Ferrari had to wait a long time. The problem which led to several Ferrari power unit failures in the first part of the 2022 Formula 1 season was quickly identified, but the solution took time. Apparently there was trouble with the valves. Sometimes even with a life span of less than 2,000 kilometers. Ferrari paid for an aggressive development over the winter that makes the engine the current number one in the field when it is able to run at full power.
Team boss Mattia Binotto explained Ferrari’s strategy in an interview a few months ago: “The goals that we had set ourselves with the power unit were very ambitious. In my 27 years at Ferrari I have never experienced such a step forward. That was an exceptional achievement, especially at a time when test bench hours are limited.”
The step forward unfortunately came at a high price: “We paid in terms of reliability,” the engineer admits. “In normal years we would have ramped up dyno time and started parallel programs for performance and reliability.” That’s why the motto was: first more power, then reliability.
Ferrari shortens the running times
Although the development of the elements for the power units has been frozen, the regulations allow corrections in the interests of reliability. The Maranello team had already improved its V6 turbo once in the spring. But when three engines in on the customer team cars and also some engines on the F1-75 challengers suffered technical failures long before the end of their life span in the summer, the alarm was back on. The problem this time was apparently more serious than the smaller issues at the beginning of the year, according to a recent report from German magazine AMuS.
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It quickly became clear that the cause could not be solved so quickly. In order to survive until a solution was available, runtimes were shortened. For this, the pool had to be filled with five power units each. That also applied to the customer teams.
Scuderia Ferrari also wanted to introduce the latest version of the hybrid system, which had to be homologated by September, on time. Work was going on in the background to get rid of the problem.
More engine penalties in Austin?
Ferrari assures that the engine concerns has not helped Red Bull win every race since the summer break and that customer teams Alfa Romeo and Haas have fallen behind their direct rivals only due to this matter. The power was not limited, they say. Instead, the racing engines were taken out of the car earlier and only used on Fridays.
It is interesting that the Ferrari drivers were repeatedly instructed to stay away from curbs and bumps. Supposedly because the hard impacts could damage the engine. Ferrari wants to try out its solution on the race track with enough remaining time. The calendar dictates the engine change for Austin or Mexico. Brazil is out of the question because of the sprint race.
If only the combustion engine is exchanged, a driver would only drop back five starting places. It is quite possible that the change of power unit elements will only be completed on Saturday. And there could also be other engine penalties in Austin: Fernando Alonso and Guanyu Zhou are the first candidates here. Perhaps Alexander Albon, who parked his Williams in Suzuka with an engine problem, will also be affected.
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