Giorgio Piola's F1 technical analysis
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Giorgio Piola's F1 technical analysis

Tech insight: How Ferrari is targeting gains to close the F1 gap

Although the Red Bull Ring flattered its shortcomings, Ferrari’s SF90 has clearly not delivered on its early pre-season promises, as the Scuderia’s approach to the new regulations has resulted in a car that has an array of weaknesses, all of which are difficult to overcome during the course of a campaign.

Tech insight: How Ferrari is targeting gains to close the F1 gap

However, it continues to push on and look for track-specific gains that can help. One such area of development in this regard has been its front brake assembly, with numerous changes made to enhance feel, improve cooling and reduce weight.

The latter is a relative novelty for Ferrari, as although the likes of Mercedes and Red Bull favour a lightweight construction philosophy, the Scuderia have always preferred a more solid foundation with it comes to stopping power.

Having reached high levels of rigidity, it’s begun to work on the lightening parts of the braking system, in the belief that by reducing the unsprung masses it is possible to improve the car’s behavior, giving greater reactivity, particularly in change of direction.

Here are its most recent brake developments, click on the images below to scroll through…

Ferrari SF90 front brakes, Canadian GP
Ferrari SF90 front brakes, Canadian GP
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Photo by: Giorgio Piola

For Canada (above), one of the most challenging tracks for the braking system, Brembo had brought a carbon disc with seven cooling holes in a chevron formation on the outer surface (totalling over 1,400 holes). This solution was coupled with a mounting bell that was characterized by long, narrow, rectangular openings near the disk. In France, where the braking zones were less problematic, a disc with six cooling holes in the chevron formation made its debut and was characterized by a scalloped surface in the central part – a design we’ve seen Mercedes use for a number of years now.
Ferrari SF90 front brakes, French GP
Ferrari SF90 front brakes, French GP
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Photo by: Giorgio Piola

Therefore, at Paul Ricard, maximum weight saving was sought, knowing that there were only three significant stops, only one of which was very severe – the North Chicane. The high speed nature of the circuit was also taken into account as the ductwork used to pipe cold air to the calipers was also repositioned, allowing the system to cool down well. Meanwhile, the mounting bell was characterized by asymmetrical round holes arranged in a zigzag pattern on two rows.
Ferrari SF90 front brakes, Austrian GP
Ferrari SF90 front brakes, Austrian GP
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Photo by: Giorgio Piola

The team sought a compromise between these two solutions in Austria, as the disc has six holes in the cooling surface with a central scalloped section that is about half of that seen in France. Interestingly the mounting bell is the same as the one in Canada, owing to the requirement of more stiffness and through flow of air to cool the brakes at altitude, with the Red Bull ring some 700 meters above sea level.

Search continues for aero improvements

The team continues to look for answers to address its aerodynamic inefficiencies this year too, which resulted in the use of a new turning vane arrangement in Austria.

Ferrari pressed on with a more conventional turning vane layout for 2019, rather than follow the trend initiated by Mercedes of draping a cape over this section of the nosebox.

However, as has been the case since their introduction and proliferation over a decade ago, the position of the turning vanes corresponds to the prevailing regulations, with the first examples mounted on the nose and reaching back under the chassis, while later examples were almost exclusively mounted under the chassis.

Ferrari SF90, nose
Ferrari SF90, nose
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Photo by: Giorgio Piola

In recent years Ferrari has opted to bridge the two, with elements mounted on both the nose and chassis, which are paired to maximise aerodynamic performance. For the Austrian GP both of these elements were changed in order that they work more harmoniously, with the leading elements housed on the nose altered in shape and size and accompanied by another element behind it.
Ferrari SF90, front – NEW
Ferrari SF90, front – NEW
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Photo by: Giorgio Piola

Meanwhile, the turning vanes mounted on the underside of the nose were also revised, with the leading element given a forward-reaching extension that merges with the vanes ahead of them once the nose is installed.
Ferrari SF90, front – OLD
Ferrari SF90, front – OLD
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Photo by: Giorgio Piola

The old setup did not have those forward-reaching extensions.
Ferrari SF90, front wing
Ferrari SF90, front wing
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Photo by: Giorgio Piola

As could be seen in the earlier illustration, and here in this photo, the designers also saw fit to install a small horizontal strike that corresponds with the lower edge of the holes in the front wing pillars. This strike has undoubtedly been installed to try and rectify a small aerodynamic deficiency with the way the airflow moves around and through these holes and the wing pillars.
Ferrari SP90, rear wing end plate
Ferrari SP90, rear wing end plate
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Photo by: Giorgio Piola

Noteworthy as it remained on the car for Austria, having been introduced in France, are the changes made to the SF90’s rear wing. The designers have opted to totally remove some of the lower strakes, make the upwash strikes above them slightly shorter and alter the cutout behind the wing section, which is now taller than before – all changes which alter the aerodynamic interaction between the diffuser and rear wing.
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