'So much passion' as Ferrari F1 drivers take Valentine's Day laps in new SF-23

'So much passion' as Ferrari F1 drivers take Valentine's Day laps in new SF-23

Several hundred fans, a coin toss and an iconic red car already on the track — it wasn’t the usual Formula One car presentation for Ferrari on Tuesday.

In front of a grandstand packed with about 500 passionate red-clad fans, drivers Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz Jr. did laps of Ferrari’s Fiorano track in the new SF-23 car.

“It is extremely special. Every time we come to Italy there’s so much passion,” Leclerc said. “This is only for our team, for Ferrari. It doesn’t exist anywhere else. And that’s what makes it very, very special. And Fiorano is also a very special place to do a car reveal, it’s never been done since I’m at Ferrari.”

Ferrari last won an F1 title in 2008, when it claimed the constructors’ championship. It hasn’t won the drivers’ title since Kimi Räikkönen did so the previous season.

Leclerc went close last year, winning two of the three opening races — the team’s first Grand Prix victories since 2019 — but he ultimately finished 146 points behind champion Max Verstappen.

“I mean, 2022 was a good step forward compared to the two difficult years that was 2020 and 2021,” Leclerc said. “But we finished second in the constructors’ championship and also finished second in the in the drivers’ championship.

“So I’m really, really looking forward to this new car … the goal is to is to win, clearly. I mean, the feeling of winning is what motivates me, motivates all the team, too. So I’m really looking forward to get back in the car and hopefully try and win that championship.”

Preseason testing takes place in Bahrain from Feb. 23-25 and the season starts there on March 5.

But, in contrast to the usual static car presentations in F1, the two Ferrari drivers got a chance to drive the new car for the first time on the track on Tuesday.

The previous day, team principal Frédéric Vasseur had tossed a coin — with Leclerc’s number on one side and Sainz’s on the other — to see which driver would go first.

Leclerc went first but only got two laps, with Sainz getting three. Leclerc enjoyed it so much he wanted to continue.

“I love it. Everything feels good. … Can I do one more lap?” he asked over team radio.

Sainz responded with a laugh: “No. Box, box, box.”

Vasseur started work at Ferrari last month after replacing Mattia Binotto, who was let go following a horrible season of botched strategy calls that cost Leclerc any chance to contend for the championship.

“So far it’s intense, as you can imagine,” Vasseur said. “You can feel the responsibility for the team. It’s a great honor, but at the end of the day, I think the most important is to be successful. We will have to deliver.”