After the Spanish Grand Prix, we looked at how the new sidepods of Ferrari’s Barcelona upgrade were all about trying to give the car more consistent downforce at high speeds, a key weakness up until that point. Two races later, Ferrari have produced a new front wing and floor to further improve that aspect of the car.
Although the Barcelona and Spielberg updates address quite different parts of the car, they are part of the same specific aim of improving high-speed rear stability. They are addressing a shortfall rather than simply adding downforce or reducing drag.
The team’s senior performance engineer Jock Clear talked about the upgrade in Austria, saying: “From the numbers, it’s going in the right direction and it’s another incremental step, probably a similar step to the last one, but again it’s been very much designed not just on bringing more downforce [and] shedding more drag – the obvious numbers; it’s been designed to make the car a bit more benign and predictable.
“Actually, that’s difficult to get from the wind tunnel. We’ve put it on strongly believing that the tunnel numbers can be relied upon and the performance on Friday [when Charles Leclerc missed out on pole by just 0.04s] certainly suggests it brought some performance. We’re back to a situation where we are frustrated not to be on pole.”
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The Barcelona upgrade sought to bring that greater consistency through a reshaping of the sidepod to reduce airflow separation. This one is chasing the same goal of a more benign behaviour through a less critical airflow path between the front wing and floor edges and down the length of the floor. Visually, they are very small changes and quite difficult to spot, but they comprise many new parts – and they have been rushed onto the car two races ahead of schedule.
The change in the front wing element shapes are subtle, but Ferrari describe them as follows: “A redesign of all front wing elements: mainplane, flap and endplate. Reason: Performance, flow-conditioning. Part of the standard development cycle, the aim of this front wing update is to reduce further aero structure losses and their impact downstream, together with more flexibility on aero balance adjustment.”
We can see from the Giorgio Piola drawing comparison that the profile change of the bottom element ahead of the nose is more gentle (as the yellow line reference shows, with the old arrangement bottom).
As for the floor changes, Ferrari describe them as follows: “Revision of front floor fences, floor edge, mid floor and diffuser sidewall. Sidepod undercut re-designed to suit. Coming together with the front wing upgrade, the floor topology has been revised, focusing on mainly losses management and load distribution, which translates into a car efficiency increase.”
Aerodynamic surfaces can become overworked – at which point the airflow can detach from its intended route, given sudden decreases in downforce, contributing towards inconsistency. Often this comes as the car pitches, rolls or dives. Aerodynamicists often have to surrender on the optimum wind tunnel numbers in order to give better real-world characteristics which remain stable in different operating conditions and speed ranges. Changing the load distribution – as Ferrari describe – through different parts of the floor is probably chasing this greater consistency.
Ferrari have changed the profile of the fences which form the entry to the underfloor tunnels, directing the airflow for the best possible combination of volume, speed and consistency. This is all about using air pressure differentials to give the desired flow through the downforce-inducing tunnels. The guiding principle in these changes will have been Ferrari’s chase of consistency.
Looking at the car in profile (above), it can be seen that there are subtle changes to the way the forward part of the outer floor sweeps down from behind the front suspension. There were previously two steps at the top of the ‘barge board’ panel to induce vortices down the floor. Now there is only one, which may reduce the maximum power of the vortices but could make them less complex.
Although the SF23 has not been the greatest of recent Ferraris, it has its strengths and there is a very clear methodology apparent in how the team is going about eradicating its weaknesses.