We already know by now that in Formula 1 reliability is crucial. More exactly, the statement refers to the words of Scuderia Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto, who, during an interview for the Italian version of the Motorsport website, uses the magnifying glass to bring a very important issue to common thought. Today’s focus is therefore dedicated to the engine department of the Prancing Horse, which proved to be torment and delight for the 2022 Formula 1 season.
The leap in performance is evident. Ferrari has come a long way if we think about were things stood in 2020, a championship in which the Ferrari engine was crippled by the technical directive that was issued at the beginning of the season and severely limited performance. Already from the following year, through the introduction of the new hybrid technology at the Russian Grand Prix, the power of the Ferrari engine changed radically, allowing a greater accumulation of energy and, consequently, a more consistent power release during the lap.
Then, in 2022, there was a new architecture on the hybrid which has actually completed a hard work of renovation. the result? The power unit produced in Maranello, presumably, is the most powerful current mechanical project in F1 when compared with the rest of the competitors. Mission accomplished, in short, following many words that promised a prompt redemption.
Fact: the best adjective could not describe the efforts made regarding the outcome achieved with the Italian hybrid turbo unit. Maximum deliverable power, efficient use of the horses available through great electronics, efficient battery packs and massive energy recovery through motor generators. These, in a nutshell, are the strong points.
The new regulation has affected the highest category of motorsport: the FIA has done this in style through a firm forced development freeze of the internal combustion engine. This deadline put the Italian technicians at a crossroads: the strategic choice, alongside by the need to recover ground on the opponents, directed Mattia Binotto and his team towards a clear goal: to obtain the maximum possible performance at the expense of a hypothetical small percentage linked to reliability not at the top.
Within this picture in mind, obviously, many certainties were clear. On the test benches, the Italian V6 showed signs of excellent solidity. As well as during the first leg of the season in the pre-season tests in Barcelona, where the 066/7 project did not create any headaches, allowing effective analyzes over the three days of testing in Barcelona and Bahrain.
The fateful alarm bells rang only later, when the bitter but correct fight at the top against Red Bull took shape. Having discarded conception errors in the design of the power unit, Ferrari worked to avoid any other retirements due to mechanical problems, as was the case for Charles Leclerc in Spain and Baku and for Carlos Sainz at the Red Bull Ring.
The first option used to avoid this harmful context saw a reduction in power added to a different rotation of the components. Subsequently, with computational screening, the Ferrari Racing Department examined a technical fix that is still in progress.
Leaving aside the usual strategic mistakes for Ferrari added to some mistakes made by Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc, the Red Bull team needed the best version of themselves every weekend to compete for both titles. Despite the fears related to technical problems, therefore, the priority described led to a decision according to which the two F1-75 cars did not have to suffer any performance limitations.
A courageous option based on a very specific reasoning: exactly as in the design phase, Ferrari focused on performance at the expense of reliability knowing that, at a later time, these problems could be solved.
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The difficult choice, however, partly contrasts with the reasoning set out by the Swiss-born Maranello engineer at the head of Scuderia Ferrari: “The restrictions relating to the power unit and the hours spent on the test bench have clearly generated a negative impact on work, severely limiting the mechanical reliability activities “
Pushing performance beyond the usual reliability plan, therefore, has actually given rise to several difficulties. However, the final opinion must not automatically blame an outcome which also has its positive side. Reflecting on it with a broader overview of facts, analyzing the trend of the first thirteen rounds of the 2022 Formula 1 season, while considering the points lost due to poor reliability, a scenario without the repeated strategy errors and the few driver mistakes from Carlos and Charles, would lead to a very different world championship ranking at the summer break.