Since the first race back from the summer break, Ferrari has displayed a strong run of form with Charles Leclerc securing four consecutive pole positions. This unforeseen surge in pace has been said to be a result of Ferrari’s major aerodynamic package, which included a new nose, floor and diffuser for the Singapore Grand Prix. While it was expected that Ferrari would be successful in Monza, a power-demanding circuit, their strength on higher downforce circuits, like Singapore and Sochi, came as a surprise to both the competitors and the team itself.
Traditionally, Ferrari’s robust power unit has allowed the team to excel at low-downforce circuits. However, prior to their aerodynamic upgrade, they were lacking pace at most other race tracks. According to Mark Hughes and Giorgio Piola, technical analysts, Ferrari were unable to use as much rear wing as their rivals in order to give the car a drivable handling balance.
Achieving stronger results at maximum downforce circuits is not as simple as just ‘using more rear wing’. While an increase in wing level will always increase downforce on any track, it also drastically increases drag. Increased drag is responsible for lower top speeds along straights. Not only do these alterations negatively affect top speed, but changes to the aerodynamic setup are also associated with a plethora of other difficulties. One of these difficulties being: tyre overheating. A combination of high air temperatures, along with tight twists and turns caused the tyres to overheat in Hungary, resulting in poor performances from both Leclerc and Vettel, according to the Ferrari boss. Furthermore, drastic increases in the height of the rear-wing can lead to a loss of front-end traction, causing the car to under steer into corners.
Therefore, in order to succeed at high-downforce circuits, a complete overhaul in the way that the car’s aerodynamic package functioned was necessary. This is exactly what happened in the three weeks of the summer break. Coming into Sochi on the back of three successive poles, Ferrari were confident in their abilities. Despite Leclerc continuing this run of pole positions, an MGU-K malfunction in Vettel’s car ruined the chances of a 1-2 finish.
Looking ahead to Suzuka, a medium downforce circuit, Ferrari are determined to return to their winning ways. With only one turn of Suzuka’s 17 having a minimum cornering speed of less than 100km/h, a good high-speed balance will be pivotal in determining success.
“Our performance level was good in Sochi, which is how we managed to take our fourth straight pole position, but we know that in order to be at the front in Japan, every aspect of our work must be perfect,” Binotto said.
“That’s the way we are going to approach the race in Suzuka, trying to extract all the available performance from the car package.
“If we can do that, then we hope to be able to be as competitive as we have been in recent races.” Binotto stated.
About Matthew McKelvie: 17-Year-old Formula 1 enthusiast. Daniel Ricciardo Fan. Interested in all things to do with sport, geography and economics.