Sunday, 10 February 2013

Will Ferrari’s Holistic Changes Help Match Red Bull?

Characterised by the fact that the phrase ‘Evolution, not revolution.’ is rapidly becoming the most uttered and rather hackneyed term to describe development of the cars, the stable regulations for the 2013 season should result in a more evenly matched grid.  Teams unable to achieve a suitably accelerated pace of development in 2012 now have the chance to fire up those cylinders and make haste to catch those leading the way.

At the launch of the RB9, Adrian Newey described how the lack of major changes led to this more evolutionary approach,

“It’s really been a case of refining the RB8.  There are no huge changes.  It’s very much an evolutionary car.  All the principles the same as last year.”

He then went on to explain that development continues throughout the year and that the winter break has been no different to breaks between races,

“It just so happens that we have had three months between races rather than two weeks.”

There are differences between last year’s Championship winning car and the RB9, but they are small and would be more suited to the heading ‘improvements’.  The slit across the front of the nose to increase airflow sported by Sauber last year, is now in evidence on the Red Bull, replacing the letterbox style hole used on the RB8.  The Coanda  exhaust system has been perfected and a monkey seat has been introduced to the rear of the car; a change adopted by most teams for 2013.  

The RB9 on track at Jerez.  Picture courtesy of
With a relatively sideways step in terms of development by Red Bull, 2013 could be the season that Ferrari, runners up in the Championship race last year, are able to reach the same level of performance.  However, the launch of the new Prancing Horse, the F138, didn’t reveal a considerable amount of changes either.   Providing some aerodynamic benefit, the innovative front pull rod suspension used on the 2012 Ferrari, has been retained on the new challenger.  The floor is more tightly encased so more air can charge through on its way to the diffuser, an improvement to the largely ineffective coke bottle area on the F2012. New for this year though are the slots on the rear wing end plate.  As with the front pull rod suspension, this is another old Minardi innovation, dusted off and rekindled.

The F138.  Image courtesy of

While we wait to see the definitive aerodynamic developments at the second winter test in Barcelona, both of the teams seem to have taken the evolutionary approach.  However, Ferrari have been more revolutionary in other aspects of the team.   Identifying the need to strengthen the aerodynamics department, Loic Bigois was hired from Mercedes in 2012, a move that has been bolstered by the subsequent arrival of Briton Martin Bester from his position as aerodynamics team leader at Williams, in January this year.    Having worked together previously at Williams, they should form a strong team. 

Dramatically restructuring their design team, personnel are now split between development on the 2013 car and designing the challenger for the 2014 season, which will see drastic regulation changes.  Whilst it is the role of Chief Designer Nikolas Tombazis to chaperon both projects, Simone Resta is responsible for the F138, with Fabio Montecchi leading the way in design for 2014.  In contrast, Red Bull have confirmed they are not in the position to take the same stance.  When talking to the official Formula One website, Team Principal Christian Horner said,

“No we don’t have that big amount of resource.  It is a matter of balancing your resource between 2013 and the challenge of 2014.  That is one of the major challenges of this season, to juggle both developments.”

Adrian Newey has a strong aero team around him, but it is he who is the design genius.  It is imperative that he look forward to next year, to give the 2014 car a significant amount of his time, leaving a possible lull in development for the RB9 this season.  This could be a potential frailty Ferrari could exploit. 

In 2012, the Maranello based team suffered from wind tunnel issues.  In need of updating and improvement, their own wind tunnel was closed in 2012, resulting in a switch to the Toyota wind tunnel in Cologne.  Having to correlate results between the two tunnels had a negative impact on the performance of the car last year; an issue that won’t be apparent in 2013 as outlined by Stefano Domenicalli,

“I certainly expect to see greater efficiency than last year because we will no longer to carry out comparisons of data with the Maranello wind tunnel.”

Another addition comes in the form of former driver Pedro de la Rosa, who joins the team as development driver; there to ensure the simulator programme reaches its full potential.   In his test driver role for McLaren between 2003 and 2009, the Spaniard became very familiar with simulator work, thus making him an important component in Ferrari’s revolution, providing them with invaluable experience and knowledge. 

Photo of Pedro de la Rosa courtesy of

Having a very moderate start to the development race in 2012, it is vital this languid dawn isn’t repeated, a sentiment voiced by Domenicalli,

“We have to make sure we avoid the start of the season as last year and even the year before.  Because then it puts us in a situation where we spend a lot of resources and effort to catch up.”

Testing in Jerez would so far suggest this isn’t the case.  Although testing times are fairly meaningless due to variances in tyres and fuel load, Felipe Massa did top the time sheets on day three, but perhaps more importantly, revealed that there seems to be a huge difference in this year’s car, compared with the F2012 in terms of development at the beginning of the season. 

With a reinforced aerodynamics team, improvements to the simulator programme, and without the issue of tunnel correlation, it is not inconceivable that Ferrari could be a match for Red Bull in the war for the Constructor’s crown this season.   While neither team has been particularly revolutionary in terms of design, changes in other areas mean Ferrari are holistically revolutionised for the 2013 season. 

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