“It has been a long time since we had the real pace of Red Bull. This is a very encouraging sign.” This is how Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc sums up the recent race weekend at the 2024 Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne. There, Ferrari achieved a double victory with Carlos Sainz and Leclerc, ending Red Bull’s winning streak. But is this a turning point or just a momentary success?

Ferrari Team Principal Frederic Vasseur is not ready to assess that yet. He is not concerned with comparing to Red Bull, stating, “I focus only on the performance of our car. And we have made a huge step forward. Not so much in terms of single lap pace, as we were already there in 2023, but in terms of consistency over multiple stints and with different tire compounds.”

In the past year, Ferrari struggled with maintaining consistent performance over multiple stints, but in 2024, the Ferrari SF-24 seems to be gentler on the tires compared to the SF-23. This improved tire management has not gone unnoticed by Red Bull Team Principal Christian Horner, who acknowledges Ferrari’s better tire wear control.

The comparison to the Las Vegas Grand Prix from the previous year is evoked by Ferrari’s strong performance in Melbourne. Horner notes that Ferrari excelled over the race distance, putting pressure on Red Bull, similar to what happened in Las Vegas. This consistency in tire management was also demonstrated in Saudi Arabia, showing improvements in Ferrari’s overall performance.

Vasseur attributes Ferrari’s struggles in 2023 to the difficult handling of the SF-23, while the SF-24 is more forgiving and easier to read for the drivers. This has allowed Leclerc and Sainz to push closer to the limit without damaging the tires, leading to better overall control and performance.

In contrast, Red Bull faced challenges in Australia, and Horner acknowledges the need for improvement on circuits that are front tire-limited. Despite the setbacks, Red Bull remains confident in their ability to bounce back, with Verstappen showing optimism for the upcoming races.

Overall, the rivalry between Ferrari and Red Bull is intensifying, with both teams acknowledging the strengths and weaknesses of their respective cars. Ferrari aims to challenge Red Bull consistently, while Red Bull is focused on improving performance to maintain their position at the top of the grid. The upcoming races will be crucial in determining the momentum of the 2024 Formula 1 season.