How Ferrari's progress was helped by an old idea

Giorgio Piola
·3 min read

And while an ongoing package of updates may never have been expected to deliver a dramatic change in form, the small steps it has brought have perhaps been enough to transform the picture in the midfield.

Ferrari has certainly shown itself willing to keep pushing hard and it gave itself plenty to do over the Portuguese Grand Prix weekend.

Ferrari SF1000 floor comparison

Ferrari SF1000 floor comparison<span class="copyright">Giorgio Piola</span>
Ferrari SF1000 floor comparisonGiorgio Piola

Giorgio Piola

Ferrari turned back the clock a bit this weekend. While many of the updates it has introduced over the last few races have featured new or ideas borrowed from others, the floor raced at Portimao had a returning feature - three diagonally placed fins on top of the floor slots ahead of the rear tyre.

Ferrari began to use this aerodynamic feature in 2019 (see right inset) and, although it abandoned the concept for 2020, it has subsequently found its way onto other cars up and down the grid, including the Mercedes and Red Bull.

For this year, Ferrari had instead focused their development on the fully enclosed holes in the floor, having introduced a new floor in Austria that featured more diagonal perforations, rather than the long ones used previously (see below).

It was hoped that in combination with the raised horizontal flap (see inset, upper left) that the fins wouldn't be required.

As we can see though (bottom right), the horizontal flap has now given way for the reintroduction of the three fin arrangement, with Leclerc's car fitted with a fully prepared version in carbon fibre, whilst Sebastian Vettel's floor had rapidly prototyped fins stitched into it.

Ferrari SF1000 floor detail with 2021 rules

Ferrari SF1000 floor detail with 2021 rules<span class="copyright">Giorgio Piola</span>
Ferrari SF1000 floor detail with 2021 rulesGiorgio Piola

Giorgio Piola

Ferrari know only too well that it battle to return to the front of the pack is not one that can be won immediately. So, rather than rush through developments that might need further conceptual changes down the line, it has embarked on a more measured approach, introducing parts that will likely have a benefit on the car going into next season too.

After all, with the 2021 regulation changes costing teams around 10% in downforce, anyone able to mitigate even some of that will have an advantage over their rivals.

With this in mind, Ferrari had a package of parts available in Portugal with which it wanted to collect data on. These parts complied with the 2021 regulations and featured a floor with the diagonal cut-out ahead of the rear tyres, narrower brake duct fins and shorter diffuser strakes.

Taking the time to assess these parts under real world conditions not only allows the drivers to offer feedback in terms of the difference in performance, but also provides the team with invaluable data that can be used to improve correlation with their simulation tools.

Interestingly, Ferrari's floor featured a scroll section just ahead of the rear tyre in order to roll up the airflow and disrupt the turbulence created by the tyre. This is a role usually undertaken by the slots in the region ahead of the tyre that will no longer be possible when the new rules come into force.

Ferrari SF1000 diffuser comparison

Ferrari SF1000 diffuser comparison<span class="copyright">Giorgio Piola</span>
Ferrari SF1000 diffuser comparisonGiorgio Piola

Giorgio Piola

Meanwhile, the diffuser used during this test had the shorter strakes for 2021, which must be more than 50mm above the reference plane. As a consequence, Ferrari installed three vertical strakes, rather than the two usually found mounted within the diffuser.