Mark Hughes on the causes of the speed deficit FerrariApril 21, 2019
After the winter tests, many called Ferrari a favorite of the season, but the first three races ended with three victorious doubles of Mercedes. British expert Mark Hughes analyzes the problems of the Italian team.
After the victorious double of Mercedes in China, Lewis Hamilton said: “We definitely show slightly better results than we expect.” He meant that although the Mercedes car is fast, Ferrari is not able to realize its potential.
On the one hand, everything is obvious. In Melbourne, Ferrari had a whole weekend with engine problems, in Bahrain, the team had to win a landslide victory, but the engine of Charles Lecler failed to operate the control electronics, which is why one of the cylinders failed. In China, Mercedes were just faster. But if you analyze the results more closely, then perhaps the picture will become clearer.
In Australia, Ferrari had problems not only with the power plant, although it is believed that the reason for the difficulties was that the engine cooled too much, which in turn was a consequence of the increased efficiency of the ERS cooling system – the problem was revealed even in the final days of the tests. An engineering solution to the problem would be ready only for the stage in Bahrain, so the team in Melbourne did not use the mode of increased engine power, except in the final qualification and on the circles before and after the pit stops in the race.
In addition, in Australia, Ferrari had problems with insufficiently effective aerodynamic balance of the car – the car did not have enough grip on the front wheels. Regardless of the settings, Sebastian Vettel and Charl Lecler lacked speed in three key slow corners – the first, the third and the thirteenth.
At the second stage in Bahrain, there were three significant changes. First, Ferrari solved the problems with the engine and were able to use the increased power mode, which we have already seen in the qualification in Melbourne. It is due to him that they got a noticeable advantage over Mercedes on the straights.
Secondly, in Bahrain, the rear tires are subjected to a very serious load, so all the teams have to compromise when choosing settings. As a result, in qualifying, the cars suffered more than usual understeer. As a result, compared to other rivals, Ferrari’s inherent understeer was not noticeable.
Thirdly, the track in Bahrain has traditionally been one of the weak points of Mercedes. The features of their car is that they load the rear tires more than others, which is why the team in Bahrain has more problems with rear tires than on other autodromes. In other words, Mercedes cars were less competitive than in Australia or China. But in Bahrain and Ferrari was not particularly fast, it just seemed faster against the background of Mercedes problems.
Let’s go back to how Ferrari worked with their cars in China. On Friday, they compared the larger and smaller rear wings, eventually choosing the option with a large rear wing. A good solution for a car that lacks downforce, except that a smaller rear wing provides better balance. As a result, Scuderia still managed to find a balance, but it led to a greater loss of lap time, which illustrates the magnitude of the problems of Ferrari. Mercedes cars are still more effective in slow corners than they use, compensating for the lack of speed on the straight.
Does all these problems mean that Ferrari will have to revise its aerodynamic philosophy of the front wing? If so, it will have a major impact on the rest of the car. Or will they be able to correct the aerodynamic imbalance within the framework of the existing concept? It seems that this is what Sebastian Vettel hopes for.
Ahead of us is the stage in Baku, where, as expected, Ferrari cars will be slow on the winding second sector of the highway and very fast on the direct first and third sectors. However, more significant will be the Grand Prix in Barcelona, where, the team is likely to bring new items, and we will be able to assess whether their car will allow to fight for the title in 2019th. In Formula 1, hope that Ferrari will succeed.
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