The new Ferrari SF-23 is a direct evaluation of last year’s machine and does not include any significant change from the F1-75’s aerodynamic philosophy.
Before understanding the reason for this choice, it can be identified that the Ferrari SF-23 is the car that differs most aerodynamically from all the other cars presented, which often converged significantly with Red Bull’s design.
Leaving aside Haas, who have close ties with Ferrari, most of the other teams have opted for what is referred to as ” body down-washing”.
The trend that has made many 2023 cars converge relates to the elongated sides sloping towards the rear, which brings the air to the upper part of the diffuser and to the critical area between the diffuser and the shoulder of the rear tyres.
Simultaneously, this creates space for the flow above the sidepods by moving the hood vents to the height of the exhaust.
If we look at all the single-seaters from a rear perspective, Ferrari and Haas are the most similar in terms of the mechanics in the upper rear area, an aspect that generally characterized Ferrari-powered cars last season.
However, the decision from most teams to converge towards Red Bull’s direction does not directly imply that the Ferrari aerodynamic layout should be rejected. Rather, it suggests the Red Bull design is easier to implement.
Ferrari still strongly believes in its concept and keeps the cooling low, helping the SF-23’s centre of gravity
Last year we could categorize three macro-philosophies of cars in terms of aerodynamics, carried out by Red Bull, Ferrari and Mercedes.
The latter, with the new W14, no longer has an aerodynamic design that is completely distinct from the other two top teams and will get even closer with the upgrade packages planned for the first half of the season.
Hamilton and Russell’s new weapon combines the two interpretations (from Red Bull and Ferrari) in how airflow is managed throughout the car, albeit with inlets in its sidepods that remain unique – in addition to vertical cooling vents.
However, as far as the upper part of the bodywork is concerned, Mercedes now has an aerodynamic imprint markedly in the direction of Red Bull. The W14’s bonnet showcased a “tray” shape, albeit more contained than other cars, which directs airflow under the edge of the rear wing, and large rear vents.
At Ferrari, however, it was decided to keep the entire upper part of the car clean. On both the F1-75 and the SF-23, it was decided to direct airflow as freely as possible from obstacles in the direction of the rear wing and the beam wing.
It is no coincidence that last year the F1-75 was often talked about as the car that generated the greatest rear downforce and which, after the update brought to Silverstone by Red Bull, has become more front-limited than the RB18.
This included a strong and crucial synergy with the Power Unit department in the placement of the radiator cores, which are allocated to the sides of the car, in the sidepods, and only partially at the rear of the SF-23.
The triangular grip under the t-cam is a direct consequence of this, a factor that had already been introduced the first time on the SF90, also with the aim of lowering the centre of gravity.
Since the cooling layout is all placed in the lower part, to let the SF-23 cool, Ferrari still had to adopt a large number of slits along the bodywork, which “blow” right along the belly tanks.
This is one of the main reasons why the other teams cannot adopt the close-fitting car bodies but instead have to open up the rear bodywork. The situation for Alfa Romeo is slightly different, a team equipped with a Ferrari Power Unit. However, the Hinwil-based squad opted for a cooling layout independent of Ferrari.
The additional air intake in the C43’s air scope is clear proof of this: part of the exchangers are located in the upper part of the Power Unit, and thus the direction taken was downward.
Ferrari hopes to correct F1-75’s ‘defects’: Four Power units are planned, with the turbocharger a ‘delicate’ element
The F1-75 proved it could compete with the Red Bull RB18 until the power unit let it down. The important detuning compromised part of the balance, as well as an even more direct disadvantage – due to a significant reduction in power.
Last year’s Belgian GP was most telling about the performance of the Italian car, following the introduction of the DT39 – which no longer allowed the F1-75 to exploit a ‘suspension’ aid to the real mechanics from the lower part of the floor.
The question, therefore, is – why should Ferrari abandon this concept?
The consensus in Maranello is that – with the improved engine reliability and a car in line with limitations imposed by the FIA - the SF-23 is an excellent foundation to compete with Red Bull and Mercedes.
On the power unit side, Maranello is undoubtedly satisfied with the innovations that will be brought to the track:
“Last season, reliability was our Achilles heel, so our main goal for 2023 was to reach the level we set for ourselves”, explained Gualteri – head of Ferrari’s power unit department.
The signals are certainly interesting. We have already discussed this area in recent weeks, with the head of Ferrari’s engine department and Fred Vasseur touching on the team’s power unit at the presentation of the SF-23.
Test runs are back to full power. However, there are some issues – although they do not worry Ferrari’s technicians excessively, at least for now.
This analysis will be verified on the track, with the current area of weakness said to be the turbocharger unit.
“We are having some positive feedback on the dyno regarding some modifications produced, but as usual, the track will tell us if we have done a good job,” Gualtieri explained.
The Italian team has already planned to use four engines across the 23 races this year, something that can be linked to Fred Vassuer’s previous comments, where he defined finishing the season with three engines as “a challenge.”
From the perspective of aerodynamic efficiency, even if there hasn’t been any upheaval, important refinement has taken place along the SF23’s sidepods.
Both the upper part, where the tank is, and the entire lower edge have undergone slimming work, giving the Ferrari sidepods a more rounded and less squared shape.
The undercut is the area that has undergone the most changes, which works in synergy with the important work done on the front of the Italian car.
The aerodynamicists from Maranello, led by Cardile, dug further under the mouth of the radiators, both front and rear, leaving the lower anti-intrusion cone open to the air, which Ferrari continues to keep in a sufficiently raised position to leave the Venturi channels free and improve airflow.
The interventions on the undercut were also designed to take the brand new system called “S-Duct” (explanation here).
This system passes to the sides of the chassis and radiator and has the important function of bringing the air to the upper part of the belly of the Ferrari SF-23.
This energizes the airflow expelled from the slots for the reasons mentioned in the first part of the article. This increase in the speed of the airflow, which goes towards the lower part of the rear wing and the beam wing, has the important consequence of increasing the aerodynamic load at the rear of the Italian car.
But there is a secondary function, more associated with the input of the system, which is to eliminate some losses and turbulence in that part of the car.
By improving the flow in that area, there is also better airflow quality around the sidepods, consequently increasing the load in the central and rear parts of the single-seater.
Conclusions can only be drawn on track, but Maranello has full confidence in its aerodynamic concept. This is positive and goes against the trend in an increasingly limited, restricted and technically frozen Formula 1.
Co Author: Giuliano Duchess
Translation: Jaden Diaz-Ndisang