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TEAM PREVIEW: Can Ferrari mount a championship challenge in 2024?

Special Contributor

Becky Hart
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Ferrari might have been the only team to score a Grand Prix victory bar champions Red Bull in 2023, but that doesn’t mean the season was a success for the Scuderia. With the steady hand of Fred Vasseur guiding the ship as he begins his second year as Team Principal, will Ferrari produce a car capable of mounting a championship challenge this season? Here’s our preview of arguably the most famous team in F1 history…

Drivers for 2024

Charles Leclerc #16: 5 Grands Prix won, 30 podiums, 1074 points, 125 Grands Prix starts Carlos Sainz #55: 2 Grands Prix won, 18 podiums, 982.5 points, 185 Grands Prix starts

Charles Leclerc begins his sixth straight season with Ferrari in 2024, and his seventh in F1 having previously driver for Sauber in 2018. Having endured a winless campaign last time out, the Monegasque driver will be keen to set that right this season.

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Leclerc has a handful of wins under his belt, but has yet to mount a sustained championship charge. He finished second in the drivers’ championship in 2022, but after a strong start to the year the Ferrari man went without a victory in the second half of the season as Max Verstappen ran away with the title.

Leclerc is partnering with Carlos Sainz for the fourth straight season – but it will be the duo’s last together following the announcement that Lewis Hamilton is set to race in red next year.

Charles Leclerc of Ferrari during the Formula 1 post-season test at Yas Marina Circuit in Abu

Leclerc is set to start his sixth season as a Ferrari driver in 2024

The Spaniard started his F1 career back in 2015 in the Red Bull stable, driving alongside Verstappen at Toro Rosso. He remained there for two and a half seasons, before replacing Jolyon Palmer at Renault towards the end of 2017.

Sainz then jumped ship for McLaren, spending two seasons alongside his now good mate Lando Norris before answering the call of Ferrari. A maiden win at Silverstone in 2022 was followed up with a frantic victory in Singapore last year to give Sainz the accolade of the only non-Red Bull driver to win a Grand Prix in 2023.

READ MORE: McLaren ‘optimistic’ they can take fight to Red Bull in 2024 after strong development rate

But with Hamilton heading for Maranello at the end of the year. The Spaniard is once again somewhat unluckily looking for a drive – and based on his speed both over one lap and in race trim, he shouldn’t have a shortage of offers for 2025.

Last season

Ferrari had the unenviable job of trying to halt the Red Bull charge in 2023. Having finished runners up in both the constructors’ and drivers’ championships – with Leclerc – in 2022, hopes were high that the Scuderia could close the gap to Red Bull in the off-season.

SINGAPORE, SINGAPORE - SEPTEMBER 17: Carlos Sainz Jr of Spain and Scuderia Ferrari celebrates his

Sainz recorded the only non-Red Bull win of the year in Singapore

But instead they went the other way, and spent much of the early part of the season with a temperamental car they didn’t fully understand. Tyre wear was a constant issue, with the SF-23 much harder on its rubber than their rivals and often going backwards in the race as a result.

Qualifying went better, with the Ferrari having plenty of pace over one lap. The team scored six pole positions in total in 2023, including three in the last five races. Sainz recorded the only non-Red Bull win of the year in Singapore, while Leclerc managed three podiums in the last four races to go with a handful from earlier in the year.

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Ferrari fought hard with Mercedes for the runners up spot, in the end just being pipped by three points. But fighting for second place isn’t what a team with the standing and history of Ferrari expect. Reliability also cost them, with both Sainz and Leclerc failing to start a race in the latter part of the season.

Team Principal Fred Vasseur had plenty to reflect on after his first year in charge, but with signs that Ferrari had a better understanding of their tyre issues as the season progressed, hopes are high heading into 2024 – especially as Vasseur must have had something special up his sleeve to tempt Hamilton away from Mercedes…

ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - NOVEMBER 26: Ferrari Team Principal Frederic Vasseur looks on

Vasseur has his work cut out to manage Ferrari's high expectations in 2024

History

Ferrari are synonymous with Formula 1. The only team to have competed in every year since the world championship started, the Scuderia are the backbone of the sport. But that historical standing hasn’t always translated to success.

They have an impressive role call of champions, from Alberto Ascari, Mike Hawthorn and Phil Hill to champion on both four wheels and two John Surtees. Niki Lauda won two of his three world titles with Ferrari, and also suffered his infamous accident when behind the wheel of the Ferrari 312T2.

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After Jody Scheckter’s championship win in 1979, Ferrari endured a lengthy dry spell which was finally broken in what became their golden era as Michael Schumacher, Jean Todt and Ross Brawn combined to spearhead five drivers’ titles in a row for the German. That was followed up by Kimi Raikkonen’s win in 2007 – the team’s last championship to date.

The Scuderia have a record 16 constructors’ titles in total, the last of those won in 2008. Despite the best efforts of Felipe Massa, Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel, the team haven’t added a title since then.

SUZUKA, JAPAN:  Ferrari ace Michael Schumacher of Germany waves to Japanese fans after winning at

Schumacher won five titles with Ferrari in the early noughties, breaking numerous records along the way

Greatest Achievement

For a team with such an illustrious history, there are so many achievements to choose from – title runs, incredible drives, brilliant comebacks. But perhaps the greatest achievement the team has pulled off of late is convincing seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton to join their ranks.

Hamilton has been a Mercedes driver through and through since he was a young boy. He’s only driven for two teams in F1, McLaren-Mercedes and the Silver Arrows themselves. He has a close working relationship with Toto Wolff, has won six of his seven titles with the team and is involved in plenty of Mercedes commissions behind the scenes that are close to his heart.

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So for Ferrari, without a championship in a decade and a half and with a driver already in situ who is part of the Scuderia family in the way Hamilton is at Mercedes, to lure the Briton away for what will probably be his last few years in F1 is an absolutely incredible get.

NORTHAMPTON, ENGLAND - JULY 06: Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain and Mercedes and Charles Leclerc of

Hamilton seemed to be Mercedes through and through - but he will be driving for Ferrari in 2025

It shocked the sport when it was announced, it’s been regarded as the biggest driver move of this century – and it is now up to Ferrari to deliver Hamilton a car that he can challenge for the championship with, as he seeks a record eighth world title. Although you'd expect Leclerc to have a thing or two to say about that.

One key goal for 2024

Ferrari had qualifying pace in abundance last year, but it was on race days that they went backwards. So, one key goal for 2024 has to be continuing their understanding of the Pirelli tyres.

Getting those compounds into a working window where the drivers can push, without causing degradation and graining is so key. And for Ferrari, they need to be able to do so when following in the dirty air of other cars. Both drivers complained about their tyre wear throughout last year, with the issues particularly exposed on high-speed, high-degradation circuits.

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It enabled their rivals to breeze past in the races on too many occasions, with both Leclerc and Sainz forced to lift off and nurse their tyres home. But as the latter races showed, if they could manage the tyres, the core components of the car remained fast. So, if the Scuderia have managed to get on top of their tyre problems under race fuel loads, they could well find themselves in a much better position going into 2024.

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