Ferrari's Imola Upgrade Provides Hope

With the Miami GP win going to Lando Norris, early signs show that McLaren has managed to repeat last year's super upgrade again. They even dared to introduce the upgrade on a Sprint weekend where there's only one Free Practice for testing before racing begins. Obviously they are confident, and rightly so, that their wind tunnel and factory data aligns well with actual performance on track. A holy grail in the world of F1, where every millimeter and millisecond counts, and something that Ferrari has seemed to be struggling with.

Ferrari's turn to introduce their upgrade

Following the hard-fought performance in Miami, Ferrari will introduce their major upgrade to their SF-24 car at their home Grand Prix of Imola, aka. Emilia Romagna. The upgrade is rumoured to be more revolutionary than evolutionary. At the Miami Grand Prix, Ferrari showed both promise and limitations. Leclerc clinched a respectable third place, while his teammate, Carlos Sainz, faced challenges, ultimately securing a fifth-place finish following a penalty. This mixed outcome highlighted the strengths and weaknesses of their current setup, with team strategies notably affecting Sainz’s chance for a better position.

The forthcoming upgrades are expected to enhance Ferrari’s competitive edge significantly. Speculations suggest that the improvements may include a new sidepod design closely resembling that of the Red Bull RB20, and substantial revisions to the car floor, which plays a crucial role in generating downforce under the current regulations.

The timing couldn’t be better as Ferrari heads to Imola where the team historically performs well. With the squad’s morale boosted, Imola presents an ideal opportunity for Ferrari to demonstrate their technical progress and assert their development prowess, which has been on an upward trajectory over the last two years.

One is hopeful, the other cautiously optimistic

Charles LeClerc and the Team Principal Fred Vasseur are singing slightly different tunes about the upgrade. Leclerc believes the upgrade could be a defining factor for the remainder of the season. "As I’ve said before, the season will be up to upgrades", Leclerc noted in a pre-race interview in Miami. "We have ours coming very soon and that will define a little bit the rest of the season for us. So, we've got to work hard and hopefully, those upgrades will be as good as theirs and will help us to take a significant step forward.''

Fred Vasseur is trying to downplay it's significance and tries to change the focus to how they approach and execute as a team during race weekend. Vasseur has stated that; 'I’m sure that in Imola, we will have a better race by putting everything together. We know that many have brought updates to these races but we finished ahead, we are at the point of development of the car where if you bring something it’s not a matter of seconds, but of tenths. It’s not like a few years ago when everything brought 3-4 tenths. McLaren brought a huge package here, but it’s not like it was half a second faster than everyone. Without a doubt, we will be able to fight for the victory in Imola. But I believe there is a gap that varies from track to track and from compound to compound, which makes more of a difference than an update. We must focus on our job, which is making the most of what we have. The update that we will bring to Imola will certainly help. But it doesn’t all depend on that but also on the work we will do on the track.”

Season is on

Can Miami and Imola prove to be a turning point for the 2024 season? I think I speak for most F1 fans when I say "YES PLEASE!!". Nothing against the superb driving of Max Verstappen, but he's been so dominant the last two seasons, we could use a little excitement - and surprise wins like Lando's. If these upgrades enable Ferrari to challenge front-runners like Red Bull (and McLaren?) consistently, the season could evolve into a memorable three-way battle for supremacy. With only six of the twenty-four races completed, the championship remains wide open, bringing the chance for a thrilling Formula 1 season.