One of the most highly discussed matters is the one regarding engines. The current Formula 1 championship has proved showed that two factors have a significant importance, we could even define them as two faces of the same medal for Scuderia Ferrari: the ability to have a string maximum power – despite the fact that the F1-75 car never really got the chance to fully use the power and not one big reliability problem itself, but rather several small technical issues.
Due to the power unit reliability problems which led to several retirements for Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz, Scuderia Ferrari lost around 120 points in the Constructors’ Championship, which made life easy for Red Bull and Max Verstappen.
Based on information provided by Giuliano Duchessa for formu1a.uno, the Maranello technicians have identified the problem that led to the reliability glitches. The idea was to focus on each aspect of the power unit in order to update every component linked to the reliability. Ferrari did not provide specific details, but according to formu1a.uno, the Maranello team has to deal with more than one problem: part of them have already been addressed, while others not quite.
A source inside the Maranello team told formu1a.uno that “removing the issue is a puzzle”. Still, Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto explained several times that his team was not targeting a short-term fix. On the other side he asked the engineers to begin designing new components with the goal of coming up with a final solution despite the fact that this approach would have taken longer.
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Enrico Gualtieri’s (Head of Power Unit Area) engineers began working on the test benches many weeks ago to find the right path of development and a definitive version of the Internal Combustion Engine. These changes need to be homologated through the FIA for the next Formula 1 season.
As a result of the reliability issues, Scuderia Ferrari’s power unit never showed its full power this year. Not even in the Italian Grand Prix, where engine performance is crucial. At Monza, engineers decided to push the power unit more than other races, but only during the qualifying session. Not a big step compared, for example, to Belgium. There is a significant margin that we haven’t seen. If Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz would have been able to count on 100% of the power at the Monza circuit during the Italian Grand Prix, the F1-75 cars could have fought with Max Verstappen for the race win.
However, nobody in Maranello wanted to risk seeing further technical issues, failures and retirements due to the power unit, also taking into consideration that Ferrari was cautious with the engine after the events which took place at the Circuit de Catalunya and in Azerbaijan, but Carlos Sainz still suffered a DNF caused by the power unit at the Red Bull Ring.
Another aspect is related to the ‘software tokens’ for development. This year, Formula 1 teams could use five ‘software tokens’ and the Italian side will will use the fifth next weekend ahead of the United States Grand Prix at COTA. Every software token can be used to attempt to change power modulation and improve the tuning of the power unit. This disadvantages the maximum potential of the engine and represents one of the key aspects which Honda managed to improve and allowed Red Bull to gradually catch Ferrari in terms of performance. The token doesn’t necessarily require a change in control electronics (CE). A side effect which could also become very important is that an updated software can also help the management of ERS.
Will Charles Leclerc take grid penalties in the United States Grand Prix?
Initially, Scuderia Ferrari planned on changing Charles Leclerc ICE for the last time this season ahead of the United States Grand Prix at Circuit of the Americas. Yet given the track conditions of the Singapore and Japan race, which were both affected by rain (while the Suzuka event was also shorter), the Ferrari power unit suffered less wear than anticipated. Charles Leclerc will still need to take a new engine in this final part of the season, but the moment will depend on the competitiveness and, of course, how the Austin weekend will develop. There is also the possibility for the Maranello team to postpone the PU change for the next round, in Mexico City, a place where every manufacturer will have a difficult time.
For now the call has not been made by Ferrari. The Monegasque driver may wait or fit only a couple of elements – therefore taking a five or ten-place grid penalty, rather than starting the United States Grand Prix from the back of the grid.
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