We know that the 2021 Formula 1 season is one of transition for the much of the grid, given the stable regulations which come before a major technical revolution for 2022, but the question teams will be asking themselves is; when do we switch focus 100% to next year?
Some have already done that, see Haas for example. Others are running joint programmes which will gradually phase over to ’22 over the course of the year. Ferrari is one of those, but their development programme has already begun to shift towards next year.
Given the Scuderia has very little chance of fighting Mercedes and Red Bull for the title, it makes sense to look ahead as almost nothing on the current car will be carried over, so there’s very little to learn by continuing to push for performance this year, other than on the engine side.
Last year was a dark year for Ferrari and there is a glimmer of light this year following a stronger than expected showing in Bahrain, but it’s widely expected Ferrari’s focus will switch over entirely to next year in just a handful of weeks time.
The budget cap, which also includes limits on wind tunnel use – this works on a sliding scale with the lowest placed team getting additional wind tunnel time and restrictions imposed on the highest placed – does not favour the big teams (such as Ferrari, Red Bull and Mercedes).
The goal of the season for Ferrari is to secure third place in the constructors championship, i.e. ‘best of the rest’, but the battle in the midfield is very intense. Ferrari will have to battle long-time rival McLaren, who seemed slightly quicker in Bahrain. In any case, the SF21 provided positive feedback between testing and the first race of the season.
Indeed, from the data that emerged after the first race in Bahrain, it seems that the Power Unit 065/6 that the SF21 is equipped with has not yet expressed all the power available. The new engine, which we recall having been redesigned in many areas compared to 2020, has perhaps not yet reached levels of reliability and running-in such as to take full advantage of the entire performance available. In Imola, on this front, there may already be a small step forward in the exploitation of power.
The “freeze” in 2021 development starting from the beginning of the summer could translate into a flurry of technical innovations, in the period between the Portuguese GP and the Azerbaijan GP. The aerodynamic department will be keen to fast-track its updates ahead of the switchover to ’22.
Ferrari are expected to bring several updates before that, particularly in the area of the floor. The most likely innovation it will adopt is the “Z” floor, inspired by the concepts of Mercedes and Aston Martin. It could even debut as early as this weekend, given the extended three-week break between Bahrain and Imola.
In Bahrain, again in terms of the flat floor, we observed three small aerodynamic devices in the internal area of the diffuser, which help to keep the flow “cleaner” between the inside of the tyre and the external area of the diffuser. There’s likely to be an update in this area between Imola and Portimao.