The usual end-of-year lunch at Ferrari took place without proclamations or grand statements. The most interesting insights, however, came with the microphones off and concerned what has always been the most important car: the next one. Frederic Vasseur is not the only prominent figure from the Scuderia among those present at Fiorano. Enrico Cardile, the technical director of the chassis area, is also there to welcome guests, while Diego Ioverno, the sporting director, guides the visit to the Racing Department. In Maranello, work is underway to homologate and assemble the new car as soon as possible, in anticipation of the mandatory winter shutdown and the early start of the championship.
Progress of the Work
“I don’t know if ‘revolution’ is the right word; the regulations are the same,” Fred Vasseur’s response to the inevitable question about the upcoming Ferrari. The Team Principal, however, confirms that there will be numerous innovations: “We are changing 95% of the components of the car.” The percentage should be taken as an indicative reference and not necessarily valid in absolute terms, but it conveys the underlying message of a single-seater that will have little in common with its predecessor. Project 676 revolves around a new chassis, gearbox casing, and suspension, with the consequent repositioning of radiators, electronics, and internal components to redesign the external aerodynamics.
Regarding logistics, work is proceeding without the rush of tight deadlines. Crash tests for chassis homologation are still ongoing and have not presented complications so far. In parallel, the power unit-transmission group is running on the test bench, while the wind tunnel is occupied by the scale model of the car. Overall, the work is ahead of schedule, a natural consequence of a project that started earlier than in previous years.
The Experience of 2023
Work on the Ferrari 2024 began after the pre-season tests in Bahrain, when it was immediately realized in Maranello that the 2023 car had poor prospects, choosing to redirect a significant portion of resources to the new year. Project 676 progressed during the season, receiving influences from the lessons learned on the SF-23, which, in the meantime, served as a mule to study the mistakes made. It took a significant number of races for the team to experiment on the track with all the necessary conditions of speed, load, asphalt, steering angles, yaw, and ground heights to fully map the car.
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Enrico Cardile tried to simplify a complicated concept, explaining how the aerodynamic development of a car is a delicate process, comparable to building a house of cards. By its nature, aerodynamics is a highly nonlinear and not necessarily deductive science. Playing with vortices and flow fields, development can only proceed in small steps, ensuring the functioning of one solution before moving on to the next. It happens that the car works correctly at a certain distance and with a specific posture relative to the ground, but when these parameters change by 1 mm or a fraction of a degree, what worked before needs to be deconstructed to start over.
The SF-23 served to study all the aerodynamic complications, perfecting the correlation between track, simulator, CFD, and wind tunnel. Frederic Vasseur explains, “In some aspects, it’s challenging to find correlation, and in that case, recovering ground is not easy. This year we sacrificed free practice in Zandvoort to conduct tests. It was probably one of the reasons why we managed to recover a bit: we understood the car more, and from the following week, the performance improved.”
The Car of 2024
In Maranello, there is a conviction that a better understanding of the weakest areas has been gained. For example, simulation methodologies have been developed to predict and control the onset of porpoising, a phenomenon of which not all teams are yet fully aware of the triggering cause. Until the Austrian Grand Prix, the SF-23 also suffered from aerodynamic bouncing, a consequence of the excessive lowering of the car in an attempt to compensate for the missing load. However, as the third year of the ground-effect regulations approaches, Ferrari is optimistic about having almost eliminated the phenomenon.
The officials also suggest that if the shapes of the Ferrari 2024 resemble those of the Red Bull, it will not be for a mere replica. The design does not start from the bodywork drawing. Instead, the first point is the definition of the correct design goals, after which the most functional forms to achieve them are evaluated. Goals that also take into account the indications of Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz: “The drivers have been involved in the development of the car from the beginning, and they are happy with it. Having them on board was important,” says Fred Vasseur. According to the technical managers, the Monegasque and the Spaniard continue to report very similar sensations and preferences, ensuring that the differences perceived from the outside are at the level of a nuance.
The ambition of the new Red is to close the gap to the world champions. “We are talking about tenths in the end, which means we are looking for 0.1-0.2% more performance. Surely we must not underestimate the leap we have to make,” quantifies Fred Vasseur. “We are focused on ourselves and are making good strides forward. However, the game is relative. You can improve by 1 second, but if others grow by 1.2 seconds, you look stupid; if instead, they improve by 0.8 seconds, you become a hero. The most important thing is to keep pushing.” – the French manager added.
The optimism on the eve is a recurring element in Ferrari over the last fifteen years. The awareness of having taken a better path than in the past is not a guarantee of success, but it is still a necessary condition. For the rest, the competitiveness of Project 676 will also depend on the goodness of the work of the competition. “I would say we are going in the right direction. I don’t know if others are going more or less than us; we will see in Bahrain,” concludes Fred Vasseur.