Formula One pressed the reset button for 2017 and embraced a brand new set of technical regulations that promised wider, faster, more visually appealing cars that would push drivers to their limits. With downforce increased dramatically and Pirelli offering substantially wider tyres, the cars not only looked more appealing but offered laptimes that were appreciably quicker too. The drivers were subjected to lateral loads of over 5G, with apex speeds up by over 30 km/h – putting the onus on the drivers to live up to the demands of driving these machines.
Scuderia Ferrari looked to dethrone Mercedes with an elegant but purposeful design that featured numerous novel solutions that would catapult it back toward the front of the grid in the 2017 Formula One championship.
1 – Radical reveal
One of the biggest ‘wow’ moments of the year came when Ferrari unveiled the SF70H and it became clear it had thought long and hard about the challenge of the new rules, adopting a complex and multi-faceted solution for their sidepods that meant the car could remain relatively short. The intent of the new regulations was not only to hand over more downforce to the teams but to make the cars look more visually appealing, with dimensional constraints placed on designers that forced deltoid shaping of the front wing, sidepod and the floor’s leading edge, as well as a re-imagining of the rear wing’s shape and height. The turbulent airflow shed by the now-wider front tyre would be problematic with this new angular design constraint, and so Ferrari met these conditions in a very unique way, setting the actual sidepod back and introducing a series of flow-conditioning devices ahead of it.
This achieved the Scuderia’s goals of improved cooling and aerodynamics, but also allowed a shorter wheelbase. In contrast, Mercedes was forced to lengthen its challenger in order that the front tyre wake’s influence was lessened by the time it reached this critical area of the car. The foundation of this innovation is the lateral thinking required to achieve such a solution. The design team not only had to consider the aerodynamic and cooling consequences of the concept but also the construction of it, with the side impact support spars needing to be located in a way that made the entire idea work.
2. Scything through the field
We’ve already seen how innovative the SF70H was around its midriff, but another interconnected solution drew the attention of Ferrari’s rivals in the early stages of the 2017 Formula One season, as the outer section of floor could be seen moving up and down quite violently.
The other teams suspected that Ferrari was using the effect to improve the sealing effect on the edge of the floor, pushing away the front tyres’ turbulence, and lobbied the FIA to redress it. Following several attempts to strengthen the forward-most section of the slot (white circle), the team finally relented and closed the slot, adding a metal section when it arrived in Austria. Innovative solutions often draw attention and another Ferrari solution that occupied the space just above this floor slot was the louvred deflector panel, which was subsequently copied by Red Bull in Singapore.
Now, while the Ferrari and Red Bull deflectors may initially look like twins – even down to the use of two horizontal louvres – there is one major difference, with Red Bull opting to discard Ferrari’s more blunt leading edge in favour of a leading edge slat (red arrow), likely the consequence of differing flow characteristics ahead and how they want to rework the wake created by the front tyre.