If you’re an avid fan of the motorsport, chances are you’ve realised how superior Mercedes and Red Bull have been on a chassis dependent circuit this season over Ferrari.
But why is that? — well, in my “armchair expert” opinion, this was no mistake. Some time in March last year, Ferrari/Mercedes/RedBull made a conscious decision to follow a philosophy that they thought would best help them keep ahead or jump (RedBull) the competition.
Off the back of what many considered as Ferrari’s best season in the last few years, 2018 was by all metrics, very encouraging — well, the first half of 2018 atleast. Many would argue that Ferrari had the best chassis last year but still lost both championships to Mercedes.
At some point last year, a decision by Liberty Media was made to fascinate “exciting and closet racing” in Formula One. This entailed simplifying the front wings and lowering the badge board area on F1 cars. Proving to be a far more drastic change in philosophy than initially thought, the teams all decided to pursue different development routes and philosophies and this directly brings us to the subject matter.
On one hand, you had Mercedes and RedBull who more or less decided to pursue a high downforce philosophy and the other, Ferrari who decided to focus efforts on high speed corners and straight line speed. So why the disparities in philosophy? Well, one could argue that Ferrari have the most optimum approach in aero philosophy but a higher downforce set-up was, in hindsight the best option. Ferrari opted to focus efforts on higher speed corners and straight line speed to compensate for the loss in downforce resulting due to the simplification of the front wings for 2019 while Mercedes/Red Bull didn’t.
I would go far as to say that Ferrari’s approach makes the most sense… on paper. You see, in Formula One, it is much easier to progress than to regress. Let’s just assume Ferrari’s concept was the way to go this year, it would leave Mercedes and Red Bull facing a predicament — would they have to change their philosophy entirely or stick to it and develop it? That is the predicament Ferrari are faced with in reality.
But there’s still hope for Ferrari. Because their chassis is adaptable, it is easier to add downforce on a philosophy that focused efforts on straight line speed and higher speed corners than it is to strip downforce off a chassis. The reason I say Ferrari’s philosophy is the most optimum is because of Mattia Binotto’s comments;
“As we said, certainly these tyres require more downforce just to heat them up, to make them work. So, yes, if I would come back one year ago, I would give more focus on the downforce compared to what we did, even to the disadvantage of some more drag. Can we call that a ‘concept’? Not too sure. I think it’s an objective that has become more clear, certainly.“
In short, Binotto doesn’t think Mercedes and RedBull’s approach is a viable option in an effort to make short term gains. He recognises that they should have focused on more downforce application on the chassis in the initial stages, which isn’t the same as a general philosophy overhaul.
In a sense, the Ferrari is an aerodynamically efficient car. Maximising straight line and cornering speeds by stricking a middle ground between both. But as stated previously in this very same article, that proved to be the wrong approach so, Ferrari were left playing catch up from the start.
This weekend sees a return to Marina Bay circuit in Singapore. A glamorous street racing event that puts much emphasis on chassis performance over Power unit and drive train output. The track is littered with various slow to medium speed corners so it would be safe to assume Mercedes and Red Bull would go well around there.
Ferrari have come with a few upgrades to the nose cone (as seen in the image above), front wing and floor in an effort to stay competitive on a circuit that will probably have them play for 3rd best at the end of the day. This track is expected to greatly favour Mercedes and red Bull’s high downforce set ups.
Will the updates Ferrari have brought this weekend see them make significant strides in the right direction? That remains to be seen…
Author: Emmron Odauk
Emmron is a freelance writer for Newslibre, a Motorsports fanatic and reviewer of tech.