Ferrari has begun to put valuable mileage on a major update package it first brought to Austria as it bids to get its SF1000 nearer the front of the grid.
Its qualifying performance at the Hungarian Grand Prix has given it some cause for optimism that it is now on the right track, but it is still under no illusions that much more development is needed if it is going to threaten Mercedes at the front of the grid.
Ferrari’s task to push forward with improving the car is complicated, however, by the development token system that F1 has put in place for the next two years.
In a bid to reduce costs, the FIA and the team have agreed to effectively freeze the current generation of cars for the next two seasons.
While there is freedom to produce aerodynamic updates, the core components of the chassis cannot be modified – with teams only allowed to effectively change one main item in to 2021.
For Ferrari that could complicate its push forward because it is believed that one of the main focuses for its efforts to reduce drag now revolves around the central part of the car – and especially the radiator layout and sidepod packaging that is covered under the token system.
The internal layout of the SF1000 has, until this point, seen the various cooler and radiators all moved into the sidepod, with a stacked arrangement conceived by Ferrari’s designers as a way of tidying up the airflow as it goes around the back of the powerunit.
But it appears this gamble has not paid off. For while it has improved packaging, it has also created a sort of aerodynamic blockage that has an impact on the car’s straightline speed.
This drag penalty on top of the powerunit losses Ferrari has accrued since the FIA’s sanctions has left it considering a change to the car’s architecture.
One option could be for it to revert to a similar, and more classical style of radiator, like Mercedes.
Teams have until next week to notify the FIA of any changes they intend to make for 2021, and team principal Mattia Binotto has said the team has chosen where it will deploy its tokens.
Speaking about the token system, Binotto admitted that his team would have preferred the ability to totally redevelop its car – but he understood why the cost cutting move had been put in place.
“We cannot be fully happy because, if you look where we are as Ferrari, our intention would have been to fully develop,” he said.
“But we understand the point and I think that’s part of the compromises that have been taken during this period. So that’s what we’ve got. We’ve chosen our tokens.”
Ferrari's frustrations in having to choose where it spends those tokens has probably further fuelled its unease over the fact that a loophole in the rules allows Racing Point to upgrade to Mercedes' 2020 suspension and gearbox next year without having to spend any tokens.
The current update
The changes made for the second race in Austria mainly focus on correcting the wake turbulence created by the tyres, with changes made during 2019 to help increase downforce now being overturned.
The front wing’s footplate has been altered, returning to an arc shape, rather than the flatter square profile.
A change in the flap’s geometry has also been made which will alter how the airflow moves across and around the front tyre, reshaping the wake created behind.
Interestingly Ferrari has opted not to use the new front wing in Hungary though and has switched back to the older specification, likely due to it being able to generate a little more front end grip.
At the rear of the car, the fully enclosed holes in the floor have been altered too, with the longitudinal ones shortened and nine angled slots used ahead of the rear tyre, rather than four.
These changes have a bearing on the aerodynamic seal created on the floor’s edge and the behaviour of the turbulence created by the rear tyre , and how that impinges on the performance of the diffuser.
The drivers seemed happier with the balance of the car during the second race weekend in Austria, with these alterations perhaps rounding off some of the sharp aerodynamic edges that have been making the car difficult to drive.