Mixed feelings at Ferrari after the debut of its upgrade package

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F1 Grand Prix, GP France, Circuit Paul Ricardfr

After turning up with a raft of upgraded parts for the Friday practice sessions in France, Ferrari was left with mixed feelings about the improvements which the new upgrade package brought to the car performance.

Ferrari found out early in the season that its 2019 challenger, the SF90 carries a significant deficit to Mercedes’ W10 through the corners. The difference lies in the differing aerodynamic concept. While Ferrari stuck to its low-drag concept which it introduced in 2018 for the first time, Mercedes concentrated on generating as much downforce as possible, sacrificing the top-speed of its car. After the first seven races, it seems that the latter aerodynamic package is turning out to be the better choice as it has helped Mercedes to get the best out of Pirelli’s 2019-spec tyres which feature a thinner surface.

Despite realizing its issues with its car, Ferrari has left its SF90 almost unchanged since the Spanish Grand Prix. However, the Maranello-based was busy with working on a series of updates to its car and it presented the first step during the Friday free practice sessions in France. The Italian outfit also found out while working on the new front wing endplate that the aerodynamic correlation between the track and the windtunnel may also be unreliable as the simulation provided the engineers with wrong data.

Outwash versus downforce

For the French Grand Prix, Ferrari developed a new front wing. On the modified wing, the curvature has been changed as the mainplane transitions downwards at a later point and the outboard section slopes downward less drastically. It indicates that Ferrari wants to produce more downforce with the wing.

However, this change of curvature triggered the need of a series of further modifications. The change of the mainplane and flaps shows a clear step towards Mercedes’ concept. Ferrari was achieving the outwash effect with its extreme curvature, but with the steeper flaps, they are trying to regain this through modified endplates. The new one features a rectangular cutout at the top section to drive more air away around the front face of the tyre.

The team also introduced a new floor which features four additional fins across its leading edge to encourage more air flying over the top of the floor to avoid contact with the front face of the rear tyres. Ferrari also worked on the wheel hubs which now feature three multi-element fins instead of five simple ones.

Back-to-back tests

The two Ferrari drivers, Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc completed a series of back-to-back tests with the old and new front wing. Both of them were running a few laps with one version of the front wing before diving into the pits to get the other specification to do a comparision in almost identical track and weather conditions.

After the first analysis, Ferrari’s team principal Mattia Binotto labelled the results gained through the test as “mixed”. It is not known whether the mixed feelings relate to the correlation issues or to the fact that the new part did not deliver the expected results. Ferrari has now a night to analyse the data back in the factory in Maranello before it commits to the older or the new package for the remainder of the weekend.