The Ferrari SF-23 has made some small steps forward in tire management. This has been achieved through efforts made by the sports management. We’re talking about interventions on various fronts that have positively contributed to better tire management. Although the problems in this regard are not entirely resolved, something has recently changed. We’re discussing one of the design bases of the Model 676, which awaits a tough test at the start of the 2024 championship.
The compounds of an F1 car are the only parts of the car that come into contact with the asphalt. It’s self-evident how important this element is. Red Bull knows it, and they’ve always known it. For this reason, the vehicle dynamics department within the Milton Keynes factory has been working for years to make a precise characteristic the focus of the project: the car’s ability to make the best use of tire coverings, activation, and maintenance of the correct usage window.
This influence is clearly visible on the RB19. Austrian cars in qualifying hardly opened up an abyssal gap compared to their competitors. While in the race, with full tanks, the blue racing cars can maintain a solid and consistent pace, even when dealing with very abrasive asphalt like that in Japan. This benefit essentially allows the drivers to push as they please or almost on Sundays.
Ferrari is somewhat behind in this aspect. However, as observed during the 16 World Championship races in 2022, the enormous gap between qualifying and the early months of racing has been greatly reduced. This aspect can significantly shift the balance of a top-tier motorsport car, especially in the current regulatory era. But there are other interesting factors. One of them will be discussed today, speculating on the Prancing Horse.
Ferrari SF-23: The Importance of Interaction Between Chassis Elements
Before getting to the heart of the matter, let’s consider some technical aspects that will help in the discussion. Regarding the chassis, teams check stiffness, torsional and lateral/longitudinal flexion parameters. A current F1 chassis must ensure maximum stiffness while maintaining a low weight. If the rigidity is insufficient, it must be compensated for by setting up the torsion and roll bars (suspension layout), which doesn’t contribute positively to balance.
The efficiency of a chassis diminishes on fast tracks where aerodynamics are the primary cause of performance. In slower tracks, however, the main structure of the car makes a big difference. An F1 team decides to replace the chassis when it’s too worn out and, as a result, no longer meets the design parameters in terms of stiffness.
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Normally, micro-breaks can occur due to contact or simply because of repeated aggressive curbing. If the extent of these cracks is slight, they can be resolved by injecting resin into them; otherwise, the structure is replaced directly.
Even the various chassis/suspension/engine connections can wear out, leading, in some cases, to lower performance than expected. An F1 car is a set of macro components connected to the chassis. If these connections do not provide the correct rigidity, the setup window of the car shifts. As a result, drivers and engineers will be confused because the vehicle will behave differently than in previous races.
As a rule, teams design this component properly, and there shouldn’t be such marked differences between one car and another. Generally, the only parameter that can vary slightly is weight. However, mistakes can be made under this aspect, not evaluating some parameters that can hardly have an immediate, short-term fix.
Ferrari SF-23: Incorrect Chassis/Suspension Interaction
Red Bull has crushed everyone. The twenty-four-letter phrase perfectly captures what the Austrian team has achieved in the 2023 Formula One racing campaign. We’re talking about a world championship won in March, where the only interesting aspect was waiting for the timing of the titles. One has already been claimed, the constructors’, and the other will likely follow in a few days when Max Verstappen could secure his third drivers’ world championship, joining legends like Ayrton Senna and Niki Lauda.
Several factors are necessary to win a championship like this. The RB19 practically has no flaws. It’s not perfect, of course, but when compared to its competitors, it doesn’t show particular weaknesses. Not to mention the technical aspects, the management of race strategies is almost always excellent. Likewise, in terms of management, the political weight continues to rise, offering significant benefits. Then, when we add the talent of Hasselt to all this… there’s not much else to say.
In this regard, Adrian Newey has recently stated how important it is not to make mistakes in chassis and suspension in the budget cap era. The reason is simple: while aerodynamics can still be corrected during the season, modifying the two elements mentioned earlier requires a huge amount of work and a very high cost. This is why Red Bull made sure, during the design phase, to give maximum importance to this aspect.
Examining the Ferrari car, keeping in mind that we are speculating, supported by some facts, it seems that Ferrari has not completely hit the target in this regard. We are primarily referring to the chassis/front suspension pairing, which, as we know, is not working correctly. But what is the cause of the weakness in the front end of the SF-23? We discussed this some time ago, specifically on September 6.
In that case, when discussing various kinematics at the front end, doubts arose about the recovery of camber of the Ferrari: this refers to the suspension’s ability to keep the static wheel inclination as stable as possible. While recalling that the anti-dive percentage of other cars is also around 15%, the lower camber gain of the SF-23 is clearly noticeable. Furthermore, the length of the suspension arms is almost identical, an element that generally results in complex vehicle dynamics.
Relating back to the chassis topic, there is an aspect that was highlighted during the car’s presentation that can be tied to this argument. The chassis underwent a modification in terms of ground clearance. A lowering that aimed to relocate the steering box to lower the track rod of the SF-23 compared to its predecessor. The theory implemented sought better weight redistribution with a center of gravity closer to the ground. In addition, another aspect had intrigued us.
This is the raising of the profile through an “S” connection with the car’s keel. We are talking about a “required” choice that arises from the lowering of the chassis. Many months later, considering the “weakness” of the front end of the Ferrari, it cannot be ruled out that this modification has somehow complicated things and may contribute to the difficult interpretation of the front of the SF-23 by engineers and drivers.
In the end, it is worth noting one fact. The technical department in Maranello’s interventions between 2022 and 2023, in an attempt to correct the F1-75’s defects and add advantages to the new car, may have pushed the engineers toward the wrong path. By lowering the center of gravity as much as possible, the intrinsic front stiffness of the car was probably affected, ultimately reducing the grip of the vehicle significantly.
Source: Alessandro Arcari and Niccoló Arnerich for FUnoanalisitecnica