MPH: Has Ferrari found the silver bullet ahead of the French GP?

by Mark Hughes on 21st June 2019

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.


Related content


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.

Grand Prix Actual/place on grid With 0.398% correction/place on grid
Australia 1min 21.190sec/3rd 1min 20.870sec/3rd
Bahrain 1min 27.866sec/pole 1min 27.516sec/pole
China 1min 31.848sec/3rd 1min 31.484sec/pole
Azerbaijan 1min 40.797sec/3rd 1min 40.397sec/pole
Spain 1min 16.272sec/3rd 1min 15.972sec/2nd
Monaco 1min 10.947sec/4th 1min 10.668sec/4th
Canada 1min 10.240sec/pole 1min 09.960sec/pole

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…

 

LATEST ISSUE

October 2019
Brawn Supremacy
 

SUBSCRIBE

NEWSLETTERS

Sign up to our newsletters
The latest news, straight to your inbox – click below to sign up to the newsletter list.

SIGN UP

THE APP

The Motor Sport App
Carry Motor Sport with you, wherever you go. On iOS, Android and Kindle.

DOWNLOAD

Need to get in touch?


Contact Us