Ferrari team principal Frederic Vasseur has admitted that Ferrari discovered that they were in trouble after a “couple of laps in Bahrain”, right at the start of the 2023 season.
After replacing Mattia Binotto as team boss, life at Ferrari couldn’t have started any worse for Vasseur.
The big hope was that the Italians could build on from their strong 2022 campaign, where they were the only side capable of consistently challenging Red Bull.
From the get-go in Bahrain, though, it was clear that a step backwards had been taken.
The Italians were slower than Red Bull, Aston Martin and Mercedes, leaving them fourth in the pecking order for the majority of the start of the season.
Vasseur now recognises that the team’s expectations were a “bit too high”, which in many ways made the crash back to earth that much more painful.
“For sure I think the level of expectation was a bit too high at the beginning of the season and we understood quickly the situation,” Vasseur explained, as reported by Motorsport Week.
“I think after a couple of laps in Bahrain. And even a couple of laps into the simulator before [we] go to Bahrain.
“But what I would keep in mind this season is the reaction of the team that we had a tough moment but remember after Jeddah or Miami or Spain or Zandvoort, Zandvoort is not so far away and we were almost lapped.
“I think that we, compared to Zandvoort, collectively made a huge step forward and this is good for the future.”
After accepting their struggles, Ferrari did start to make some progress in the second half of the season, with Charles Leclerc having come alive in the latter stages of 2023.
Introducing a revised floor at the Japanese Grand Prix was really Ferrari’s lifeline, as it allowed the side to suddenly compete for second in the Constructors’ Championship.
Ultimately, the Italians missed out on P2 by just three points but Vasseur is still pleased at how well the team ended the campaign given that they “didn’t change the car massively”.
This gives the team a certain amount of belief that they can make progress in 2024, where Ferrari are believed to be introducing a new concept.
“I’m more than pleased because between Zandvoort and today, we didn’t change massively the car,” Vasseur added.
“We had an upgrade in Japan I think, but basically we kept the same car and we were able to do a much better job with a better understanding of the car, better set-up of the car and a better approach from the drivers.
“We have room for improvement everywhere and this feeling is a good one to develop something for next year.”