Why Mercedes are alarmed by Ferrari

With the gap for P2 of the Constructors’ Standings narrowing, Mercedes is looking at where they can exploit Ferrari’s weaknesses.

Andrew Shovlin, Mercedes’ Trackside Engineering Director, has noted significant progress from Ferrari in addressing tyre degradation issues that had previously separated the two teams in Formula 1.

Ferrari began the current regulation cycle with a competitive package but faced challenges in managing their SF-23 car, which hampered their race performances despite strong qualifying showings.

However, after extensive testing and development efforts, Ferrari managed to translate successive pole positions at Monza and Singapore into podium finishes, including their first non-Red Bull victory. 

While Mercedes managed to secure a split between the two Ferraris at Suzuka, the Italian team continued to outscore Mercedes for the third consecutive weekend. 

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This achievement has brought Ferrari within 20 points of Mercedes in the constructors’ championship, with six races left in the 2023 season.

When asked about the relative performance of the two teams heading into the season’s final stretch, Shovlin commented, “It’s difficult to know because this [Suzuka] has been an unusual track. 

“We’ve not performed well, they’ve [Ferrari] bought an update. 

“So there’s too many variables to really work out exactly where they sit. 

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“The gap wasn’t big today. 

“We’re looking at things that we can do in the next few races to try and bring a bit of performance.”

Shovlin emphasised that Mercedes can no longer rely on their car having an advantage in tyre management over Ferrari. 

Instead, he stressed the importance of unlocking more pace from the Mercedes W14 charger, stating, “I think it’s going to be tight, but I’d rather be 20 points ahead than 20 points behind. 

“But as I said, fundamentally it will be how much performance can we bring. 

“I think the quickest car will win over the next six races or whatever we’ve got remaining, so we need to try and make ourselves the quicker of those two.”

Explaining the challenge Mercedes faced with tyre degradation, Shovlin pointed to factors like track temperatures and grip levels in fast corners. 

He also noted that Ferrari had improved their car’s performance, particularly in high-speed corners, possibly due to a revised floor.

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Shovlin acknowledged that McLaren’s strong performance at Suzuka, where they secured a double podium behind Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, was not unexpected. 

He credited McLaren’s progress at high-speed circuits since their car’s significant update in July, stating:

“Well, I think the update they [McLaren] did in Singapore didn’t look massive there, but that’s all low-speed corners, here [Japan] it’s all high-speed, and that’s what we saw them get very good at when they did the previous update in Austria. 

“So right now they’ve just got a better car.”