Ferrari has overhauled its start system and copied rival Mercedes in a bid to help improve its getaway from the grid, Motorsport.com can reveal.
Just a fortnight on from the Russian Grand Prix, where Ferrari duo Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen were leapfrogged by Valtteri Bottas on the run down to Turn 2, the Maranello team has responded with immediate modifications for the Spanish Grand Prix.
It comes after Ferrari elected to use a filming day at Mugello last week for both its drivers to work on start improvements – and the results of that work have now made it on to Vettel's Ferrari in Barcelona.
Spotted by Mercedes
Kimi Raikkonen suggested earlier this weekend that recent efforts by the team on starts have ramped up, and that new solutions were being tried.
"We kind of know what is happening and we've been working on different things. Mercedes has been strong with what they're doing. But we cannot change things overnight," he said.
"In practice we've been pretty good, but when you do your seven to 10 starts at the end of the pit lane it's quite easy, as there's more grip there. When you do it on the pits straight you have to make the best out of it. It's not such a long run down to Turn 1, but hopefully we can make a good job out of it."
But intrigue about what Ferrari had done increased on Saturday afternoon when, discussing the start and the run down to the first corner, Lewis Hamilton joked with Vettel: "I see you have changed your start sequence now..."
Now, Motorsport.com can reveal what Ferrari has done and why it has elected to pursue a route pioneered by Mercedes.
Ferrari has effectively done away with the long wishbone clutch lever that it has used successfully since the start of last season.
The idea of the long lever was to increase the distance that the drivers were able to move the paddle – so improving the chances of finding the sweet spot with the clutch bite point for the perfect getaway.
But new rules introduced for this year may have ultimately meant that the advantage Ferrari had before has been wiped away.
The changes were a new limit of 80mm of movement for the clutch paddle, and there has to now be a distance of 50mm between the clutch paddle and any other control the wheel.
As Giorgio Piola's exclusive drawing shows, Ferrari has introduced this arrangement in metal so far – although this could be replaced by carbon fibre in the future.
The presence of the finger holds means that teams do not have to comply with the 50mm exclusion zone around the clutch paddle, something that may have proved to be a factor in helping Mercedes.
This could in theory allow the paddles to be closer to the drivers' hands, and therefore be exploited with finer precision by their fingers.
With the run down to the first corner at the Spanish Grand Prix so important, the fight between Vettel and Hamilton will be especially fascinating.
Additional reporting by Matt Somerfield