Ferrari finally found the right development path

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Scuderia Ferrari seems to have found the breakthrough with its development programme for its 2019 Formula One racing car after having lost its way following the troublesome start to the season. However, recent results showed that Ferrari has been successful in making changes to cure the shortcomings of its car.

The Maranello-based outfit is yet to win a race in 2019, its last triumph coming in the 2018 United States Grand Prix thanks to Kimi Räikkönen. Despite to various problems, Ferrari has performed well in some of the first nine races of the current season.

In Manama, Charles Leclerc was on course to clinch his first career victory before an engine-related issue slowed him down and only came in third. In Baku, the Monegasque controlled the race weekend until the second qualifying segment when he crashed his car into the barriers, forcing him to start the race from 16th. In Montreal, Sebastian Vettel finished first on the road, but a controversial post-race time-penalty denied him Canada victory. In Spielberg, Leclerc grabbed the pole position in an impressive way and fought for the victory until the final laps of the race before he was overtaken by Max Verstappen with three laps to go.

For the third race in a row, Ferrari will once again introduce a smaller package of new aerodynamic parts at this weekend’s British Grand Prix. Team principal Mattia Binotto confirmed that the team does not only want to increase the outright performance of the SF90, but it also wants to validate the success of recent development work.

"We are bringing a further small aerodynamic modification as we continue to push hard on the development of our car. The weekend will also be an opportunity to increase our understanding of the recent work we did, which has seen us close the gap to our competitors on specific types of track,” the Swiss-Italian said.

By highlighting the main stations of the development work carried out on its 2019 race car, we take a look at how Ferrari has reacted with upgrades after realizing that it had been carrying a performance deficit to Mercedes.

Azerbaijan Grand Prix

In Baku, Ferrari revealed the upgrades that marked the first development step for its SF90 Formula 1 car. As part of this package, the team debuted a revised set of bargeboards which featured new vertical elements on the slotted footplate to have more control of the airflow flying towards the back of the car. The floor was also modified with the engineers adding new turning fins ahead of the rear tyres to decrease drag.

As Ferrari’s concept builds on a low-drag philosophy, the team did not need to bring an extreme low downforce rear wing for the never-ending straights of the Baku race track, but it introduced a curved mainplane to it to tailor its rear wing a bit to meet the demands of the first street circuit of the 2019 season.

    - a revised set of bargeboards
    - a track-specific lower downforce rear wing
    - modified floor

Spanish Grand Prix

Barcelona saw Ferrari introducing its second significant upgrade package for its 2019 car including changes to the power unit, the engine cover and the front wing.

The new engine cover featured an aggressive notch, a cut-off behind the airbox section. The reshaped front wing featured revised endplate with more sweeping angle which helped drive more dirty air away around the front tyres. The team also brought forward its first engine upgrade to Spain to chase down early runaway leaders Mercedes. The PU modification included the introduction of new race fuel from Shell and a new internal combustion engine. Although the Scuderia only wanted to debut the second phase of its 2019 power unit at the Canadian Grand Prix, it managed to fast-track its development work in desperation.

    - changes to the front wing
    - revised engine cover
    - upgraded power unit
    - fuel upgrade

Canadian Grand Prix

For Canada, Ferrari’s long-time partner Brembo brought a track-specific upgrade for the braking system to achieve maximum efficiency on the fast Montreal track which tests the braking abilities of racing cars. The new carbon disc featured seven cooling holes in a chevron formation, totalling over 1400 holes. The mounting bells were also modified: two rectangular opening secured the required cooling demands.

The team also brought a revised rear wing which seeme to be in a similar specification to the win run in Baku. Due to the low-drag philosophy of the SF90, Ferrari did not need an extreme low downforce rear wing for the long straight of the Canadian track. The Baku/Montreal-spec rear wing saw the outboard sections having been raised to reduce the overall frontal area.

In Montreal, Ferrari made its power unit upgrade complete which it started in Spain back in May. The Scuderia originally planned to introduce the second-spec 2019 PU in Canada, but in a quest for quick improvements, it brought the introduction of the new internal combustion engine forward. In Canada, the team completed the first upgrade to 2019 power unit by debuting a new motor generator unit-heat and turbocharger.

    - revised carbon brake disc
    - upgraded power unit
    - modified rear wing

French Grand Prix

As cooling is less problematic on the Paul Ricard circuit with only two heavy braking zones, Brembo brought a dics with only six holes in a chevron formation. On top of that, inspired by Mercedes, the disc was characterized by a scalloped surface to decrease the weight of the cooling system. It allowed Ferrari to have a better front response, an area where the team has been suffering with its car since the start of the season.

A much more important upgrade was presented by the modified front wing. The upper wing elements have had their shape altered. While the team stick to its outwash design in contrast to Mercedes’ high downforce front wing, the Maranello-based outfit installed a new steeper upper element to generate more downforce in order to gain front grip. The new rear wing also featured a new shorter endplate with a rearward cutout. On the footplate, a new triangular fence appeared which helped divert air outboard and a small vertical Gurney-element was added to the rear end of the footplate, as well.

The team also tested a modified floor which four vertical vanes sitting along its trailing edge. This should have enabled Ferrari to have a better control of the air flying over the top surface of the floor, but it resulted in instability, forcing the team to abandon to use it.

    - a new front wing
    - revised front brake - a modified floor

Austrian Grand Prix

The Maranello-based outfit debut a reshaped set of turning vanes under the chassis and the nose of the SF90. While various elements of this complex configuration were revised, the most significant change affected the horizontal leading element which was given a forward-reaching extension. According to Charlec Leclerc, the new configuration increased the downforce level generated on the front of the car, curing the understeery nature of the SF90.

Ferrari gave its new floor a second try which it first used in the practice sessions for the French Grand Prix. The team only tested it for a few laps and decided to delay its introduction, but team principal Mattia Binotto confirmed that his engineers found the answers why it did not work in Austria at its debut. It is expected to make appearance in the coming weeks.

    - new turning vanes
    - track-specific brake disc