There’s a rumour in the paddock that Ferrari has found an aero glitch that has been costing it 0.3sec per lap. Mark Hughes examines how much this may have cost the team already
Has an aero error been costing Ferrari 0.3sec per lap? Photo: Motorsport Images
The talk of the moment at Ricard is all about whether or not the FIA will review Sebastian Vettel’s 5sec penalty that he received at the Canadian Grand Prix and what might happen if it does. But in many ways, that’s almost irrelevant. As Vettel himself said in Montreal after he’d calmed down, “One win more, or one win less, for either of us doesn’t really matter very much.” It’s more about how, in the future, F1 addresses the deeper issue the incident highlighted. Given that Vettel is not realistically in title contention, the official result in Canada – as opposed to the across the line result – is of significance only to statistic fetishists.
Actually, potentially of far more importance to Ferrari and Vettel might just be an entirely unrelated piece of intelligence buzzing around the paddock about a small but hugely significant glitch that may have been discovered in the Ferrari’s aero mapping.
Ferrari brings a new front wing here and, it is rumoured, simulation testing of it revealed an anomaly that, when traced back, showed up a fundamental error in the car’s aero mapping that has been there all season. When the real world error was replicated in the simulator, a test driver found the car was 0.3sec slower around Barcelona. The implication being that the car has been carrying 0.3sec-worth of mapping error for all seven races. That 0.3sec difference, apparently, pretty much tallies with the discrepancy between simulator and reality the team has been experiencing. Is this the SF90’s silver bullet that Ferrari had despaired of ever finding? Let’s see, but there is a certain suppressed excitement about the combined effect of the correction and the upgrade coming into this weekend.
The Ferrari was much further than 0.3sec adrift of Mercedes around Barcelona (the qualifying gap being a massive 0.866sec), but that was the furthest off the pace the car has been all season to date. If correcting the error translates to a similar saving at other tracks, it would certainly have lent the Scuderia’s season to date a very different complexion, with four poles rather1m 21.190s/3rd on grid than two.
Three-tenths around Barcelona represents 0.398 per cent of the pole position lap time. If we make the same percentage reduction at each of the races so far we get the following.
||Actual/place on grid
||With 0.398% correction/place on grid
Of course, this is all theoretical and based on nothing more than rumour. But it’s simply to illustrate the magnitude of difference to the season such an error may have made – and thereby giving us an indication of how significant finding those missing 0.3sec (if indeed they have been found) might make in the remaining two-thirds of the season. If such an error has been made it would represent a fairly catastrophic processing breakdown within the team. But better that than a fundamentally slow car.
We begin to find out in qualifying tomorrow. But Paul Ricard’s configuration is not particularly favourable to the Ferrari’s low-drag concept (unlike Baku and Montreal) and in its demands is quite similar to Barcelona – Ferrari’s worst track of the season to date. So even if it’s somewhere close to the silver cars, it would be an exciting development not only for Ferrari, but for the sport itself. Of course, this is all theoretical and based on nothing more than rumour. But it’s simply to illustrate the magnitude of difference to the season such an error may have made – and thereby giving us an indication of how significant finding those missing 0.3sec (if indeed they have been found) might make in the remaining two-thirds of the season. If such an error has been made it would represent a fairly catastrophic processing breakdown within the team. But better that than a fundamentally slow car.
So has Ferrari found the silver bullet? Or does the only silver bullet still have a three-pointed star on its nose? Let’s see…