Ferrari may be struggling in Formula 1. At least its Sports and GT program brings some consolation to the hearts of the Tifosi.
What a difference a year makes! Ferrari had a race winning Formula 1 car a year ago. But it simply couldn’t get its act together. Remember the Casino at Monaco last year? No not the Grand up by the square, I’m talking about the right royal Ferrari cock-up when Binotto and his merry men so successfully stole defeat from the jaws of victory.
This year, the shoe is on the other foot. Our team never did much wrong, other than perhaps to forget to let Charles know Lando was approaching in Qualifying. And then miscue on the timing of the switch to Intermediates.
That’s just racing. Pity. We were on for a podium in Monaco. WTF, a podium? Yip. That’s what us Tifosi are reduced to this year. Praying for a podium. The SF-23 is one of those rare really crap F1 Ferraris. Suppose we must just live with it.
Nürburgring 24 Hour win a fine Ferrari omen
Rather than fret and join the asylum chasing red scalps, let’s rather concentrate on the better things in Ferrari life in 2023. Like the fine omen that Nürburgring 24 Hour victory represents. Frikadelli Racing not only smashed a 20-year run of German manufacturer victories with an emotional and combative victory in their Ferrari 296 GT3, but they set a marvellous tone for Ferrari’s next 24 Hour appointment. Its return to Le Mans, 50 years on.
Earl Bamber, Nicky Catsburg, David Pittard and Felipe Fernandez Laser and their new Ferrari 296 GT3 set a new 162 lap distance record in the 51st Green Hell 24 hour. They did three more laps, or more precisely the 75.9 more kilometres than anything else has ever achieved around the legendary Eiffel racetrack in those 24 hours.
Many see Ferrari’s Nürburgring success as a very good omen heading to Le Mans next weekend. See there are plenty reasons for that hope too. Some perhaps typically Ferrari superstitious, others more realistic.
Now for Le Mans!
First off, Maranello’s new 499P is powered by the same 3-litre biturbo V6 as the Nürburgring and street Ferrari 296. The Le Mans car turns the rear wheels via a 7-speed sequential gearbox and is backed by 200 kW motor-generator on the front axle powered by a 900 V battery hybrid energy recovery system.
Ferrari has been on it since its WEC return earlier in the season. In fact, the number 50 499P that Antonio Fuoco shares with Miguel Molina and Nicklas Nielsen, and the 51 driven by James Calado drives alongside Antonio Giovinazzi and Alessandro Pier Guidi, have not just been the best of the rest in the three races so car, but the Ferrari has also consistently been the only car to really challenge the mighty Gazoo Racing Toyotas so far this season.
Of course Ferrari arrives on the back foot with Toyota chasing its fifth Le Mans win on the trot. But then AF Corse, which runs the 499Ps, has huge Le Mans winning experience too. It seems to have already mastered the new prototype, and some recent midseason rules adjustments, like the reintroduction of tyre warmers, may just play into the red corner’s hands.
Ferrari really is a Le Mans underdog
So there’s real reason to be excited about Le Mans. That also helps divert the focus on that wretched SF-23 and the F1 team and drivers charged to race it. Of course, how all those upgrades work on a real racetrack remains to be seen, so some may be quietly hopeful on something of a Spanish surprise this weekend.
I am however a realist. I’d rather look more forward to Le Mans a week later, where Ferrari really is an underdog and every Tifosi should be fully behind that effort. Bring it on!