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Why Ferrari can take the fight to Red Bull

Ferrari already has a win under their belt in 2024, but the Maranello-based team is poised to put Red Bull under even more pressure.

Pre-season hype is a normal part of the Ferrari experience in F1. The Maranello-based team often sees excitement and anticipation build over the winter break. Far too often, Ferrari finds itself several steps away from fighting for the Championship – as seen last season. Even in the first two rounds of this year, Red Bull enjoyed a sizable advantage over the Prancing Horse. However, a victory in Australia and a major upgrade package are early evidence that Fred Vasseur’s team are a different prospect in 2024.

Operational efficiency 

Although absolute performance is necessary to fight for victory in F1, other factors also play an essential role. When fine margins separate the front-runners, as seen in Australia and Miami, the smallest details can make a difference.

In previous years, 2022 being the most recent example, Ferrari made too many unforced errors. Pit-stop mishaps and strategic miscalculations gave Red Bull a clear upper hand. Similar comments can be made about their battles with Mercedes in the late 2010s.

Since the arrival of Fred Vasseur, the Maranello squad have become far stronger in this aspect. Throughout the 2024 season, only Red Bull has enjoyed better average pit-stop times than Ferrari.

Strategy is also greatly improved, with the mistakes of the past largely absent from the Scuderia’s pit wall. Of course, there will be tougher tests if the SF-24 becomes more competitive and fights for wins more frequently. Still, the team is functioning as a well-oiled machine this year so far.

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Mid-season development

Unlike last season, Ferrari has a strong baseline to build upon for the remainder of 2024. The SF-24 behaves precisely as expected, with correlation from the wind tunnel to the track proving highly accurate.

Without the introduction of any upgrades, this platform has already allowed Ferrari to take a huge step forward. Not only is this true in absolute terms, but also relative to Red Bull.

Next weekend in Imola will be critical for Ferrari. After spending several months understanding their existing package, a significant haul of upgrades will arrive at the SF-24. These updates are expected to unlock a similar step in performance that McLaren achieved with their Miami changes.

The Imola GP will be a normal weekend – meaning there will be three practice sessions to optimise the Scuderia’s new package.

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Leclerc and Sainz

Whilst this might seem self-evident Ferrari’s driver lineup will be an essential component to their 2024 success. The Miami GP provided an early glimpse of the dilemma that Red Bull and Verstappen could find themselves in.

Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz (much like the McLaren duo) were able to put pressure on the Dutchman. With Sergio Perez further down the field, Verstappen was left to defend from two different strategies.

Moving forward, especially if Ferrari improves its qualifying form, Verstappen will have more headaches in 2024. Had Sainz stayed out for one lap later in Miami, the Maranello-based team could have won the race thanks to their diverging strategies.

This is an asset that could become increasingly valuable as the year continues.

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