Ferrari targeting 3 to 5 tenths lap time gain amid maximum engine power
A technical analysis of the Ferrari SF-23. One goal: to win
Last week, the new single-seater built by Ferrari for the 2023 Formula 1 world championship took to the track on its home circuit in Fiorano. A challenger that now officially passes from being project 675 to being the car that will attempt to bring the title back to Maranello after 14 years.
SF-23 is the name assigned by the team for a car represents a strong evolution of the F1-75. The colour has slightly changed, embellished by the vintage “Ferrari” logo on the rear wing that was so popular on the occasion of the special celebration livery used for the 2022 Italian Grand Prix at Monza. Hundreds of people have been working in Maranello to try and give Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz a weapon that should allow them to fight against exceptional teams like Red Bull and Mercedes. A challenge that will of course be very difficult, full of pressure but certainly the a very fascinating one.
In a recent article for corriere.it, Italian journalist and Formula 1 expert Giuliano Duchessa provides a detailed analysis of the key area that Ferrari has focused on ahead of the 2023 Formula 1 season, as the SF-23 challenger will hit the track for the first real run in just a few days, when the winter pre-season testing sessions begins at the Bahrain International circuit.
2022 has shown that the new SF-23 designed by the Maranello technicians will not be able to do without reliability. The F1-75 was strong and Charles Leclerc in particular had shown that he was at Max Verstappen’s level in terms of speed in qualifying and consistency in the race. However, even before the summer, the race for the title was already compromised, if not over. After the technical failures suffered by the power unit, the technicians were forced to use 20 horsepower less in the second part of the season, to avoid further issues with the engine.
The engineers led by the former team principal Mattia Binotto and the current Head of PU Department Enrico Gualtieri chose to favor performance at the expense of reliability. According to Giuliano Duchessa, work on the dyno began last summer, when the cause of the technical failures had been understood, and it was important. They concerned among other things the oscillation of the turbo due to bouncing. According to some engineers, the last “long runs” on the dyno were performed at maximum power, which is equivalent to something ranging from 3 to 5 tenths in terms of lap time gain depending on the track. If the SF-23 is able to raise its power in qualifying and above all in the race, it will have an important weapon, perhaps the best because the tenths gained through power are not affected by any aerodynamic limitation.
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The SF-23 is a refined evolution of the F1-75 and is the result of the choices made with Mattia Binotto at the helm of the team. The technical office had already stopped development after the last update in the French GP. The technical directive 39 introduced in Belgium by the FIA to limit bouncing had created headaches for many teams (not Red Bull), which suggested using the car to collect useful data, without diverting important resources from the SF-23. Seeing the car, it is clear that in Maranello once again they have not copied anyone but continued the development interrupted on the F1-75.
The push rod layout was confirmed with the steering rod incorporated into the upper triangle arm with a completely revised surveyor. Even through we clearly see less conservative suspension mechanics, Ferrari has certainly attempted to solve its biggest problem in recent years. Ferrari has been seriously limited when a lot of front load was needed to avoid slipping. In this sense, the new Pirelli 2023 tires could also help by offering more grip than last season. However, we will see the most clear proof when the SF-23 will run on intermediate tyres. In these conditions of little grip the mechanical aspects will count more than the aerodynamics, we will understand the progress made in a key area that we have seen can weigh within a very long world championship. The F1-75 even at the peak of performance did not manage to challenge Max Verstappen on intermediates.
Sidepods, engine cover and “fish tanks”
The designers led by Enrico Cardile and David Sanchez continued the evolution of the so-called “goldfish tanks”. A revised evolution thanks to the new power unit cooling package with the primary objective of reducing drag at high speeds without losing load or creating areas of turbulence towards the rear tyres. Not only has the area around the sidepods and towards the diffuser been freed up, but also behind the driver. The engine cover appears really ultra slim, which shows another important evolution regarding the cooling system, which is now more compact. The vertical intakes under the sidepods are interesting while the design of the conveyors seems to have been updated.
It is the most crucial and difficult area to discover. The FIA has modified the regulations for this season by asking the technicians to raise the outer edges and throat of the diffuser. It had something of an impact because the bulk of the aerodynamic load comes from what we can define as the “suction” effect of the floor. At high speeds the car lowers creating a strong pressure zone under the floor which keeps it glued to the track. By raising the basic heights it is clear that this capacity tends to decrease but at the same time it leads to less porpoising. If the Ferrari technicians have found a good solution, the SF-23 will be able to be competitive in the fastest corners without having to stiffen the car and therefore lose time in the slow corners.
The rear suspension is now multilink, the pull rod layout has been maintained and evolved. However, according to Giuliano Duchessa, it now appears to be able to guarantee greater speeds at high speeds by allowing the car to sit more, cutting drag.
At a time when Formula 1 offers many races and few tests, computer simulation has earned an essential role. For many years Ferrari’s factory correlation did not have the accuracy of the competition. This is why the engineers found themselves every year with a performance on the track which was 2/3 tenths worse than the simulations. With the work done two years ago and the installation of new dynamic test benches and the latest generation simulator, Ferrari has returned to an important level with the F1-75. Despite the porpoising suffered in 2022, the tuning between the track and algorithms using fluid-dynamic computation has been improved, with greater knowledge of track behavior and the data collected. An invisible but very effective step forward is also expected from the beautiful SF-23 in terms of set-up options to be offered to Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz this season.