2024 F1 season previews: How will Ferrari fare ahead of Lewis Hamilton’s arrival?

We can be honest, we are among friends after all.

This is going to be a fascinating 12 months or so for the Scuderia.

Just a few weeks ago, a piece like this would have focused on the contractual status of Carlos Sainz Jr., the recent decision by the team to sign Charles Leclerc to a long-term contract extension, and whether Team Principal Frederic Vasseur could avoid the pitfalls that hampered many of his predecessors.

All of that went out the window with this simple statement:

Suddenly the world changed.

After all the 2023 season for Ferrari already offered some fascinating topics of discussion. Sainz was the only non-Red Bull driver to score a Grand Prix victory last year, with his upset victory in Singapore. Leclerc showed incredible growth and maturity as a driver, bouncing back from what the called the “worst start of his career” at the beginning of the year to, in the closing laps of the season, working through every possible permutation to lead Ferrari past Mercedes for a P2 finish in the Constructors’ Championship.

While that effort ultimately fell short, it gave the Tifosi hope that Leclerc was taking the next steps as a driver, and a leader, for the team. Couple that with the consistency Sainz showed all throughout the season — and his win in Singapore — and things were looking up for Ferrari. With the 2024 season about to begin, those in red could believe that perhaps bigger days were ahead.

Now they might get caught dreaming about 2025.

F1 Grand Prix of Singapore

Photo by Michael Potts/BSR Agency/Getty Images

2023 highlight: Singapore Grand Prix

Two teams won grands prix last year.

Red Bull, who won all but one.

And Ferrari.

That win came down in Singapore, and it was Sainz who delivered it. Ferrari was on the front foot all weekend, with both Sainz and Leclerc topping the timing sheets at various points throughout the three practice sessions. Leclerc and Sainz were P1 and P2 in FP1, respectively, with the order flipped in FP2.

Then in qualifying, the first stunner came in Q2 when both Max Verstappen and Sergio Pérez were knocked out. That opened the door for a non-Red Bull team to secure pole, and it was Ferrari, as Sainz clinched pole and Leclerc settled in P3, to start behind him in the Grand Prix.

In the race itself, Sainz held onto the lead after the start, and stayed in front of the field for the bulk of the race. In the closing stages, he delivered a masterful strategic performance, keeping Lando Norris — who was running in P2 behind him — in DRS range to make it tougher for the Mercedes duo of George Russell and Hamilton (running P3 and P4) to overtake him.

That also gave us one of the best radio exchanges of the year:

Not to be outdone, Leclerc posted a strong finish of his own. Russell clipped the wall on the final lap, which gave Leclerc a chance to finish in P4, just a few places behind his teammate.

But in a year that saw Red Bull win all but one grand prix, the day Ferrari beat them to the checkered flag is a certain highlight.

2023 lowlight: Australian Grand Prix

Is it me, or has this race qualified as a lowlight for multiple teams … ?

But I digress.

Australia was certainly a difficult weekend for Ferrari. However, it did not start out that way. Both Sainz and Leclerc qualified in the top seven, with Sainz starting fifth and Leclerc in P7. Yet for Leclerc, seventh was not his best. “Q1 and Q2, clearly, I wasn’t on it. I wasn’t driving well. I wasn’t putting everything together, so that was my fault,” said Leclerc after qualifying.

Q3, however, saw Leclerc frustrated for a different reason. Citing “miscommunication” within the team, Leclerc found himself stuck behind Sainz on his second push lap of Q3, which ultimately saw him finish in P7. “Unfortunately, I don’t know what happened in the second run of Q3, whether it was a miscommunication with Carlos or whatever,” said Leclerc. “But I found myself behind him for the whole first sector, which wasn’t great.

“We’ll speak at the debrief about that to try and improve those situations.”

Things did not improve on Sunday.

On Leclerc’s side of the garage, the day ended early. He tried to pass Lance Stroll on the opening lap at Turn 3, but when Stroll had to move to avoid his own teammate Fernando Alonso, he clipped Leclerc, sending him into the gravel … and out of the race.

“It was unfortunate to end the race this way today, but it was a racing incident and I don’t think that we could have done anything differently. Disappointing, but on to the next one where I hope things will run more smoothly again,” said Leclerc in the team’s post-race report.

However, Sainz forged on, and was in P4 when the race restarted in the closing laps. As the cars reached Turn 1, Sainz was on the inside of Alonso, and made contact with the Aston Martin, sending it spinning. While both Sainz and Alonso were able to continue, the chaos ensued behind them, with the Alpine duo of Pierre Gasly and Esteban Ocon coming together, knocking each other out of the points … and the race.

Sainz moved up into third, but then the field was reset and the cars were ordered as they were on the previous restart (minus the eliminated cars) which moved Sainz back into P4. The race finished under the safety car, and while Sainz came across the line in P4, he was given a five-second penalty for the collision with Alonso.

Which dropped him into 12th, and out of hte points.

“It was a good race overall but the penalty ruined all the effort and I don’t agree with it,” said Sainz after the race. “The frustration I feel right now will be difficult to digest, but I will try to think only of the positives from today and focus on the next race.”

Ferrari filed a request for review, seeking to appeal the penalty, in the weeks after the race. Even Alonso called the determination “too harsh.”

However, that request was denied.

Outlook for 2024:

Let’s start with the SF-24.

While Ferrari’s challenger is certainly stunning — and in the minds of many is the most striking livery of the year — the bigger question is whether it can deliver on the track.

The early reviews are largely positive.

“I like the look of the car a lot, including the white and yellow parts on the bodywork. But of course, what really interests me is how it will perform on track, as that’s all that matters. The SF-24 ought to be less sensitive and easier to drive and for us drivers that’s what you need in order to do well,” said Leclerc after its launch. “I expect the car to be a step forward in several areas and from the impression I formed in the simulator I think we’re where we want to be. This season the aim is to be front runners all the time and I want to give our fans plenty to cheer about, by dedicating race wins to them.”

His teammate also has high expectations for the SF-24.

“When I saw the SF-24 for the first time, I couldn’t wait to jump in and fire it up. Now, I’m looking forward to driving it on track to see if it correlates with the feeling I had from the simulator, which is that it’s the step forward we all want,” said Sainz. “The aim is to have a car that’s more driveable and therefore able to run at a consistent race pace, as these are the basic requirements to fight for wins.

“We drivers have done our very best to give the engineers precise feedback and I’m sure the workforce in Maranello will have listened to our needs. We want to give the fans something to cheer about, as they were so supportive last year, even when things weren’t going our way.”

What is clear from the SF-24, the first challenger developed totally under Vasseur, is that feedback from both Sainz and Leclerc was critical to the vision.

“With the SF-24 we wanted to create a completely new platform and in fact, every area of the car has been redesigned, even if our starting point was the development direction we adopted last year and which saw us take a leap forward in terms of competitiveness in the final part of the season,” said Enrico Cardile, the team’s Technical Director – Chassis. “We have taken on board what the drivers told us and turned those ideas into engineering reality, with the aim of giving them a car that’s easier to drive and therefore easier to get the most out of and push it to its limits.

“We did not set ourselves any design constraints other than that of delivering a strong and honest racing car, which can reproduce on the race track what we have seen in the wind tunnel.”

If the SF-24 lives up to expectations, Ferrari fans have reason to be excited. Combine a strong challenger with the consistency of Sainz, and the maturity we saw down the stretch, and you have a winning combination.

F1 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix 2023

Photo by Jakub Porzycki/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Person under the most pressure to perform in 2024: Frederic Vasseur

I truly went back and forth on this selection.

On the one hand, you might think Leclerc is under the most pressure. After all, he has the new contract, and he wants to put in a strong performance the year before Hamilton arrives.

On the other hand there is Sainz. He has yet to announce what his plans are for 2025, and while many believe he will head to Sauber ahead of that team becoming the Audi works team in 2026 — keeping in mind his father drives for Audi already — until that is announced, he may be looking to prove himself to a future employer.

However, the man tasked with keeping this team together for one more season, and ensuring that they can truly fight with Red Bull at the front, is Vasseur. Plus, as noted earlier the SF-24 is the team’s first challenger under his full guidance and direction.

That is a lot of pressure, and a lot to answer for.

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