“It’s not an easy place for the whole team right now,” said Charles Leclerc this week.
A year ago he had celebrated his first Grand Prix victory at Ferrari’s home race in Monza. This is supposed to be their “easy place”. This victory will not happen again.
“Of course we are not where we want to be, but I am confident that we have the right people to get back to where we want to be,” added Leclerc.
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You may have the right people, but they don’t have the right mechanical parts right now – and they won’t for some time.
Mercedes was the engine king for years. That was the rule of thumb. Everything else was up for grabs, but if you had a drag race the Merc-powered car would win every time.
Since the advent of the hybrid in Formula 1, the transition from a 2.4-liter V8 to a 1.6-liter V6 with a battery attached and an engine recovery system (ERS) to make sure the cars are are more efficient, Mercedes has dominated processes.
That changed in the summer of 2018 when, according to GPS data, they took a big step forward and even improved 38 horsepower. The eyebrows rose at such a sudden and sharp acceleration in progress. The tongues in the paddock began to wag.
They also started waving at FIA headquarters, and the idea that the Ferrari power pack, which uses two batteries to store electrical energy instead of one, was out of line with the rules. They installed an additional sensor to ensure that energy was used fairly, and it did little to interfere with or contain Ferrari.
F1 Today: Ferrari will be happy to return to Monza with empty grandstands without anyone witnessing their embarrassment
Before the race is about the next Ferrari driver Lewis Hamilton could reach (Photo: Getty).
In 2019, their engine dominance continued, although Mercedes recorded gains in other areas such as aerodynamics and was able to extend the course of the constructors’ competitions. In 2020 Ferrari found that they were surpassed in terms of aerodynamics and engine performance. They had moved from a ding-dong battle to a walkover.
The decisive moment had come last year at the US Grand Prix. The FIA has issued a technical guideline that prohibits certain settings relating to fuel flow and is strictly regulated. Ferrari’s rivals claimed the team developed a system to hold the fuel in the car in a different way, thereby getting the sensor to register the correct numbers.
The team adamantly denied that this guideline caused a sudden drop in straight-line speed, but team principal Mattia Binotto insisted it was some experimental setting: “This weekend a compromise between grip limit and power limit was made postponed. as a test on our side to try to match [Mercedes’] Cornering “.
However, as the season progressed, Ferrari continued to “experiment” with the setup and confirmed this suspicion. The FIA eventually admitted it had completed an engine analysis and “reached an agreement” with Ferrari. Amazingly, they said they would keep the results a secret and released a vague statement that Ferrari is “agreeing to a series of technical commitments that will improve the monitoring of all Formula 1 engines”. Essentially a nonprofit punishment.
The teams remained angry that Ferrari might have broken the rules and openly covered them up. Even now, the team is still blocking details from being published for reasons of intellectual property and the paddock is still advocating openness for the sake of sporting integrity.
An alternative to Ferrari’s speed problems? (Photo: AP)
Even if Ferrari is innocent and the smoke and mirrors around this mysterious settlement hide nothing as sinister as a rule violation, they can’t deny that they are catastrophically slow in 2020. They are on their way to their worst end in the Constructors’ Championship since 1981.
It was a perfect storm for Ferrari. Speed in Formula 1 is rarely limited to one element, and the aerodynamic concept of a car is always based, among other things, on how fast it goes, thanks in part to the engine. So Ferrari designed a car that would turn corners quickly, assuming that the engine would take the car off the straights. Now they have a high drag car, as Fernando Alonso might call it a GP2 engine.
Leclerc drove a circuit with his engineers on Thursday. It was perhaps his most efficient lap of the weekend.
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