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F1 News: Ferrari want to force Red Bull into “more mistakes”

Ferrari team principal Fred Vassuer during the Bahrain Grand Prix weekend

Ferrari wants to continue putting pressure on Red Bull and capitalise on any opportunities to win.

Fred Vasseur was pleased that Ferrari “worked in a calm and focused manner to achieve its goals” at the Japanese GP. The team principal is pleased about the “step forward over the winter,” which he believes is evidenced by on-track results. However, the Frenchman makes clear that “there is still room for improvement if we want to put Red Bull under pressure, and that’s what we’d like to do as from the next round in China.”

China’s Shanghai International Circuit will provide plenty of opportunity for teams across the F1 grid. Automatically, the five-year gap since its most recent Grand Prix event presents a series of challenges. Teams have very little data to base their set-ups on for this weekend, which will heighten the importance of pre-race preparations. This is only compounded by the Sprint weekend format since only one free practice session will precede the first competitive laps.

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Ferrari better equipped to handle Sprint weekends

Last year, this might have spelt a disastrous combination for Ferrari. In 2023, the Italian outfit struggled to understand the car’s ever-changing characteristics. Whilst it could perform well in certain conditions, changes in track conditions would throw the Maranello squad outside of its operating window. Much like the Mercedes W15, changes to wind intensity or track temperature could prove detrimental.

In the 2024 campaign, however, Ferrari is an altogether different proposition. Performance-wise, they are close enough to put the reigning Champions under pressure. Both in relative and absolute terms, the SF-24 is a big step forward in all departments, especially over a race distance. Provided that Leclerc and Sainz can secure strong starting positions, they are more than capable of maintaining them. Going backwards on race day is no longer a major fear on the Italian side.

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Chinese GP circuit brings Ferrari into play

Combined with this improved performance is a team whose operational efficiency is making great strides. Their pit-stop times are consistently within the 2.5-second range, and strategy calls are increasingly accurate. This means that, even with a small deficit to Red Bull in terms of pure performance, Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez have less margin for error.

As ever, team performance will vary from circuit to circuit. Whilst Ferrari’s platform is more well-rounded than in previous years, there are still relatively stronger and weaker venues. This weekend, the SF-24 should be more competitive than it was in Suzuka.

The Shanghai circuit’s layout is far more compatible than the high-speed Japanese track. In addition, the potential for a degradation-heavy race could bring one of Ferrari’s recent strengths into play.


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