How Ferrari is staying calm over an F1 tyre problem it can't yet solve

There were times in the past where a race like last weekend's French GP would have left the Ferrari Formula 1 team in turmoil.

How Ferrari is staying calm over an F1 tyre problem it can't yet solve

Blame shifting, heads rolling, political manoeuvring – all that stuff would have happened back at Maranello after a race that saw both cars finish out of the points, one of them in a lowly 16th place.

However under Mattia Binotto's stewardship this is a new era at the Italian organisation. Helped by the presence of two extremely intelligent and level-headed drivers who are also the ultimate team players, Ferrari is focusing on solving the technical issues.

Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz Jr spent the three days between Paul Ricard and the Red Bull Ring embedded in a deep trawl back at base into what's wrong with the SF21, and why it has a habit of qualifying strongly and then – in some circumstances – using up its front tyres on Sunday afternoons.

The two drivers were a key part of an investigation that left no stone unturned as the team looked for solutions that could help for this weekend, as well as longer term fixes.

The problem is that the development freeze and focus on the 2022 project means that there's a limited amount of wiggle room in terms of changing the car. Nevertheless, this focus on a technical conundrum was a useful exercise for the two drivers as well as the team.

"Yeah, definitely," Leclerc told Autosport on Thursday. "It was interesting for us. But obviously it's also very interesting for the engineers who don't get to feel what we feel in the car, as sometimes a problem can start with feelings that we get as drivers.

"And that's what we try to describe in the most accurate way for them to maybe understand better from where it's coming from first. And so it's definitely been very, very useful. Let's wait and see how long it takes for us to fully understand that issue, and to find a solution."

Charles Leclerc, Ferrari in the Press Conference

Charles Leclerc, Ferrari in the Press Conference

Photo by: FIA Pool

"It's been actually a very interesting few days," said Sainz. "It's been super interesting, I mean three days in Maranello seeing such a big team launching this investigation and this plan to recover from the problems that we are facing.

"Great to see the whole factory joining together and every department try to put a bit their imagination and their theories.

"The solutions? We put together a plan on the medium, short and long term. Short term is to try and mitigate the issue, the long term one and the medium term one is to try and solve it completely.

"So it's going to be an interesting process, and I hope that we can little-by-little start the recovery plan on this issue that we have on the tyres."

As Binotto admitted after the Paul Ricard race, the team experienced similar front graining problems at the same event back in 2019. In fact, it's been a trait of the Ferrari package, surfacing at particular venues, for a while.

"It's been a trend and I actually would say it's been a trend for years in the team," said Sainz. "When I arrived in December they talked to me about this issue, and I let it pass, I didn't think it was going to be like that – new tyres this year, everything can change.

"But it was clear since Bahrain that there is something going on in the car and something going on with the tyres that we don't understand, and I felt pretty much immediately. And since then it's been in the back of our heads going into every race, this front limitation.

"And you could see it clearly in Portimao I think with me, and then you could see it clearly again in France. It's quite a problem, and we're going to try and see what we can do."

Carlos Sainz Jr., Ferrari SF21

Carlos Sainz Jr., Ferrari SF21

Photo by: Jerry Andre / Motorsport Images

"It's an issue that we that we had already in the past," Leclerc acknowledged. "An issue that we are working on since quite a bit. Obviously on Sunday, we've seen it a lot more than on other tracks, and this we need to understand why, exactly."

Ferrari will use the two back-to-back Austrian weekends as an extended test session, weather permitting. Six days of track running, and a short lap, should allow the team to get a lot of work done.

"It's a big opportunity for us after such a difficult weekend, two weekends at the same race track," said Leclerc. "It won't be the same compounds [as France], but still I feel like there are a lot of things that can be learned in these two weekends.

"Hopefully we won't have too much rain, but I know the rain is around. Let's pray for no rain so we can have a good work for the car for the rest of the season."

On a sunny Thursday afternoon, Sainz indicated that while dry weather was obviously preferable, wet conditions followed by a green track might actually help the ongoing investigation.

"If we go out and try right now with these temperatures, I think the problem would be the rear more than the front," said the Spaniard. "And when it's rear limited, we are more balanced to the whole field. If the clouds come, it starts to rain, it dries, that's where the front graining front tyre wear appears.

"Those kind of conditions always expose you more to a front limitation. And that's where we know we are weaker. Even if it comes I wouldn't mind, because we are already trying a few things this weekend as a team to see if at least those kinds of things help. And it would be interesting to go out on track and in very tricky conditions to see if there's a pattern, or if there's some sign of improvement.

Carlos Sainz Jr., Ferrari SF21

Carlos Sainz Jr., Ferrari SF21

Photo by: Drew Gibson / Motorsport Images

"Ideally we would like the most stable conditions ever, because then you have six days on a track, a track that is actually very short. You can do a lot of laps, you can do a lot of tests. And it would be ideal to have this kind of weather for the six days that we're running here, because it would be a great test for us.

"Unfortunately, it doesn't look like it's going to be the case when the storms coming tomorrow [Friday], but even like that we are still putting together the plan to mitigate the issues."

It remains to be seen whether the Red Bull Ring provides the answers that Ferrari is searching for. What is evident is that the team is working in a positive direction, and Binotto is keeping things calm. In this business you can often learn more from adversity than success.

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