The 2020 Formula 1 season will finally kick off on July 5 in Austria, on the fast Spielberg circuit owned by Red Bull – welcome relief from the months of delays because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The last time we saw cars on track was during the last day of testing in Barcelona. Despite having been forced to stand still for three months, the teams have continued to work in their factories – albeit required to close for a long period – using the data collected during the two weeks of pre-season tests to identify areas of weakness.
Ferrari arrived at the test with its SF1000 and were off the pace compared to Mercedes and Red Bull – something they admitted themselves. Could this long pause come to the rescue of the Maranello squad?
For the season-opener in Austria it has been rumoured that Ferrari could debut a sort of ‘B-version’ of the SF1000, with many new technical innovations in the engine, gearbox, and chassis.
Most of the development focus during these months has focused on the chassis, since by regulation it will have to be homologated in Austria, and then used for the rest of the season and beyond (2021).
At an aerodynamic level, it will be essential that the technical innovations introduced on the SF1000 “B” bring the same results as the wind tunnel, given that on the Red Bull Ring circuit there will be a double appointment with back-to-back races. The Austrian track requires a perfect aerodynamic compromise between efficiency on the straights, and grip in fast corners.
Ferrari tested two rear-wing configurations in Barcelona: one classic high-load, and one with medium to low-load with a spoon main plane. The spoon-shaped wing has a more loaded central section of the main plane, with the profile becoming more neutral in the direction of the side bulkheads. This reduces the resistance, without unduly affecting the vertical load. It is very probable that both solutions will be re-proposed during Spielberg’s free practice sessions, to make comparisons between the two solutions.
The contribution of the new specification Power Unit ‘065 2’ will be very important, not only for the addition of roughly 20 horsepower, but also for reliability. In Austria, although there is a climate that is anything but torrid, the high altitude (the third-highest of the year) makes cooling difficult due to the reduced air density. This is why the hood solution with wider outlets could be used on the Ferrari SF1000 to improve the heat dissipation of the Power Unit.
The new gearbox, on which Ferrari has encountered mechanical oscillation problems during the tests, should also debut in Austria. In fact, the data from the sensors collected at the factory showed that the gearbox was subject to twisting and bending movements which, albeit slight, could affect long-term reliability.
Ferrari will look to increase the rigidity of the gearbox by using a crossed carbon fibre skin. To also prevent the gearbox oscillations from affecting the rear suspension structure at the camber angle or roll behaviour level, Ferrari could also intervene technically on the rear suspension.
These handful of changes are by no means minor and could be enough to bring the SF1000 back into play – which is hugely important given Ferrari will have to use this car in 2021 too, and will be keen not to write-off two seasons before the 2022 rules reset.