Why the aerodynamic failures of the F14 T have led to a power vacuum at Ferrari
Sky F1's Mark Hughes on the problems and blood-letting at Ferrari as the team consider the complex deficiencies of their radical F14 T...
Last Updated: 28/04/15 12:05pm
Rumours continue to rumble that the blood-letting at Ferrari is not yet over, following the disappointing form of the 2014 F14 T model.
Engine boss Luca Marmorini has already departed his position even though Ferrari refuses to officially confirm as much. It’s expected that at least one other high level technical man will be a casualty in the near future.
“We must understand what this second place represents,” said team boss Marco Mattiacci of Fernando Alonso’s great result in Hungary. "The strengths of the other teams were diluted because of the weather conditions and the specifics of the track. It was motivating, but we need to manage carefully the enthusiasm for second and sixth place.”
After several years of producing relatively conservative designs, Ferrari actually went quite radical with the format of the F14 T. Details of its layout are only now coming to light – and it’s clear that an extreme aerodynamic package was at the heart of the design, but that this emphasis has led to compromises in the format of the power unit. The overall balance between the conflicting packaging demands of the hybrid power unit and the aerodynamics has turned out not to be correct in a season that is being technically dominated by the very different Mercedes W05.
Central to the philosophy of the F14 T design has been maximising airflow through the diffuser. To achieve this, the engine has been moved forward. This has been achieved by moving the oil tank, which normally sits between the cockpit and engine, to inside the gearbox case - an arrangement that was traditional up until the late 1990s but which is unique to the Ferrari today. The intercoolers for the turbo nestle in the vee of the engine, helping aerodynamically by keeping them from infringing upon the sidepod area. But critically this has prevented Ferrari from adopting the Mercedes split turbo concept, whereby the compressor sits at the front of the engine and the turbine at the back. On the Ferrari, the turbine and compressor sit together, the conventional layout.
With space at the rear so aerodynamically valuable, the layout has prevented Ferrari from being able to use as big a compressor as Mercedes – contributing to the engine being less efficient, without as much power for a given fuel consumption; or without as good fuel consumption for a given power level.
In the pre-season Bahrain tests Ferrari, once it had understood the extent of the Mercedes engine’s superiority, ran its car beyond the fuel flow limit maximum in order to give approximate power parity with the Mercedes – so it could more accurately assess how far off the pace its aerodynamic package was. It seemed to indicate that the aero deficit was only around 0.3s. But, running to the fuel flow limit, the car’s shortfall was over one second.
However, although this would indicate that the power unit was more of a problem than the car’s aero performance, the feeling is that the performance of the power unit was knowingly compromised to achieve maximum aero performance with quite a radical design - and even skewing the layout in this way has still led to a car that does not lead the way in aerodynamics. Therefore the finger of blame does not lie solely within the power unit department.
“It is not only in the power unit that we are lacking,” continued Mattiacci, “it’s a global around all of the car. We are about 1.2 seconds behind the leaders, which means months or even years of work.”
One very senior engineer with a rival team who recently spurned an offer to join Ferrari said one of the reasons he did so was that the team’s blame culture, with a series of high profile sackings - including Chris Dyer, Aldo Costa and Marmorini - had made the team an unattractive place to join.