Barcelona – Ferrari technical look ahead
Barcelona not only marks the start of the much awaited European leg of the Formula 1 championship but the general consensus within the paddock, is that a car’s performance here will dictate a lot of what’s to come the rest of the season. Thus, it’s no surprise that following the flyaway-race break, Ferrari along with all teams will look to separate, gain, improve and assert their performance at the Spanish Grand Prix.
The track is located in Montmelo¢ Spain, just north of Barcelona and is a popular venue for Formula 1 winter tests.
The 4.655 kilometer track’s position exposes it to more often than not gusty winds, making car setup and aero-balance a more critical factor. Challenging gradients as the circuit is positioned on a hillside overlooking the massive paddock complex don’t make the job easier.
It is one of the more challenging circuits on the calendar from a technical standpoint and it is certain to provide an exciting Grand Prix for spectators and competitors alike.
- Spain – Barcelona Track Diagram
The circuit is one that every (seasoned) F1 team knows well from the hundreds of kilometers of testing racked up here over the years but this doesn’t make things easier. If anything the teams’ knowledge of this track’s characteristics leaves few surprises in terms of catching teams off guard.
It’s comprised of medium and high-speed corners and it is the definitive aero circuit. The introduction of the chicane near the end of the lap has slightly changed the track, but high-speed sections of the lap still remains the ultimate aero efficiency test.
Barcelona is also well known for being demanding on tire wear because it includes many long, high-speed corners generating a lot of lateral loading on a fairly abrasive track surface putting the tires are under particularly high stress, especially the front lefts which have to work very hard through turn 3 and 9. With refueling banned and the cars heavier than in years prior, tire management will be paramount and the car’s aero balance will decide the winners from the losers.
Despite the track featuring a long straight Ferrari and others will run surprisingly high downforce levels in order to achieve the desired levels of grip needed to be fast and efficient through the demanding fast corner sections of the circuit. Car’s generating ample downforce with the least drag per/kilogram of downforce will be at an advantage, able to exploit their rivals deficiencies down the long straight.
Qualifying performance will be more important than ever as the track features few big braking zones and a flurry of high-speed corners resulting in extremely difficult overtaking opportunities even when they are possible.
All teams expect to make forward steps in terms of performance here at the start of the European season by introducing much awaited upgrade packages being developed from data collected during both testing and the start of the season.
Alonso speaking to reporters prior to Chinese Grand Prix.
“We know in which areas we need to improve the car, so I’m more or less confident that we can have the best car in the next few races.”
Things to look forward to:
- Ferrari testing F-Duct in practice – China 2010
F-Duct: McLaren introduced a system they call the RW80 allowing what many believed impossible as the rules were written. The device allows the driver to open and close an otherwise passive air channel (valve) in the cockpit that moves air through the shark-fin engine cover stalling the rear wing, reducing the resulting drag and providing a significant advantage down the straights.
Straights in Malaysia and China despite being shorter than the one teams will see in Barcelona showed that the F-Duct was capable of providing as much as 5-6kph top-speed advantage even there and some reckon it can provide 2-4 tenths improvement in overall lap time.
The fact that Ferrari was able to remain competitive despite not featuring the device during the competitive portions of the weekend is good sign that the team has room to improve for Europe. Ferrari are not the only team expected to utilize the innovation. Sauber, Williams, and Mercedes all have tested versions of the F-duct and are expected to debut their versions in Spain.
- Ferrari testing diffuser design on F10 – Practice China 2010
Diffuser and Floor: With so much news surrounding the F-Duct, little has been noticed about Ferrari’s work around the rear of the car. The team has done a lot of refining to the design around the floor and lower aero devices in general. Ferrari introduced a venturi-like device around the area of the front splitter where ballast is usually housed, helping channel air towards the rear of the car. The diffuser itself has also seen quite a bit of redesign and a new version was seen being tested in Chinese practice along with the F-duct but neither device was mounted to the Ferrari F10 during the competitive portions of the weekend.
Engines: Alonso has claimed that the team is certain of the issue that has been causing Ferrari’s recent engine woes but has the issue actually been addressed?
though the Ferrari 056 engine should not be under relatively high stress seen at tracks like Monza with Barcelona only demanding around 60 percent of the lap at full throttle, engine issues remain a concern.
Mirrors: As of the Spanish Grand Prix, teams have been asked to remove their outboard mounted mirrors, as safety concerns raised resulted in the FIA outlawing outboard placement, mandating inboard (tub) placement instead.
The mirror’s current position on the pod wings poses two aerodynamic benefits for Ferrari, benefits they will loose with the relocation.
Positioned where they are, the mirrors sit in the turbulent air coming off of the front wheels and as such pose less aerodynamic penalty with their presence.
Placing the mirrors on the tub and back into the conditioned air coming off of the front air elements of the car will pose more of a disturbance to the car’s sensitive aerodynamics as air moves rearwards past the mirrors.
Another issue, is that the pod wing’s purpose is to condition turbulent air away from the back of the car so that it doesn’t interfere with the air moving around the sidepods and rear floor aero pieces of the F10. Current regulations already limit the size of these devices moving the mirrors will make them even smaller.
Technically the mirror move is not that simple as it seems. The mirrors are mounted to Pod wings (veins) which according to the rules cannot exceed “600mm above the reference plane”. The mirrors being mounted there is not just for fun.
Ferrari introduced the design to circumvent a particular regulation. By mounting a mandatory “mirror support” and “mirror” on top of the 600mm allowance and making the structures much larger, Ferrari are able to increase the effect of their pod wings. The removal of the mirror inboard will result in the current (larger) size becoming illegal. The structures overall size will have to shrink slightly to the 600mm maximum and so will their effect on performance they provide.
Can Ferrari minimize this performance hit and still improve their pace as expected? Likely! And luckily for them its a difficulty they won’t have to face alone. Red Bull who are seen as the current pace setters will also have to move their mirrors.
Ride Height Adjustment: Red Bulls amazing pace in qualifying has been seen by many, particularly McLaren the result of a rumored “ride height control” device. Illegal in nature as per the wording of the rulebook but possibly designed in just such a way as to bypass the rule restrictions. So confident was McLaren of the device’s presence, that the team publicly admitted to have designed it’s own version for China only to be told the device would be deemed illegal should it be featured on the car.
Is there a device to control ride-height dynamically during the race on the RB6 Red Bull? We don’t know. Maybe, but if so, nobody has yet to introduce their own version. Does Ferrari have their own ideas?
Ferrari drivers are 4th (Alonso) and 6th (Felipe) in the driver’s championship 11 and 19 points from championship leader Jenson Button respectively and 19 points behind McLaren in the constructor’s championship. With all teams bringing something and some going as far as changing their weight distribution (Mercedes GP) in order to be competitive will Ferrari bring enough to put them on top?