his fronts on Lap 15 into Turn 1, giving up the lead and eventually giving Verstappen his record-breaking 10th consecutive win. It was a valiant effort from the Spainard though – The 14 laps Sainz did lead was the most anyone has managed in a single-race this season, outside of Red Bull.
While Ferrari was excellent around Monza, it’s been an outlier for their 2023 season as a whole. Monza was just their third pole position and fourth podium of the year, with Ferrari’s home race a polar opposite to the previous round in Zandvoort, where its technical corners and high downforce needed to succeed had them struggling, with Sainz driving well just to get into the Top 5.
As F1 moves away from Europe for the rest of 2023, opportunities for Ferrari to capitalise on the strengths they do have look sparse. Their best chance to replicate Monza might be the first race in Las Vegas, with a layout street track layout similar to Baku with long straights, broken up by slower chicanes and 90-degree corners. Given Leclerc has qualified on pole around Baku three times already in his career, Vegas could be the round where he could cash in on Red Bull’s few weaknesses.
Were you impressed with Ferrari at Monza? And can see you a way they can challenge Red Bull for a win this season? Let us know in the comments, and if you liked the video, be sure to Subscribe!