Ferrari SF-23 driveability at Zandvoort worst it’s been all year

The 2023 Formula 1 Dutch Grand Prix posed considerable challenges for Charles Leclerc, marking it as the most demanding race of his championship. Struggling for performance from the outset, he faced a challenging weekend and eventually retired on lap 41 due to damage sustained by his Ferrari at the Zandvoort circuit located in the dunes north of Zandvoort, the Netherlands, near the North Sea coast line.

Charles Leclerc’s race took a hit at the very beginning when he made contact with the McLaren of Oscar Piastri on the first lap of the Dutch Grand Prix. This collision not only broke the front wing end plate on his car but also caused further damage as the broken piece travelled underneath the floor.

Adding to his troubles, Charles Leclerc also experienced a setback during the opening lap of the race when he entered the pits for a switch to intermediate tires, only to discover that his pit crew wasn’t prepared for his arrival.

In addition to the race-specific issues, Charles Leclerc highlighted that the entire weekend had been one of the most challenging behind the wheel of his Ferrari. His car’s performance remained problematic throughout practice, qualifying (where he suffered a crash), and the race itself on Sunday at Zandvoort.

“In terms of result obviously with a DNF like this it’s not good, but it’s been an extremely difficult weekend,” Charles Leclerc said. “In terms of balance it is probably the most difficult weekend of the season, and driveability of the car. We need to look into it, because the last two, three races were getting better on that side of things and for some reason it worsened this weekend.”

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The Monegasque explained that the Maranello team initially believed the damage suffered by his SF-23 single-seater was not that significant, but the Italian side eventually decided to retire the car from the Dutch Grand Prix once they became aware of how big the performance loss actually was: “Obviously I already had the first lap when we had the damage,” he said. “I could feel much more than the guys were telling me on the radio. Initially it was 5 to 10 points [of downforce], what I’ve been told, but obviously then we realized it was more than 60, and more than 60 is a different category. After that, the first lap, it was all uphill.” – the Monegasque driver pointed out.

Ferrari boss Frederic Vasseur was asked about the moment of the first pit stop, when the Maranello mechanics seemed surprised and unprepared when Charles Leclerc came to the pits for his first tyre change, as the rain had just started: “The rain was in the last corner and he decided to pit, it was a very late call, but I think it was still the right decision because we were in a much better position than before even with the six or seven seconds we lost in the pit lane. For sure, if you are 10 seconds behind or five seconds further back on the road and you make the call, it is much easier. But I don’t have to complain about this because it was the right call.” – the French managed explained.

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