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Special feature

How Ferrari made a breakthrough with its F1 2023 car

Ferrari continued its development assault at Formula 1’s Austrian Grand Prix with a total overhaul of its front wing design, as well as changes to its floor.

Ferrari SF-23 technical detail

Giorgio Piola's F1 technical analysis

Giorgio Piola is the preeminent Formula 1 technical journalist. View our full selection of Giorgio's technical illustrative content

The tweaks came close to helping Charles Leclerc to pole position, but he just missed out on beating Max Verstappen by the slimmest of margins.

Even having a sniff of the top spot was a sure sign of progress that Ferrari has made since both updating its sidepods at the Spanish Grand Prix and unlocking some critical answers about how best the SF-23 should be set up.

Indeed, it seems that insight Ferrari got from both the Spanish GP weekend and the post-race Pirelli test has helped the squad make a breakthrough in knowing what direction it needs to take with its car development.

Ferrari engineer Jock Clear, whose official job title is driver coach to Charles Leclerc, has singled out the Barcelona week as a eureka moment for the team.

“I think the key there is that Barcelona is an exceptionally good track for identifying what your car is doing,” said Clear. “You cannot hide from a bad car in Barcelona, and similarly, when you've got a good car, you're going to be strong in Barcelona. 

“The Barcelona test was a Pirelli test, and more laps around there is always valuable. But actually, the Barcelona weekend, when you have got that relative performance, was probably the key as we had a lot of data there from a track that is absolutely, solidly understood. 

“I think that was the weekend where we identified, 'okay, this is what's happening to the car', and we can rely on that being our weakness. 

“I think from then on, both in the developments, although obviously they were already in the pipeline, but also in the way we set the car up, I think we've made progress.”

The progress has manifested itself in some greater race consistency in both Canada and Austria, with the latest updates aimed at helping make the car more benign.  There is still a performance deficit to Red Bull, but the first steps in closing it appears to be made.

Charles Leclerc, Ferrari SF-23, Carlos Sainz, Ferrari SF-23

Charles Leclerc, Ferrari SF-23, Carlos Sainz, Ferrari SF-23

Photo by: Zak Mauger / Motorsport Images

Ferrari's Austria upgrades explained

The changes made to the front wing include a new flap design for the two upper elements, with the chord height increased across the moveable portion of their span. This is in order to allow for the outermost portion of the wing to deal more exclusively with flow management. 

This change in approach has also resulted in the Gurney flap being moved from the inboard end of the flap to the outer section, when it’s optioned, depending on the amount of balance required, front-to-rear.

Extensive changes have been made to the endplate, in order that the wing can produce the right amount of outwash, with the entire structure reworked, along with the curved flap juncture alongside.

Ferrari SF-23 new endplate, Austrian GP

Ferrari SF-23 new endplate, Austrian GP

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

The endplate is now curved on the leading edge (dotted line), rather than having the triangular finish of its predecessor, whilst the entire surface is more actively angled out from the centreline, rather than having a chicane-like bend.

The attached furniture has also been revised, with the S-shaped diveplane switched for a solution with a gentler curve, whilst also being set back from the endplate's leading edge, rather than being situated right on it. 

The pod used to house the infrared tyre monitoring camera has also been moved, owing to the shape of the endplate being altered, whilst Ferrari has taken a cue from some of its competitors and added a winglet into the lower inboard rear corner of the assembly to help control the vortex that’s inevitably formed in the region. 

This is also altered by the changes made to the shape and position of the flaps as they join with the endplate. The rearward cutout previously employed in the lower rear corner of the endplate has also been modified to suit the surrounding elements characteristics.

A subtle change has also been made to the nose too, with the vanity panel now pushed back slightly from the leading edge of the second front wing element, which also results in a more tapered tip section.

Ferrari SF-23 technical detail

Ferrari SF-23 technical detail

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

The SF-23 has also been treated to changes on the forward portion of the floor, with a single step being employed on the top edge of the outermost fence, rather than two. 

Meanwhile, the fences inboard of this have been given a new lease of life, as they now extend out much further than before, with a curved leading edge also employed to help create the desired flow and pressure conditions.

There were further changes at the rear of the floor too, with both the edge wing and the tyre spat region modified in order that there’s less separation between the two. 

Ferrari SF-23 floor edge wing

Ferrari SF-23 floor edge wing

Photo by: Uncredited

This was taken care of not only with some changes to the floor surfaces themselves but also in how they’re connected, as the horseshoe bracket connecting the floor wing to the rear section of floor has been deleted and the support spar bracket now straddles both sections.

In order to take advantage of these changes Ferrari reported changes to the diffuser's sidewall, whilst there were undoubtedly revisions made to the underfloor’s design too, although they are out of view unfortunately. 

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