Ferrari team boss Fred Vasseur has highlighted the “very beneficial” impact on Charles Leclerc’s end-of-season performance of the upgrade introduced by the Scuderia in Japan.
At Suzuka, fresh from Carlos Sainz’s triumph a week earlier in Singapore last weekend, Ferrari’s SF-23 featured an updated floor that incorporated revised front floor fences and changes to the car’s mid floor and diffuser sidewall, with a sidepod undercut re-designed to suit.
The Italian outfit had implemented the modifications in a bid to improve the aerodynamic efficiency of its machine.
But while the update did not deliver a significant performance boost, it undeniably helped Leclerc get a better grip on his car’s behavior and extract more from its potential.
It was a timely enhancement for the Monegasque who had lost ground to Sainz in the back half of the season.
After claiming fourth at Suzuka and fifth in Qatar, Leclerc secured consecutive pole positions in Austin, Mexico City and Las Vegas and podiums in the final three events of 2023.
“We had a small upgrade in Japan and I don’t know in terms of pure performance if it was something bigger, but I think in terms of comfort it was important and very beneficial for Charles," Vasseur said, quoted by Motorsport.com.
"I think Charles was in a much better shape in the last part of the season, the last six or seven races. This was a positive dynamic.
“I think we did a step a bit later on the consistency and the fact that we improved the car a little bit. That way we were able to be more consistent or have to push less in the race."
Ferrari ultimately lost out to Mercedes in the pair’s battle for the runner up spot behind Red Bull in the Constructors’ championship, a defeat that was partly circumstantial and linked to Sainz’s successive setbacks in Vegas and in Abu Dabi, and partly rooted in the Spaniard and Leclerc’s performance swings, although Vasseur conceded that the latter often hinged on remarkably small margins.
"Sometimes it is a matter of details. At the end of the day we are speaking about tenths of seconds, and from one weekend to the other we have to accept that they are sportsmen," the Frenchman explained.
"[Roger] Federer can win one day in Wimbledon and lose the next, so I am taking them always as sportsman, up and down.
"What is true in our business today is that if you have a look at five years ago the Mercedes guys could miss one corner and still be on pole position. That is not the case today, you miss one corner, you are out in Q1.
"If you look at the two McLarens, they were out in Q1 [in Las Vegas] and they were able to fight for pole [in Abu Dhabi].
“This is true for everybody except Max [Verstappen] probably, but it is true for Checo [Perez] and it means that we don’t have to draw too big a conclusion after one change."