MARANELLO, Italy — Ferrari has designed its 2018 Formula One car with the aim of wiping out Mercedes’ advantage at high-speed circuits while consolidating its own strengths.
Ferrari and Mercedes were often split by small margins in 2017 but a clear pattern emerged in the relative performance of both cars. Mercedes generally had the upper hand at high-speed circuits while Ferrari prospered on low-speed layouts.
Throughout the 2017 season the Mercedes appeared to lack peak downforce compared to the Ferrari, but enjoyed a much better trade-off between downforce and drag. This advantage was evident at circuits like Silverstone and Monza where Ferrari struggled and Mercedes took one-two victories.
“If we take stock of what we did last year, in low-speed tracks we always did well while in circuits where the speed was higher we were suffering a little bit more,” Ferrari technical director Mattia Binotto explained via a translator at the launch of the new SF71-H. “So aerodynamic development was sought in that respect and the car was conceived in that way in order to have homogeneous, uniform performance all season.”
During the launch Binotto drew attention to the car’s longer wheelbase, an evolution of its bodywork around the sidepods and slimmer rear-end packaging. Also notable is a much larger airbox opening believed to be a result of repackaging of the cooling system along the centre of the car.
Binotto believes the combination of all these aspects will help improve the Ferrari’s aerodynamic efficiency.
“When it comes to performance, these are all contributions that aim to improve the aerodynamics of the car. They try to improve the drag level in general while improving the overall efficiency of the car.
“Increasing the wheelbase improves the aerodynamics elements and allows them to be freer when it comes to all the elements that are in the middle of the car. Working on the back of the car, which requires a lot of effort, means an improvement in the airflow on the rear of the car.
“These have all been architectural and layout actions aimed at one final objective: that of improving aerodynamics, or at least opening more avenues for aerodynamic performance during the season.”
But Binotto said Ferrari had not stood still on areas where it had an inherent strength in 2017.
“As regards to aerodynamics, we tried to retain our concept of the inlets for the radiators, and everybody is copying that, but we tried to make an additional step forward. What we showed today is not the same element as last year — it is something more developed.
“The strengths are there and we wanted to improve ourselves.”