Ferrari SF-23: Rivals ask FIA to clarify legality of Ferrari S-Duct

F1’s Maranello-based squad had no issue in presenting some of the more innovative aerodynamic solutions on the Ferrari SF-23 during their 2023 launch.

One of the most prominent features were the air ducts in the sidepods  – using the well-known S-Duct concept and transforming it into a slightly different design to optimise airflow towards the car’s rear.

This is relevant to the air that reaches the lower part of the car, as well as the air sent towards the rear wing and the beam wing.

There is no denying that the numbers coming out of the Ferrari’s wind tunnel over winter have been very positive. This is no surprise, especially considering that development for the SF-23 has been in full swing since last summer.

The S-Duct is quite a complex solution for Ferrari’s rivals to replicate since it concerns the design of the chassis and internal aspects of the car. Additionally, it is linked to the fundamental concept of the single-seater.

It should be noted that other teams have less need to energise airflow in that area because, aside from the hottest races of the year, they don’t need to open slits in the central area of ​​the car.

This is thanks to having cars with far greater openings in the rear end.

At the beginning of 2021, Maranello’s technicians evaluated various ideas, discarding the ‘zeropods’ conceptas it was considered less effective – or at least more complex to understand and develop.

The aerodynamicists continued to pursue what became a relatively unique direction, taken up for obvious reasons by Haas- but not by Alfa Romeo/Sauber.

Many solutions for 2023, considered unprecedented for this generation of cars, were already being studied last season. Ferrari began to develop new ideas after last year’s French GP when improvements on the F1-75 were abandoned.

This means that, at a very early stage, updates that could have been introduced last year were instead pushed for this season.

“We will have two or three very interesting solutions on the SF-23, a couple more hidden”, a Ferrari technician informed us in a conversation we had a few weeks ago.

Ferrari’s S-Duct: The FIA has received requests for clarification 

According to what has learned, the FIA has informed Ferrari about receiving requests from teams for clarification on the S-Duct.

In a season where there will be many requests for clarifications from the teams, this is a relatively routine process for the FIA’s technical team.

Evidently, it was not only the press that identified Ferrari’s new integrated solution.

S-Duct Ferrari

The other teams on the grid are very interested in the FIA’s clarification of this innovation, not only regarding its legality but also in understanding more details (from the FIA) that will help them study Ferrari’s particular solution.

In last season’s tests, for example, there was plenty of discussion about staying in the spirit of the new regulations.

Despite this, many solutions that contradicted the ‘spirit’ of the regulations appeared, which captured the attention of some technicians.

An example was the appendices mounted on the Mercedes W13, which was at the centre of discussions – although never officially contested. At Ferrari, they are certain that the solutions adopted on the SF-23 are fully within the rules.

The SF-23 completed its 100km at Fiorano with a surprising medium-load wing.

The Italian team had their first real taste of the track at their home circuit (Fiorano), showing a surprising first aerodynamic configuration. 

Whilst the change was not revolutionary, it is still curious that the new Ferrari machine featured a medium-load wing with a 2022 specification, which appeared for the first time in Canada with Leclerc.

This specification was then widely used on the F1-75, albeit at circuits with very different characteristics to Fiorano – requiring more than a medium-high load. Typically, the use of heavily loaded elements is expected at shakedowns.

S-Duct Ferrari

There are two scenarios: Ferrari might have a high-load wing for Sakhir that they didn’t want to show, so they opted to fit the old Bahrain specification.

Alternatively, the SF-23 may use wings with less load. The pre-season tests and first round in Bahrain will help clarify if the SF-23 can increase airflow towards the rear of the car with less load.

That would be a positive development, but it should be clarified that it would be surprising to see the same specification used in Bahrain.

The Bahrain circuit is certainly rear-limited, where maximum solidity is required at the rear.

It would seem more appropriate to use this alternative front wing at Jeddah, where last year’s F1-75 used a more loaded wing and paid the price for the lower efficiency of its DRS system compared to Red Bull.

In any case, Ferrari has recently landed in Bahrain where, during testing, they will seek the long-awaited confirmation regarding their correlation, which is checked whenever cars take to the track.

As for the Ferrari line-up, there are no surprises: Leclerc and Sainz will take turns driving every day, much like Haas.

Red Bull and Williams have divided the running between their drivers slightly differently, with Verstappen and Perez each having one full day in the car – before splitting running on one day. 

Author: Giuliano Duchess

Co Author: Piergiuseppe Donadoni

Translation: Jaden Diaz-Ndisang