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Insight: Ferrari's late start on 2016 Formula 1 car - what does it actually mean?

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Insight: Ferrari's late start on 2016 Formula 1 car - what does it actually mean?
Jan 7, 2016, 11:10 PM

Ferrari has revealed that it started work on its 2016 Formula 1 car later than it planned to continue working on the SF15-T that won three races la...

Ferrari has revealed that it started work on its 2016 Formula 1 car later than it planned to continue working on the SF15-T that won three races last year. But what consequences will this have on their title challenge?

The Italian company’s chairman, Sergio Marchionne, explained that while the team had started work its 2016 chassis late, he was confident the squad would not be hindered by the delayed start.

XPB.cc Sergio Marchionne

He said: "Maurizio [Arrivabene] will tell you we delayed some things to allow for the 2015 car to be finished.

"Hopefully he will not bitch about this. We pushed the start of some of the work on the 2016 cars on the chassis, delayed it a bit.

"But we have had adequate time and adequate financial resources to do the right thing given the rules.”

A late start on the new car is not the news Ferrari fans will have been hoping for as the team hopes to challenge Mercedes for F1 supremacy next season, so we asked JAonF1 technical advisor, Dominic Harlow, how the late start might affect the Scuderia.

Dominic Harlow

The consequences

The normal time for an F1 team to finish developing its current car and start switching resources to the next one is at the August summer shutdown. The final major upgrades of the year will then arrive at the Singapore Grand Prix and unless a team is involved in the title fight, or developing a race winner as Ferrari was last year, the focus will be directed towards the new car for the rest of the year.

“The knock-on effects [of starting late] would simply be what state of development the car is then in at the first and second test and at the first race, because obviously you want the first race to be the culmination of the aerodynamic development so everything has to be ready for the car then, ideally,” says Harlow.

“Things that can sometimes happen with a late start is that you then end up with a slightly less evolved car at the first race and then a more developed car when you get back to Europe after the flyaways, with a potentially bigger update package for Barcelona.”

Barcelona start

Recovering lost time

Marchionne is confident that Ferrari has “adequate time and adequate financial resources” to overcome the late start, but as time for aerodynamic progress is heavily regulated these days, through windtunnel restrictions and limited testing, it is not easy for teams to claw back development time.

“It is difficult because you are limited with the amount of aerodynamic development you can do,” says Harlow. “It’s not that you can oversaturate the aero development in the hope of getting a little bit more through in a shorter space of time to catch up.”

But Ferrari could make up for its late start by cleverly using the bigger gaps in the 2016 F1 calendar. There is a two-week gap between the Australian and Bahrain races, a trend that continues until the Canadian and Azerbaijan races in June, which are the first back-to-back races of the year.

Ferrari

“You can’t immediately compensate [a late start], and it’s then probably more about the planning and the timing of things,” says Harlow. ‘You’d see if there is any scope to reduce lead times for those early races or if there is anything in the calendar that you can exploit.

“For example, there’s a two week gap between the first two races this time, plus perhaps Bahrain puts a slightly bigger demand on cooling and brake cooling than Australia so you would work all of those things to your advantage.”

The early races are typically more about reliability than out race pace, which is another boost for any team that is behind schedule.

Australia start

2016: evolution, not revolution

Unlike last year, when there were a number of aerodynamic changes to the F1 regulations after the 2014 season, the rules remain stable going into 2016. This is good news for Ferrari as any work the team did towards the end of 2015 on its old car will still be relevant next year.

“There is no difference between a 2015 car and a 2016 car, aerodynamically,” says Harlow. “Obviously every year it is slightly different but a lot of what you could learn or, arguably, more of what you could learn on a 2015 car still applies to 2016.

“What’s late and what’s early? Yes, it would be a different date to hit the optimum compared to last year than say from 2014 to 2015 when you had a crude 2014 car and a much bigger evolution for your 2015 car.”

XPB.cc Kimi Raikkonen

Although Marchionne’s comments may have set pulses racing amongst the Tifosi, it’s still too early for Ferrari to be at panic stations. After all, Brawn and Red Bull missed tests in 2009 and 2010 and both teams took double title glory by the end of those seasons.

*The new Haas F1 team, which has collaborated closely with Ferrari on its 2016 car has indicated that it will not be subject to any delays.

What did you make of Marchionne’s remarks? Does Ferrari need to panic or will the still become challengers to Mercedes? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below.
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