Ferrari ended the Mexico City Grand Prix with a disappointing results and performance. No one in the Maranello team expected such a terrible weekend at the Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez, despite being aware that it would have been a more difficult task to challenge Red Bull given the circumstances.
The gap between the Ferrari F1-75 cars of Carlos Sainz / Charles Leclerc and race winner Max Verstappen (about a minute), clearly shows that there are still important setbacks in the team organization before the Italian side can aspire to a role of world champion challenger.
It is a difficult situation to accept but, unfortunately, the high-altitude event dramatically highlights the weaknesses that had remained hidden. In Mexico City, Ferrari seems to have entered a … black hole in which nothing worked as it should.
With two races until the end of the 2022 Formula 1 championship, Mercedes becomes threatening, glancing at the second place in the Constructors’ World Championship after having reduced the gap from Ferrari to just 40 points: Mercedes is now entitled to hope of fighting for P2, but the Maranello men must not begin to work with anxiety: the values this season have been clear and a bad weekend cannot compromise a campaign that is anything but one to be thrown away.
And, then, before looking at the Brazilian GP it is right to analyze what the hell happened in Mexico. In the Ferrari Racing Department they knew it would be a difficult weekend: the power unit 066/7 was not designed to last the entire the 125,000 laps that the regulation allows for the turbo.
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The supercharging system (which kept the compressor and impeller close, close together on the exhaust side) was calibrated in search of the maximum efficiency that is obtained at 103,000 rpm. The other manufacturers have also revised their concepts by lowering the engine speed, but not to the threshold chosen by Ferrari.
The engineers led by Enrico Gualtieri, therefore, knew perfectly well that the Mexican 2,200 meters event would have meant a difficult weekend, even if not in such heavy terms. Those who did the sound level measurements reported that the Mercedes engine (pumped specifically for this event) had about ten horsepower more than the Red Bull Honda, while Ferrari and Renault were much more deflated, we are talking about almost thirty horsepower. A lot..
Mattia Binotto admitted: “On the power unit side, we knew we would have a disadvantage, but not such as to justify this performance. The difficulty of the power unit derives from the size of our turbo which at that altitude and that thin air penalized us more than our opponents, at least for the mappings that were used and not only. Thinking of Brazil, the altitude is 700 meters like the one in Austria and at the Red Bull Ring I don’t think we were in trouble as we won. So in Interlagos I don’t expect any problems from the engine side but it doesn’t mean that the troubles in Mexico City were only related to the power units.” – the Ferrari boss pointed out.
In fact, the Mexican circuit is a track where power matters less than on other ones, such as Monza or Spa even if there is a long straight: “It is one of those tracks where the power unit has less influence on lap time. This is only part of the explanation for the difficult weekend and is perhaps the least important, because there is the other part that we will have to analyze to understand what went wrong.” – Mattia Binotto added.
Once again the tires were gone earlier than expected and the drivers soon found themselves with an undrivable and nervous car that never found the right pace, dropping seven tenths per second per lap to Max Verstappen.
The tire problem will not be solved before next year, so the technicians will have to find the right counter moves in Brazil and Abu Dhabi to limit the damage, but it seemed all too clear that the F1-75 cars seen in Mexico City were just “wrong” in terms of setup.
The encouraging times of the first free practice session did not deceive, because the track was so green that it was not at all relevant, but as the weekend progressed it became clear that there was confusion in looking for the … less worst setup for this weekend.
The wings were unloaded, hoping to find more top speed, while discovering that grip became inadequate. The best compromise was to choose maximum downforce, but despite this the tires still suffered. And this was the worst sign.
The F1-75 has lost one of its main characteristics: being aggressive on the curbs. Now the F1-75 tries to avoid any roughness: is it an effect of the TD39 directive?
“The directive has once again led astray and has nothing to do with it – Mattia Binotto insists -. Our cars is one that, as it is aerodynamically designed, the lower it runs, the faster it is. This is a fact that is true for everyone, but it is particularly true for us, so much so that we try to stay lower than others”.
“We know that the car is there when it finds the performance. But running lower means suffering more when going on the curbs. Maybe at the beginning of the season it didn’t seem like it, because others weren’t in place and then our car has evolved in the meantime. Today we tend to run lower and more rigid in set-up so that means we suffer more in certain characteristics” – Scuderia Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto concluded.
Ferrari’s difficulties in Mexico therefore sum up in terms of altitude and ride height.
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