The real potential of Ferrari’s new SF21 is still difficult to establish after just three days of testing in Bahrain, however both the drivers and the members of the Maranello team have indulged in cautious optimism in view of the upcoming 2021 season, which starts next weekend.
The aerodynamic department has worked hard over the winter to improve the efficiency of the car, starting with the SF1000 as a base due to the development freeze. The SF1000 which was very slow on the straights due to the lack of performance from the Power Unit and the fact the car produced a high amount of drag.
Ferrari’s engineers have also invested a lot of time into the rear of the car, where the floor and diffuser limitations have had an impact on downforce, cutting it by an estimated 10 per cent.
According to Pirelli motorsport boss Mario Isola and the data collected by Pirelli and the teams during the Bahrain test, most of the teams have already recovered almost half of that lost 10 per cent. Among those is Ferrari, which was one of a handful of teams to begin focussing on this area of the car very early, in fact in 2020 it was already trialling floor concepts with a view to 2021.
On the SF21 we have already highlighted the new floor, shortened by about 100mm in the direction of the rear wheel, which has several flow deviators in the middle part and in the area in front of the tyre to reduce the resistance. Similar fins have also been included on the innermost area, next to the rear wheel, helping to generate a cleaner airflow over the diffuser (highlighted in yellow).
Analysing the photos taken during the test in Bahrain, on the second and third days we noticed a small bridge element in front of the rear wheel, very similar to what is already present on the Haas VF-21.
This is a small aerodynamic detail that had escaped our view until now due to the fact that it is well hidden between the vertical sections of the floor, and the fact Ferrari did not run this on the opening test day.
The intent is always to keep the airflow adhered to the floor rather than directing it to the lower part of the rear wheel due to the turbulence caused by the motion of the wheel.
At Ferrari, a lot of work has also been done in the area where the bodywork wraps the gearbox, where the Maranello team spent its two development tokens to homologate a new gearbox, which is more tapered allowing for tighter bodywork and a skinnier rear, and reduces the torsion problems noted last year on the SF1000.
On the SF21 it also seems that the differential has been raised by about 30mm, and from the photographs taken in that area of the car, we can see how Ferrari has tried to create a channel to improve the extraction of air from the rear (see blue highlight).
In that area there is also a small flow diverter, very well hidden between the triangle of the suspension, which helps direct the air flow to the upper part of the diffuser (arrow).
As stated by Ferrari chassis director Enrico Cardile, the main work on the SF21 was carried out entirely at the rear, both on a mechanical and aerodynamic front. The rear suspension remains with the rear arm still anchored to the gearbox, and not to the crash structure as on the Mercedes, Aston Martin and Red Bull.
This is obviously because the maximum tokens to spend were two, and by spending them on the gearbox it was not possible to review the internal elements of the suspension at the same time.
The suspension arms will be homologated at the first race in Bahrain, and can no longer be revised. The same goes for the radiators and the intercooler after the Power Unit compressor. From the view of thermal disposal, Ferrari still has a high cooling drag, with quite conspicuous engine cover vents, especially compared to Mercedes and Red Bull. A clear sign that the brand new Power Unit 065/6 needs to “breath” for reliability issues.
In the rear view during the tests you can clearly see the large rear vents, the lower triangle of the suspension anchored to the gearbox, and above all the new diffuser, with the internal fins shorter than 50mm from the stair floor.