Ferrari: Austin, 675 project, Power Unit & software token

Paolo D’Alessandro

Ferrari wasn’t able to approach the weekend program in an optimal way in Japan and fully test the new floor.
It isn’t a revolutionary component, because – talking about the budget cap – it wasn’t possible for the team to develop an entirely new element. Despite this, the engineers coordinated by Enrico Cardile (Head of Chassis Area) had the chance to update a few elements after a detailed data analysis from the Belgian Grand Prix, which saw the F1-75 struggle a lot for the first time.

The car is now running with an accentuated ride height and the goal now is to find downforce and limit the sliding. Better setups are currently needed, not much for Qualifying where the 2022 challenger never failed to perform, but with an eye on race day.

At Zandvoort we saw that the F1-75 was forced to use its tyres in a different way. During the weekend in Suzuka, the car gave better signals in terms of consistency on the slick tyres but couldn’t prove it on Sunday. The strategy to keep two new sets of medium tyres for the race could’ve helped verify this and maybe allowed the red cars to challenge at the front, but the risk of rain was quite high from the beginning of the weekend.

An improved correlation, now reliable for engineers, limited the damage after the introduction of the TD39. Despite the fact that from Maranello nobody admits it, before the summer break we saw a car that could attack the kerbs, specifically the chicanes, like no other car, and now tries to avoid them as much as possible. This happens in Qualifying and in the race, showing that this is a performance problem and not reliability related.

The aerodynamics of the Ferrari 675 (2023) are being outlined

Work doesn’t stop at Maranello: the aero design of the 675 is in its final stages. Just like he did in 2021, Binotto will miss the Mexican Grand Prix (and maybe others) in order to follow the final phases which are crucial for specific technical choices on next year’s car. This same approach definitely worked out a year ago.

Technicians must face the rule changes for 2023.

As previously announced, the 2023 challengers will seemingly run higher than the current cars, as a consequence they will have a less extreme ground effect due to the mandatory rise of the floor edge by 15mm compared to the current regulations. The most significant change, however, concerns the raise in height at the end of the Venturi channels, in the vent that sends flows towards the diffuser. This could significantly reduce the known suction effect and rear downforce. Front and rear wings will gain importance in creating downforce, with an increased percentage compared to the total load generated by the car.

Pirelli 2023 tyres

Mario Isola explained that the new tyres (which will be tested in Texas and in Mexico) are thought in order to fulfill two goals: provide less understeer and keep the tyre ‘deltas’ consistent between the compounds.
Pirelli haven’t only changed the fronts but all the set of tyres, including the rears. We know that the understanding of new tyres is crucial because the deformation of the tyre when it’s under stress, and in general its structure, influences aerodynamics quite significantly.

Power Unit

The most heated topic at the moment is the one regarding engines. 2022 showed that two aspects are crucial, we could say two faces of the same medal for Ferrari: a return to a good maximum power – even though it was never fully shown – and not one major reliability issue itself, but more like a series of minor issues.

With the technical DNF’s of Leclerc and Sainz, Ferrari lost around 120 points in the Constructors’ Championship.

According to what we were recently told, technicians have found the issue which caused the reliability problems. The decision was to work on every aspect of the power unit in order to update every element linked to the reliability. The cause wasn’t explained, but as we said earlier it’s more than one problem, some already taken into consideration, others not quite.

An influential source told us that “removing the issue is a puzzle”. Nonetheless Mattia Binotto didn’t insist on trying to find an immediate solution in the short term. On the other side he told engineers to start producing new parts to find a final solution even if this would have taken longer.

Enrico Gualtieri’s (Head of Power Unit Area) engineers started working on the test benches several months ago to develop the definitive version of the Internal Combustion Engine. These modifications will have to be homologated through the FIA for 2023.

We have received information that the power unit never showed its full power. Not even in Monza. In that occasion, engineers pushed the engine more than other races, but only during qualifying. Not a big step compared, for example, to Belgium. There is a significant margin that we haven’t seen. If the drivers could have used 100% of the power at Monza they could have challenged Verstappen. But nobody wants to see other failures and retirements. We have to keep in mind that caution on the use of the power unit wasn’t lacking after Barcelona and Baku, but Sainz still had an engine failure in Austria.

The 2022 power unit was never upgraded, but it was managed, how?

A further step concerns ‘software tokens’ for development. In 2022 the teams had five ‘software tokens’ and Ferrari will use the fifth in Austin. Every software token can be used to try to change power modulation and improve the tuning of the power unit. This disadvantages the maximum potential of the engine. In this regard Honda was able to improve performances and slowly catch Ferrari’s level. The token doesn’t necessarily require a change in control electronics (CE). A side effect which shouldn’t be underestimated is that an updated software can also help the management of ERS.

Engineers will only have one token available to them in 2023!

This limitation is expected to be an important limitation. Some engineers reveal that Ferrari, accepting the difficulties in terms of durability, has probably aimed to make definitive changes to exploit this limitation to their advantage. It will be important to come up with a rather elastic power modulation as the token upgrade will only be possible mid-year.

Will Leclerc change his ICE at Austin?

Leclerc’s sixth ICE was scheduled for the US Grand Prix. Nonetheless, with the last two races being ran under wet conditions and a sprint race at Suzuka, the power unit suffered less wear than expected. The idea is still there but it will depend on the competitiveness and, obviously, how the weekend will develop. The penalty could be postponed to Mexico, where every manufacturer expects a tough weekend.

The decision hasn’t been taken: Charles could wait or fit only a couple of elements – starting 5 or 10 positions behind – instead of starting from the back of the grid. In both cases we wouldn’t see it as a surprise.

Author: Giuliano Duchessa
Co-Author: Paolo D’Alessandro
Translation: Andrea Vergani