Qualifying for the Austrian Grand Prix saw a display Ferrari will want to forget. The SF1000 looks set to bring back the nightmare memories of the F60 and F14T from 2009 and 2014 respectively.
Ferrari’s ’20 challenger was born with the aim of improving the weaknesses of the ’19 Ferrari SF90, which was a very effective single-seater on the straights, but lacked aerodynamic downforce in the corners.
The SF1000 seems to be the exact opposite. It was the slowest in the speed trap ranking at the weekend, more than nine kilometre’s an hour adrift of Mercedes.
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In F1 aerodynamic efficiency and vertical load are inversely proportional, and (generally) when one increases, the other decreases. The secret lies precisely in finding the right compromise between straight-line speed and cornering speed, in order to obtain a performance advantage in relation to many factors (type of circuit, engine characteristics, tyres, etc).
On balance, the Ferrari SF1000 performed worse than the SF90, at least on the Red Bull Ring. The circuit also highlights the defects of the SF1000, as it prefers more efficiency on the straights than in corners.
Team boss Mattia Binotto believes Ferrari were losing three-tenths in the corners, but a massive seven-tenths on the straights.
Does this poor efficiency on the straights come only from aerodynamics? What seemed to emerge over the weekend, seeing the results of its engine customers Haas and Alfa Romeo, is that it is not just a matter of aerodynamic resistance, but also the Power Unit, which seems to have lost the potential of last year when it was often the class of the field.
There’s a couple of reasons why this might be. The new regulations on Power Units for this year limit the use of additive oils, and the introduction of a second fuel-flow sensor for checking the 100 kg/h flow rate is being adhered too, are likely reasons for the lack of competitiveness of the Ferrari engine.
Last year there was a lot of controversy around Ferrari’s PU, which according to Red Bull somehow managed to circumvent the fuel-flow sensor, increasing fuel flow in short periods to the benefit of power. To stop this practice, the FIA mandated a second sensor.
There was also speculation the oil supplied by Ferrari partner Shell did not comply with the regulations, again according to Red Bull it increased the calorific value of petrol in the combustion chamber.
Telemetry data from the SF1000 points to an improvement in traction, allowing its drivers to open the accelerator slightly earlier. However, there is a progressive delay in the torque, especially when the turbo and the hybrid kick in.
Comparing the data from 2019 with that of 2020, Ferrari in qualifying were almost a second slower than last season, with a top speed loss of about 15 km/h. The same trend was seen during the Barcelona tests, suggesting this is not purely a one-off, circuit specific issue.
Of note is Alfa Romeo, who were near the top of the speed trap chart, but they were the slowest in overall laptime during qualifying and this points to poor aerodynamics, creating little downforce and therefore somewhat negating the lack of engine power.
Ferrari have openly admitted to issues, both with its engine and aerodynamics. A major upgrade package is planned for round three in Hungary which it’s hoped will start to turn things around, but the double Grand Prix in Austria certainly does not help Ferrari, but it could actually help its engineers analyse the data – which will be double than usual – and better diagnose where it’s all gone wrong.
Only time will tell if the change in development direction will solve the fundamental flaws of the SF1000 – roll on Hungary for Ferrari fans!