Questions were raised concerning Rory Byrne and his involvement in the development of the SF70-H throughout 2017. The answer is: a little at the beginning, zero from the summer break onwards.
The South African engineer has been Ferrari’s five-star consultant for many years. At the end of the summer break he was engaged in the SF70-H project on the chassis as well as on the aerodynamic side. Since spring 2017 he has been working solidly on the 2018 project.
In fact, Rory Byrne is the figure that lies behind the development of a number of concepts that pushed certain rules’ interpretations to the limit, and those were present on the SF70-H. We are talking about the flexi floor and rear wing, which piqued the interest of the other teams during the season (Mercedes in first place) and triggered their respective clarification requests. Since the very first races, owing to the footage recorded by rivals and submitted to the FIA, it was brought up that the floor’s external surface was flexing in the extremities at high speed. Such trick seals the floor more securely, allowing it to generate more downforce from the rear. However, Ferrari was forced to modify its floor (as Red Bull did on the RB13’s floor) from the Austrian GP onwards due to a technical rule from the FIA, which caused the introduction of new verification processes for flexi external parts on the car’s floor.
Moreover, Mercedes complained about Ferrari’s rear wing during the season. The German team had noticed that the wing was overflexing at high velocity, which determined advantageous effects: the reduction of resistance and higher top speed. Such unusual solutions were only used by Ferrari and were permitting the controlled flexion of the rear wing, according to Mercedes.
Moving on to the 2018 project, Rory Byrne worked on the Italian car’s chassis, which will be carrying the Halo head protection device next season. Due to the thorough and strict resistance tests imposed by the FIA to make the Halo as safe as possible, next year’s chassis will need to be sturdier and more solid than the 2017 versions. The support of the chassis, paired to the weight of the head protection device and the joints to secure the structure, will cause a significant weight increase: from 10 to 15 kg. Five kilos imply a 0.150s loss per lap, which means that the ones who will save weight and get green lights at the FIA tests, will have a great advantage.
It is understood that Rory Byrne and his outfit also had to deal with the Halo installation issue. It turned out to be a rather tough task, as the target was allowing it to have higher installation efficiency without excessively weighing the car down. Adding 10 kilos to the 2017 car weight (which was 728 kg) would mean reaching 738 kg, but the FIA established a minimum amount of ‘only’ 734 kg. If we could hypothetically take into account a 2018 version of the SF70-H, the car’s weight (from 721 kg since it could exploit the 7 kilos of ballast allowed by the regulations) would lift to 731 kg with the 10 kg increase from the Halo. Additionally, there would be room for 3 more kilos to reach the minimum weight imposed by the FIA and perfect the car balance.
On the contrary, with the 15-kilogram Halo, the car would weigh 736 kg, exceeding the minimum weight by 2 kg. Installing ballast on the car would be more problematic in this case, as weighing on a further mass increase is unwanted.
It looks like Ferrari has come up with a number of positive solutions, since the 73-year-old South African will now start spending some time on the 2019 draft in the next days. Obviously this means that the state of the 2018 Ferrari project is advanced and proceeding according to the schedule drawn at the beginning of the year. The engineers are not getting behind with the work, unlike in 2017, when Byrne had to devote himself full-time to the project until a few weeks before the beginning of the season.