During analysis of the data Ferrari collected during the pre-season Formula 1 tests in Barcelona in February, it discovered an issue with the design of its gearbox.
Using special sensors, Ferrari found that its gearbox was suffering from micro-vibrations and twisting due to the strong lateral accelerations to which the SF1000 was subjected.
These, albeit minor (so much so that the drivers had not complained of any type of vibration at the rear), could affect the mechanical structure of the entire transmission, causing sudden mechanical failures.
Why has this issue not cropped up before? In an effort to catch Mercedes, Ferrari has managed to compact the rear of its car, with a greater taper on the bodywork around the power unit and gearbox, improving its aerodynamics. However this came at the cost of designing a brand new gearbox housing, not seen on its 2019 car.
The delayed start to the ’20 F1 World Championship has given Ferrari’s engineers the necessary time to properly analyse the cause of the issue, allowing them to take appropriate action in the most efficient way.
Ferrari will head to Austria with high hopes that they have fixed the problem, with a generous coating of crossed carbon skins, to reduce vibrations and micro-movements during quick corners and high breaking points.
Being able to identify and solve this problem in time should help Ferrari to not only improve its reliability, but also the performance and handling behaviour of the car will benefit.
The vibrations in the gearbox and more generally of the rear axle, affect the car in a number of ways including changing the rear camber angles, negatively affecting traction and the cornering behaviour of the car. In addition to this, the rear tyres are impacted by how the suspension behaves, affecting the wear and temperatures, thus this modification could also improve tyre life.
Ferrari now looks ready to face the season-opening Austrian Grand Prix at full speed, on the demanding track of the Red Bull Ring, which appears to be quite severe in terms of mechanical stress and therefore these changes could put them amongst Mercedes and Red Bull, which appeared ahead in testing.