Next year’s power unit will have the compressor inserted in the intake box to favor the aerodynamics as technical regulations will reintroduce the use of ground effect, but it may not have the revolutionary combustion chamber designed by Zimmerman. There is little time to develop it, so Gualtieri has launched an alternative plan which takes into account the engine freeze rules.
Ferrari does not want to take risks: for the 2022 season, given the use of ground effect single-seaters, the Scuderia wants to be the protagonist again to fight for the title, hoping, like everyone else, that starting from a blank sheet will allow the opportunity to change the current standings, consolidated by the undisputed Mercedes supremacy.
The Maranello team’s engineers have decided to enter the new era of F1 with a power unit that will be very innovative: beyond the architecture of the supercharging system that will see the separation of turbine and compressor, following a concept well tested by Mercedes during the hybrid years, there is the ambition to introduce the compressor inside the intake box, with an unprecedented configuration of the upper part of the endothermic 6-cylinder that will also greatly favor aerodynamics.
The group of technicians headed by Wolf Zimmermann who deals with advanced solutions, has also studied a version that has been defined as “Superfast” because it will adopt a combustion chamber capable of ensuring a phase of explosion with very fast ignition times, getting closer and closer to the principles known in diesel engines, without arriving at the HCCI solution that could easily do without the spark plug to ignite the spark.
With the “Superfast” engine, Ferrari should improve combustion thanks to turbulent motions that can positively influence the speed of flame propagation, giving more homogeneity to the air-petrol mixture and to the combustion phase.
In reality, the bench tests carried out so far have given discordant results both in terms of performance and reliability. In Maranello they are convinced that the solution is right for the future, but the time available for development is not much and we must not take risks if the 2022 unit will have to undergo a freeze without possibility of development until 2024.
It is for this reason that Enrico Gualtieri, head of engine engineers, would have decided to keep the innovation in the upper part of the engine (the compressor in the intake box), but to launch a more traditional combustion chamber that starts from the solutions developed to date.
As the bench tests are limited by regulation, there will be time until June to carry out the two combustion chamber options in parallel, but the definitive configuration will have to be chosen by the beginning of the summer. The feeling is that the version of the 6-cylinder Superfast can be put in a drawer even for the turn that the rules are taking.
Ferrari has always been at the forefront of launching innovative ideas in F1, but the ambitions of the technicians must be recalibrated according to the moment conditioned by the effects of the Covid pandemic that have imposed very heavy constraints on the design imagination.
Having a revolutionary power unit that fails to be completed in time for next year is a risk that they cannot afford to take in Maranello. It’s right, therefore, to have foreseen a parachute..