Scuderia Ferrari sees itself clearly behind Mercedes and Red Bull. That is why Maranello is now taking a different development direction. Team boss Mattia Binotto promises a new SF1000 from the third race of the season. Now at the latest the Ferrari fans’ hope for the big bluff should be gone. Shortly before the start of the season in Austria, team boss Mattia Binotto confirms once again that his team did not hold back during the winter test drives. But that Ferrari is simply slower than Mercedes and Red Bull.
Neither in the corners nor on the straights did the SF1000 make a particularly fast impression in Barcelona. The optimists thought that Ferrari was four tenths behind Mercedes. The pessimists spoke of six tenths – or even more.
Radical aero changes to the SF1000
Scuderia Ferrari had promised more. The SF1000 should be a car that Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc can use to fight for the world championship. But the winter test drives in Barcelona made team leadership and engineers realise that the drivers do not have the right car in their hands.
“We had to understand why we didn’t get the results we expected on the track. And to deduce from this how much we needed to realign our programme,” reports Binotto. The conclusion: the SF1000 needs a radical change to be able to compete with its rivals.
Ferrari has used the enforced break between the test drives and Austria to re-launch vehicle development. “We had five and a half weeks to work on the car. We made the most of them,” says the race director. The engineers’ hands were tied the rest of the time. The FIA prohibited the teams from working on their cars for more than nine weeks. The factories had to close. But the engineers could think about what was wrong with the SF1000 and what it needed. Ideas don’t have a summer break.
Tests lead to rethinking
“The truth is that the outcome of the test drives has led us to make a significant change of direction – especially in aerodynamics,” Binotto explains. “It would have been counterproductive if we had simply followed our original development plan. It would not have achieved our goals. That’s why we decided to go for a completely new programme that affects the whole car. We knew that although we wouldn’t be ready by the start of the season, it would give us better chances for the season.
But it wasn’t just the test drives that made Ferrari change their minds. The Formula One roadmap also played its part. Because of the Corona Pandemic, the rule revolution was postponed from 2021 to 2022. This saves the teams a double development this year. Wind tunnel and CFD tests are not permitted again with the 2022 models until January.
The postponement means that the teams will, in principle, drive one car for two years. Especially since a large part of the development will be frozen bit by bit and development in these areas will then hardly be possible. The teams only have two wild cards, so-called tokens, left to further develop homologated parts. The aerodynamics remain free of the restrictions.
And this is exactly where Ferrari will start. Knowing that the SF1000 will have to be used not only in 2020, but also in 2021, Ferrari has rescheduled. Otherwise, it would have deliberately taken the risk of lagging behind for two seasons.
New Ferrari from Hungary
So Ferrari undertakes the tour de force to turn the SF1000 into a winner. Ferrari wants to reap the first fruits of its hard work at the third race of the season in Hungary. “Our goal is to have the updates ready by then,” says Binotto. Ferrari will have to saddle up downforce. To do this, the front wing will probably be redesigned and the rest of the aerodynamics adjusted accordingly. Following the example of Mercedes and Red Bull.
Ferrari has remained true to its philosophy of steeply sloping flaps to the surprise of some experts in the paddock. Furthermore, they missed innovations. While Mercedes and Red Bull shone with new ideas, for example in the area of suspensions, the SF1000 looked simple.
And then Ferrari also lost its engine advantage. The six-cylinder turbo from Maranello was no longer the measure of all things during the winter test drives. The paddock immediately established a connection between the obvious loss of power and the FIA investigation into the 2019 Ferrari engine. Ferrari, on the other hand, blamed it on gained downforce to the disadvantage of air resistance. One could also express it differently. Ferrari had bought downforce at the expense of top speed. But not enough to keep up with the competition at least in the curves. Maranello has to make improvements.
In Austria, drivers and engineers will have to fight their way through with the winter test drive package. After all, Binotto promises that Ferrari has understood his car better. Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc did their part with simulator work. The SF1000 is said to have become a better racing car. And then there is hope that the track characteristics of the Red Bull Ring will fit the current package better than Barcelona.