Scuderia Ferrari’s recent two defeats by Mercedes in Hockenheim and the Hungaroring have been very much against the run of competitive play – and to a significant degree influenced by the weather and the virtuoso performances of Lewis Hamilton.
The Maranello team has continued to display a small but significant raw speed advantage over the Mercedes and much is being made of the apparent gains made with the Ferrari power unit, something that tallies with the Scuderia’s upswing coinciding with similar boosts in competitiveness from the Ferrari-powered Haas and Sauber cars.
But the influence of Ferrari’s aero department should not be underestimated. The new floor introduced in Montreal proved to be a powerful one – and associated gains were still being made from the revised underfloor airflow for the next few races. It’s believed to be the most powerful single upgrade seen in the team’s tunnel for a very long time. Here we can see exactly how the floor looks from below.
The small inset illustration shows the previous, pre-Canada arrangement of the forward mini vanes and how they contrast with those of the later floor. These small vanes were re-shaped and re-sized to better align the airflow coming through the lower part of the front suspension with the various barge boards and vanes aft of the mini vanes. They pre-condition the flow so that it arrives at the bigger vanes with less disruption, thereby creating more downforce and/or less drag.
In the older arrangement inset, you can see a pressure-relieving slot in the floor, which has been deleted in the later floor. This implies that more of the flow is being harnessed by the new mini vanes to create downforce without the need to vent the excess away because it was creating too much drag. So the forward part of the later floor would appear to be giving the underfloor air a better seal. This seems to have been key in the subsequent development, introduced at Silverstone, of triple longitudinal slots along the length of the floor in place of the previous double.
These slots perform a very different role to the small one at the front of the old floor. Their task is to create an air pressure seal by inducing vortices of spinning air at the edges of the floor. In this way, less of the airflow coming through the central part of the floor can escape out the sides and the negative pressure created by the under-floor airflow is thereby increased. The more negative pressure created, the more the car is ‘sucked’ down against its tyres, increasing its grip.
With the original mini barge board arrangement, it may have been that the vortices created by double longitudinal slots were sufficient to make an effective seal. But the new mini-board layout seems to have been so effective in increasing that negative pressure that the vortex seals were no longer strong enough to prevent leakage. Hence the move to triple longitudinal slots – and the full exploitation of the new floor that was evident in its performance at Silverstone and subsequently.
Ferrari playing with wastegate arrangements
At Hockenheim, Ferrari experimented with a revised arrangement of the two wastegate pipes, moving them above the exhaust rather than having one either side. There was a corresponding change to the rear wing pillar and the bottom edge of the engine cover. The revised arrangement was used only on Sebastian Vettel’s car and only for a few laps during FP1 on the Friday. It was an experimental part, fitted only to check if readings on track equated with those in simulation and not intended to be used either at Hockenheim or Hungary.