When the cars roll out on track at the legendary Spa-Francorchamps circuit this Friday for the first Free Practice session of the Belgian Grand Prix, it will be 33 days since the sound of Formula 1 cars was last heard at Budapest’s Hungaroring. In that time, Scuderia Ferrari and the other eleven teams have had a complete two week factory shut-down, when by common agreement, no work is allowed to take place. An enjoyable time for the hard pressed F1 workforce and no doubt a frustrating one for race fans. However, now that racing resumes, running through all the way to the season finale nine races away in Brazil, it does so with back to back races at two of the most exciting venues on the calendar, Spa and Monza.
These two legendary circuits are famous for the high speed challenge they present, one which demands a lot from the engines, therefore prior to setting off for Belgium, Luca Marmorini, the Scuderia’s Head of Engines and Electronics spoke about what is required from the V8s to deal with these tracks and how the team gets back to work after the summer holiday. “Everyone has been able to recharge their batteries, ready for the next part of the season,” said Marmorini. “And while it’s true that we were unable to work for two weeks, which could carry the risk of people losing concentration, it is also true that, being away from the daily routine in a relaxed environment, you can find that good ideas come to you.”
“As for Spa and indeed Monza a week later, these two historic circuits are ones where the engine plays an important role and is put very much to the test,” continued the engine specialist. “Monza for example is the circuit where drivers use full throttle for a greater percentage of the lap than at any other track. Of course, with the freeze imposed on engine development in the regulations, there is not much room for manoeuvre, but we have looked at areas where we are still allowed to make changes. For example, we are always trying to reduce the inevitable performance drop that can affect engines as they are used, because some engines having to complete two or three races, therefore it’s important to try and maintain the same performance level throughout. If you consider that an engine can lose 5 horsepower per race, then by the third race it can have lost a total of15 horsepower, which is a significant figure. Then, with our partner Shell, we work on development on new fuels and oils that can aid performance. Spa-Francorchamps also throws up some specific problems, such as the fact the circuit is at quite high altitude, the weather is very changeable and often wet, but these are elements that affect the whole car package, not just the engine management.”
Even with a freeze on engine development, there is plenty to keep the engine department occupied. “The engine is the same, but each year we have to install it in a new design of chassis,” explained Marmorini. “We always try and simplify it, while doing a lot of work on the exhaust system, an area where you are always making a compromise between outright performance and the needs of our friends in the aerodynamics department. We also have a small margin to work on within the framework of the rules when it comes to the actual mapping of the engine, even if the performance gains from this are quite small.”
Asked to sum up how the season has gone so far on the engine front, Marmorini is reluctant to deliver a verdict when there are still nine rounds remaining. “Even if we can say that so far, in terms of performance and reliability of the engine, electronics and KERS, we are on target, we still want to do even better in the second half of the season when the championship will be decided, as well as meeting our major objective of getting through right to the end without the car ever breaking down on track.” In fact KERS and electronics are free of development restriction, not that this is something Scuderia Ferrari has exploited too much. “We have not revolutionised our work in this area,” said Marmorini. “Instead, we have concentrated on making the components better suited to the new car, lighter and less bulky, while improving efficiency. But we have been conscious of keeping the cost down on KERS to enable us to provide a competitive and economic package to our customer teams.”
33 days is a long time without racing, so in case anyone needs reminding, the Scuderia’s main objective this coming weekend in the Ardennes will be to keep Fernando Alonso at the head of the Drivers’ classification, while getting as many points as possible with the Spaniard and his team-mate Felipe Massa, for the Constructors’ Championship. In fact, it’s the Brazilian whose name appears on the Belgian Grand Prix winner’s trophy, with a victory here in 2008, after he finished second the previous year. As for Fernando, his best results at Spa are a second place in 2005 and a third in 2007. This weekend’s race will be the 57th Belgian Grand Prix and the 45th to be held at this the longest circuit on the calendar, at a touch over seven kilometres. Scuderia Ferrari has been victorious on sixteen occasions, the last win dating back to 2009, when Kimi Raikkonen was first past the chequered flag at the end of the 44 laps.
Source: Scuderia Ferrari