The Ferrari update secrets revealed by Vettel’s crash

Getting a close-up look at the fine details of a Formula 1’s car design can be a tricky business, especially in areas where the crowded aerodynamic structures make it easy to hide things.

However, on a weekend when Ferrari introduced some minor updates that it hopes will help unlock more performance from its car in the future, some of the finer aspects of its SF1000 were spotted after Sebastian Vettel crashed in qualifying.

With the front wing ripped from his car, it offered onlookers a chance to stop aspects of its complex nose and cape area that were not so obvious before.

Ferrari had been clear before the weekend that the changes seen on the SF1000 during the Russian Grand Prix weekend would be small and were not a total fix for some of the more fundamental flaws with this year’s challenger.

And while the Sochi changes may be more about understanding in which direction the team needs to go, the package of parts installed were quite extensively different.

At the front of the car, Ferrari continues to use the wider bodied nose design that it has sported since 2016, with the introduction of the thumb style nose tip that’s used to meet the regulatory restraints.

It is in contrast to what Mercedes has done, which is utilise a more bulbous tip and very narrow pillars that transition into a more slender body, allowing more room for the ‘cape’ solution mounted to its underside.


However, in an attempt to use its central section of the car in a similar way, Ferrari added a plough to its nose solution at the Singapore Grand Prix last season. This promoted a different flow structure underneath in order to alter the car’s behaviour, perhaps putting a little more load on the front axle at the same time too.

Ferrari SF1000 nose inlet detail

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

For Russia, the nose and plough have been modified slightly in order to improve flow through what have become inlets beside the thumb style tip.

The leading edge of the plough is now slightly lower to help draw flow through the inlets (left), whilst altering how the airflow and associated pressures build beneath the surface too.


 

Meanwhile, Ferrari’s continued use of this nose and plough combination means the team still utilises a complex turning vane structure that mounts to both the rear-end of the nose and the underside of the chassis.

Comparatively speaking, the solution used by Mercedes has its cape start further back and as such, drape down into the section occupied by the turning vanes on the SF1000.

Now, had it not been for Vettel’s accident during qualifying, some of the changes in this region might have gone unnoticed, as the accident damage made it much easier to see that portion of the car as it lay on the recovery truck.

Added to the footplate of the chassis portion of the turning vanes are three rows of ‘crooked finger vanes’, each of which arches over at the top to form an L-shaped surface (inset, red arrow).


It’s a feature that shares some commonality with partner team Haas, which introduced a similar arrangement at the Spanish GP in 2019, whilst Red Bull has also added a single vane on top of its cape in this region too.

Ferrari SF1000 rear wing endplate comparison

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

A new rear wing design was installed on the Ferrari last weekend too and features some strands of the Mercedes design DNA.

The endplate’s upper rear cutout now features serrated edges, whilst the thickness of the endplate beneath has been reduced in order that the upwash strikes can have a more commanding role.

Meanwhile, the straked section that hangs out over the limit of the regulatory bounding box now features just two fully enclosed holes, rather than the six slots that perforated that section previously.

Ferrari appears to have identified some of the troublesome areas of the SF1000’s design and made some changes to help in the short-term until more robust upgrades can arrive.

We should start to see the green shoots of progress during the second half of this season. But the real work will likely be going into improving its chances for 2021, when it will deploy its development tokens and have a new power unit, fuel and lubricants that should help restore some of the horsepower that its current package lacks.

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