Turkish Grand Prix – A very important month for Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro
Two weekends have gone by without a Grand Prix since the last race in China and while the overwhelming feeling in the Shanghai paddock on that Sunday night was that a break from racing would be enjoyable, the mood soon turns to one of impatience to get back to a race track. For engineers and designers at all twelve teams it has been a time to take stock of what has been learned from the opening trio of races and to channel development to address individual weaknesses. For Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro, much of that stock taking had already started to a lesser or greater extent, after the Australian race and then after the one in Malaysia.
According to Team Principal Stefano Domenicali, the reasons for the 150º Italia failing to see the podium were twofold. “Our approach was not aggressive enough at the design stage and there was a problem with the correlation between data gathered from the wind tunnel and what we saw on track, so this did the damage in these first few months,” he said. Both these errors have been addressed, although no one at Ferrari is expecting a miracle cure at Istanbul Park Circuit.
“The package we will have this weekend was drawn up prior to the Chinese Grand Prix, therefore we have not been able to make significant changes to it in these past weeks,” explained the Scuderia’s Chief Designer, Nikolas Tombazis, after the updates were tried out in an aerodynamic test at Vairano, with Jules Bianchi at the wheel. “Definitely, we will have new wings, both front and rear and new brake ducts. I can’t say if this step forward will be enough, but I do expect to see the consequences of this change in approach over the next few races.”
We are doing all we can to improve our position on the grid
With so much ink spilt about the aerodynamic shortcomings of the 150º Italia, it is easy to forget that a Formula 1 car is a complete package and no element can be treated in isolation. Almost forgotten in the early part of the season is the Ferrari V8 engine, quite possibly, because it has not presented any major reliability problems either with the “works” Scuderia or with its two customer teams. However, the engine department is heavily involved in current ideas to increase the overall performance of the car.
“Even though there is a freeze on the development of all F1 engines, within our department we are doing all we can to improve our position on the grid,” reveals the Head of Engine and Electronics, Luca Marmorini, before giving an example of departments working together.
“There is much talk about the importance of the exhaust system on the aero package of the car,” he says. “The engine guys would always like the exhaust system to prioritise producing as much power as possible and, in fact, the exhaust system is one of the few areas linked to the engine which is free in terms of allowing development. It’s true the exhausts have a big effect on the aerodynamics of the car and therefore we work closely with our colleagues on the aerodynamic side to further develop the exhausts in such a way as to contribute to improving airflow around the car.”
If the Scuderia can be accused of lagging behind the best in some areas in the opening trio of races, at least there is one technology where the Prancing Horse is on top of its game, as Marmorini reveals: “It has been enjoyable to renew our acquaintance with KERS. Ferrari had acquired a good working knowledge of the system back in 2009 and based on that, we updated our system for this year and, so far, it has definitely proved to be a good step forward. It has run pretty much trouble-free and we will continue to work on it throughout the year, in search of further improvements.”
The Turkish Grand Prix has a short history, this weekend being only the seventh year the new track on the Asian side of Istanbul has hosted a Formula 1 race, but that history is certainly a positive one for Ferrari, with a 50% success rate in the past six years. But if the Scuderia can claim to go well here, so can Felipe Massa, as all three of those wins, from 2006 through to 2008 came courtesy of the Brazilian, on all three occasions having started from pole position. Driving a Ferrari he has never failed to finish in the points here, while team-mate Fernando Alonso has three Turkish podiums to his name, two second places in ’05 and ’06 and a third in 2007.
The track is definitely one of the more challenging of what are considered the “new” circuits, as it features a wide variety of corner types, some changes of gradient, a longish straight and occasionally windy conditions adding to the difficulty. For a new track, it only took a couple of practice sessions at the race’s debut for the blandly named Turn 8 to instantly secure a place among the great corners on the calendar. Who better than Felipe to explain why: “It’s an exciting corner, known for having not one but four apexes. It has a very high entry speed, almost flat, although you then have to lift slightly and the lateral G forces you experience are very high indeed. That is what makes it exciting. To drive it perfectly is not easy and you have to get everything right, but when you do it’s a great feeling.”
To drive it perfectly is not easy and you have to get everything right
The one hot topic of this season not mentioned so far is the tyres. Pirelli will again bring their Hard (Prime) and Soft (Option) compounds and it will be interesting to see how they deal with the conditions and the famous Turn 8 which will put a very high load on the tyres, on this anti-clockwise running track. Discussions about tyre degradation could become academic however, as current weather forecasts seem to be predicting some rain on every day of the weekend. Whatever the weather, the Ferrari engineers will have their eyes on the race track not on the clouds, looking for signs that the new components introduced here are producing a performance gain.
Stefano Domenicali sums up the hopes of the team: “If there is one thing you don’t want to do, it’s panic as it definitely does not help you do better,” says the Team Principal. “Now we are about to tackle three races in four weeks: it will be important to show that we are back on form and to make it to the podium, something that has escaped us in all of the first three races of the season.”