Fresh engines for Ferrari in Brazil
The Brazilian Grand Prix marks not only the end of the 2007 Formula 1 season, but also the end of the first year in the sport's history in which engine development has been frozen, as part of a cost cutting measure.
Both Kimi Raikkonen, still in with a slim chance of taking the Drivers' title and Felipe Massa, keen to win at home for a second consecutive year, will start the seventeenth round of the world championship with a new engine in their F2007. However, unlike past years, the freeze on engine work means the Brazil engines will be fundamentally the same as those used in past races. "This year has been quite different on the engine side, different in terms of development, as although there are still some areas where engine development is possible, it is on a much reduced scale compared to the past," says Mattia Binotto, Ferrari's Head of Track Engineering - Engines. "The work we can do is very limited. However, this difference applies only to design and development of the engines, because in terms of our trackside operations, I have not noticed any changes. The management of the engine over a race weekend remains the same, which means you are operating with some targets and limits trying to get maximum performance out of the engine while managing its reliability. Those elements remain the same as ever."
Restrictions on evolution and development of the engines have also had an effect back in the factory. "Our planning of how the engine workshop operates in terms of production of components and assembly has changed considerably," continues Binotto. "In the case of most of the components of the engine you are able to anticipate production and increase the efficiency of all our activity and that is quite a big benefit in terms of cost reduction because you can set out a regular plan for this."
For the first time since 2001, when Ferrari supplied the Sauber and Prost teams, once again this year the Maranello marque has supplied two customer teams - Scuderia Toro Rosso and Spyker - with engines. "The freezing of engine development has helped a lot in allowing us to provide this service, because again you are able to schedule and manage the full activity quite some time in advance," explains Binotto. "We have done a great job this year and part of that is down to the engine freeze. On the other side I would say that our collaboration with both Toro Rosso and Spyker has worked very well. Also in terms of performance we made a significant step forward through the season, as can be seen especially by Toro Rosso's performance in the last couple of races. At the start of the season, life was quite difficult on the customer front because we had a very short time to prepare and work out the installation of the engine in the chassis. But with both these teams, we caught up and made some good steps forward. Now we are looking to move forward again with both teams next year. We have enjoyed a good relationship and a good collaboration. Our engine guys in Maranello are very happy to have had four Ferrari engines in the top six at the last race in Japan. Ferrari is supplying these two other teams mainly for technical reasons, as it is a benefit to be able to run each race with six engines. The amount of feedback is important in terms of reliability and engine usage."
For Brazil, the two F2007 are fitted with fresh engines. "In the past, when we had this situation of not having to prepare an engine to last for two races, it could lead to some extreme engine experimentation from teams, but now with the engine freeze there are limits to what can be done," says Binotto. "In the past you could have carried out dedicated development for just a single race or even built special components with a shorter life. Now, all components must remain the same but it is true that the distance the engines that we bring to Sao Paulo must cover is divided by two: five hundred kilometers instead of one thousand. It means that we can try to increase the severity of usage of the engine, for example by running higher revs, try to get the maximum benefit in terms of performance. We can also run it at higher temperatures. As for the Interlagos circuit itself, the main feature as far as the engines are concerned is its height above sea level which causes a reduction in power. On top of that, the fact the main straight past the pits is uphill also means that engine power is at a premium. You therefore need to aim for maximum power down the main straight to give you the opportunity to overtake, so the choice of gear ratios is very important. These factors mean that, when setting up the car, it should be optimized not necessarily to get the best lap time but more for maximum speed and acceleration on the main straight."