Ferrari SF90, a very efficient car and an exceptional engine

2021-04-22 00:00

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Ferrari SF90, a very efficient car and an exceptional engine

In 2019, at Ferrari it is a new revolution after the disappointments and pains absorbed the previous season: the death of president Marchionne, Vettel


In 2019, at Ferrari it is a new revolution after the disappointments and pains of the previous season: the death of president Marchionne, Vettel's dreams of glory of becoming World Champion vanished from mid-2018 onwards, the farewell of the team principal Arrivabene, and finally the second farewell of the last World Champion for the Maranello team, Kimi Raikkonen; all this accompanied by some controversies from the fans in the treatment reserved for the Finnish veteran, who closed his 2018 season with a clear increase in performances, seasoned by the victory won in Austin.


Ferrari again on the drawing board as far as the roles within the team are concerned, but the novelty that the fans are waiting for is certainly the arrival, in place of the World Champion Raikkonen, of the young promise Charles Leclerc, just twenty-one, after having cut his teeth for a year at Alfa Romeo Sauber, achieving excellent results, counting that he was one of the freshmen who landed in the championship just the previous year. Leclerc is the youngest driver to have entered Maranello as a regular driver. 2018 ends with Mercedes supremacy, which, as in 2017, had to work harder than expected to stem Ferrari, the only team that had the real chance to believe in world championship dreams after Sebastian Vettel's five victories in the first part of the season, and which kept the drivers' championship open until the Belgian Grand Prix, raced in Spa-Francorchamps.


Ferrari, on the other hand, closed for the second consecutive year in second place in the constructors' classification, obtaining six victories, which had not been seen since 2008 and, despite having achieved great performances thanks to the competitive SF71-H, it missed the last step necessary to keep up with Mercedes until the end of the season, winner of the championship for the fifth consecutive year. Reality says that the season of the top driver Sebastian Vettel was marred by some mistakes, which occurred especially in the salient moments of the season, compromising his duel with rival Lewis Hamilton, who saw the way to the fifth title pave the way personal pilots.


For the 2019 season Vettel is looking for personal redemption and of course the hope of being able to win the championship with Ferrari, but he will have to deal with the newcomer Leclerc who arrives with mental freshness and full of expectations and chance to demonstrate all his worth with a team winning like the Ferrari. And the new Ferrari SF90, dedicated to the ninetieth anniversary of the birth of Scuderia Ferrari, will prove to be a unique car of its kind, which will make the engine its best weapon, putting even the unbeatable Mercedes in difficulty, but all this will trigger great controversies from part of the opponents, unable to understand and counter the incredible speed produced in the straights by the new SF90.


Simplified aerodynamics


The technical regulation for 2019 does not undergo significant changes. The only noteworthy changes are on the wings: all the cantilever flaps are removed on the front one, so that it is redesigned to facilitate overtaking and above all to allow less aerodynamic turbulence from the cars in front. The rear wing, on the other hand, becomes wider. The down effect is certainly the increase in air resistance, but the up effect spills over to the DRS which has a greater effect this year, being larger. The tanks go from a capacity of 105 kg to 110 kg.


The new Ferrari SF90, with Mattia Binotto at the head of the project, moreover designeted as the new team principal, and with the guidance of the engineers entrusted to Enrico Cardile, has the same basic concepts as the previous SF71H, but some of them have been redesigned. with new solutions.


The wheelbase is again lengthened by about twenty-five millimetres, not only because of the new tank, but also for reasons of aerodynamic balance, as for the front wing, which has been simplified and enlarged with the new technical regulations, the same adopted by Alfa Romeo. The flaps are shaped so that the airflow is directed towards the outside of the tires, although it has been hypothesized that, due to the absence of the cantilever flaps, the aerodynamics would have been directed to divert the flows in the top. Instead, Maranello men, decide to stay on the same line, knowing how tires are a real danger because they generate turbulent flows.


The long support pillars maintain the three blows of the previous year, but with a greater air flow, which connect to the air intake of the S-Duct and the suspension is reconfirmed as a push rod type. There are also updates in the central part of the car and starting from the very compact air intakes, we notice from the front that they are entirely visible between the tires and the body. This allows you to better collect the compound air flows that flow between the wheels and the body. The radiators have been enlarged compared to those on the SF71H, while a net change is made for the airscope because it returns to be very small and triangular in shape, increasing the efficiency of the rear wing.


A path towards compactness


A significant change is made by the mechanics of Maranello on the engine hood, which is less bulky and you can understand how the power unit has been worked on to try to make a better package of the components. Thanks to this last measure, a lot of space is freed up in the upper part of the hood, which allows to install a larger stabilizer fin.


Let's remember  that this fin helps to clean the flows that run towards the rear wing. Many other parts of the car are compacted, to allow more space on the bottom surface and greater aerodynamics for the car's diffuser, the bellies are shortened, the new gearbox becomes narrower and finally the rear area reserved for the hot air outlet of the Power Unit is reduced.


Another upgrade is the installation of a double T-wing, and to complete the circle, speaking of the rear, last but not least, the rear wing. Its support with the two central pylons remains unchanged; as per regulation it increases the width, but the upgrades are seen above all on the side bulkheads: added a blowing on the leading edge, there are some fringes in the shaped part under the wing and finally six blows in the divergent zone. Therefore, special work was carried out on the rear wing, under the banner of attention to detail.


The Power Unit affair


The SF90 is remembered for an event that upset Ferrari's season. The Power Unit, which has constantly improved over the course of the season, proves to be incredibly powerful, so much so that it reaches unthinkable levels, observing how two years earlier the technical disadvantage in this department from Mercedes seemed unbridgeable in a few seasons. All this does not leave indifferent the main rivals of the team from Maranello, namely Mercedes and Red Bull, who ignite a debate on the alleged irregularity of the Ferrari Power Unit, which has become the strongest of the engines present on the starting grid, in terms of power, starting from summer break.


The Maranello team is accused of using fuel irregularly. The controversy arose especially after the United States Grand Prix race: the irregularity would start from the flowmeter, a device that allows you to detect second by second the flow rate of a fluid, in and out, thanks to sensors. In a Formula 1 single-seater the flow meter measures over the entire race, second by second, that the limit of one hundred kg/h of fuel is not exceeded. Ferrari seems to have found a solution to circumvent this system. Through a mapping, according to what emerged, but never confirmed, it is possible to inject more fuel within the time frame where the flow meter does not measure the amount of fuel entering, i.e. in the interval between one second and the next, thus exceeding one hundred kg/h. This mapping would allow an increase in the power of the internal combustion engine, allowing about 10 km / h more in the straights, and would have been used especially on Saturday, when the more aggressive maps have been used.


This fuel would also be associated with special additives that would improve its quality. In fact, Ferrari would have used a special additive for combustion, depending on the setting used by the drivers. The lubricant is introduced at the end of the compressor, ending up in the oil intercooler for cooling the air, and then taken to the combustion chamber mixed with petrol. All of this would favor the quality of the fuel, providing more thrust and horsepower to the internal combustion engine. This ploy allows Ferrari, in terms of results, to obtain great satisfactions, especially in qualifying, where nine pole positions are collected, even if part of this advantage will not materialize in the race.


Vettel vs Leclerc, a duel of hierarchies


At the first appointment in Australia, the Mercedes W10 is an extraordinary car right from Friday and Saturday tests. In qualifying the main antagonists of the German team suffer from seven to nine tenths and in the race there will be no discussion for the insured Mercedes double win. Ferrari instead is immediately forced to act with team orders.


The SF90 is not very competitive and Sebastian Vettel notices it right away, being in great difficulty with the tyres' management, and in the last part of the race will also suffer a loss of power. Although Charles Leclerc has the opportunity to attack his teammate, the communication arrives from the pits to freeze the positions. The two Ferrari drivers finish fourth and fifth respectively, behind Bottas, Hamilton and Verstappen's Red Bull, who prove to be too fast as opponents. But an unexpected redemption from Ferrari arrives in Bahrain. In qualifying the young Leclerc conquers the first pole position of his career, ahead of Vettel. But the Monegasque starts badly in the race. But then, in just a few laps, he manages to recover and take the lead again, overtaking his teammate Vettel at the end of the straight and resisting the German's counterattack.


When everything seems to be going well, from mid-race onwards evaporates the chance for a double wins: on lap thirty-seven Vettel, gets overtaken by Lewis Hamilton, ends up spinning and shortly after, also loses the front wing, forcing him to return to the pits and then  give up positions. About ten laps later, bad luck is also in store for Leclerc: due to a problem in the control unit there was a loss of power and he had to abruptly slow down his pace. Both Hamilton and Bottas overtake him, and only the entry of the Safety Car with two laps to go saves the first bitter podium in Formula 1 for Leclerc, who comes third just ahead of Verstappen, getting the fastest lap. Vettel closes fifth.


In the Chinese Grand Prix, Ferrari is struggling, as in Australia, once again with team orders to defend the podium, with Leclerc giving up third position to Vettel. The German will be able to defend himself from the pressure of Verstappen, taking home his first podium of the season, with a third place, while the young Monegasque will finish fifth. 


In the qualifying for the next Grand Prix, in Azerbaijan, Leclerc crashes and fails to take part in Q3, while Vettel nearly wins the front row. The German manages to finish third, while Leclerc, in a comeback, comes fifth, obtaining the fastest lap. In the Spanish Grand Prix, the now classic team orders at Ferrari are repeated, which is synonymous with a very close confrontation between Vettel and Leclerc who demonstrate the same level of competitiveness. But even here the Ferrari drivers finish fourth and fifth respectively.


During qualifying in Monaco, the team made a big mistake in assessment in Q1: Charles Leclerc was not sent back on the track to make the last attempt, thinking that the Monegasque was already safe from elimination. Instead, the young home idol was excluded and qualified sixteenth compromising the race, where Vettel conquered an excellent second position also taking advantage of the penalty inflicted on Verstappen. For Leclerc, on the other hand, it will be a short, albeit very intense race: after two great overtakes against first Norris at the hairpin and then Grosjean at the Rascasse curve, the Monegasque will not be able to successfully do the same maneuver for Nico Hulkenberg, and ends up hitting the barriers, spinning and puncturing the right rear tire. After returning to the pits and then back on track, he retires after a few laps, due to serious damage to the bottom of the car.


In Canada, Sebastian Vettel will take his first pole position of the season, demonstrating how the SF90 is a competitive car on tracks characterized by long straights, such as the one in Montreal. The race, led for the most part by Vettel, will be decided by a penalty inflicted on the German that will cause a lot of discussion.


Due to a mistake, Vettel ends long at the second chicane returning to the track just ahead of Hamilton. The English driver, however, complains about his opponent's maneuver, which was deemed dangerous because it would have squeezed him against the wall. The FIA ​​assigns a five-second penalty to Vettel, serving the victory to Hamilton on a silver platter, who just needs to manage the disadvantage against Vettel to take home the success, even finishing second at the finish line. The podium is completed by Vettel himself and Leclerc, who bring both Reds to the podium for the first time this season.


In the French Grand Prix, Ferrari took the lowest step of the podium with Charles Leclerc, and a fifth place with Sebastian Vettel, even if the chances of being able to fight for the victory with the Mercedes are nil. In Austria, another track characterized by long straights, Ferrari obtained the third pole position with Leclerc, while Vettel was unable to take part in Q3 due to a technical problem. In the race, the Monegasque driver, just three laps from the end, must give the victory to a wild Verstappen, postponing once again the appointment of the first success, and arriving in second place, while Vettel arrives for a few tenths down the podium.


In Great Britain a long battle starts between Charles Leclerc and Max Verstappen, but the duel ends with fifteen laps to go when Vettel, in an attempt to counterattack the Dutchman - who in the meantime had distanced Leclerc - ends up bumping into him and sending him into a spin. This collision allows Leclerc to climb back to third position and finally get the podium. Sebastian Vettel - who suffers a penalty - instead pays for the serious mistake, plunging the group into the queue and finishing the race outside the points area.


In the Germany Grand Prix Sebastian Vettel was unable to take part in qualifying, once again due to a reliability problem linked to the engine. But in a race characterized by rain, the German becomes the protagonist of a spectacular comeback that takes him to second position, after starting twentieth, while Leclerc, despite his good intentions, makes a mistake and ends the race against the barriers. In the Hungarian Grand Prix there is another anonymous race of the two Italian cars. Vettel finished fourth after passing team mate Leclerc just two laps from the end, with the Monegasque coming behind him, but the total gap from the winner for both is more than a minute.


Going to Belgium after the summer break, on a track where power counts a lot, and Ferrari demonstrates all the strength of its power unit. In qualifying Leclerc earns his third pole, trimming Vettel and Hamilton seven tenths. In the race, the two Ferrari drivers lead the race, but they have to watch out for Hamilton's return in the last stint. Vettel is invaluable in his work to facilitate Leclerc's race towards the very first victory.


Leclerc leads the race, but he has to be careful of Hamilton, who after a few attempts managed to slip off Vettel. Despite managing to get under the Monegasque, the British driver fails a possible attack, and Leclerc gets his first career victory, and the first of the season for Ferrari. Moreover, he becomes the youngest driver to win a race with Ferrari. Vettel finished fourth, obtaining the fastest lap and the gratitude for having been fundamental for the success of his teammate.


In Italy, another congenial track for the SF90, Charles Leclerc gets another hat-trick: pole in qualifying, and a very tight victory, with the reigning champion Lewis Hamilton who remains glued to the young Ferrari driver until an error by the Englishman who gives road to Valtteri Bottas. The Finn approaches the leader, but Leclerc manages and takes home the second consecutive success, bringing Ferrari back to the top step of the podium at Monza, ten years after Fernando Alonso's victory. Vettel, on the other hand, makes a serious mistake at the Variante Ascari ending up in a spin; all this while he was fourth, and he finished the race only thirteenth.


In Singapore, there are some very important updates on the SF90, to the front wing, bottom and rear wing. The Marina Bay street circuit, being a very slow track, does not seem to offer Ferrari opportunities. Instead, satisfaction comes thanks to the innovations brought to the SF90: in qualifying an unstoppable Leclerc gets the third consecutive pole position. In the race, thanks to an early stop and a very fast lap, Sebastian Vettel manages to get behind first Leclerc and then Hamilton, who was the last of the most accredited drivers to win. From this moment on, the German driver never gave up on the leadership and returned to win in Formula 1, after the last triumph achieved in Spa the previous year. For Ferrari this is the third consecutive victory, which has not happened since 2008. Leclerc finishes second, and for Ferrari will be the only double of the season, which was missing from the 2017 Hungarian Grand Prix.


In the next stage in Russia Charles Leclerc conquers the fourth consecutive pole position, confirming how competitive the SF90 has become when there is a flying lap to be achieved, either on a slow track or a fast track. But this time the Ferraris do not materialize the excellent result of Saturday: Vettel snaps better than the poleman, threatening to take first place, and for several laps there is a long-distance duel between the two rivals, who complain blatantly over the radio for hegemony of the race, with Leclerc asking the German for a way, but Vettel is not there and takes several fast laps to try to maintain the leadership of the race.


Shortly after the Ferrari drivers stop, with Vettel holding the lead, an electrical problem occurs on the German driver's SF90, forcing him to retire. Ferrari managed the race poorly at a strategic level, with Mercedes taking advantage of the Safety Car entry to mount fresh tires. Leclerc relegated in third position and, despite the attempt to put pressure Bottas, maintains his position until the end of the race. In Japan, Ferrari takes the whole front row, but this time it is Vettel who takes pole position, breaking Leclerc's four pole streak. The departure, however, turns out to be a disaster. In order not to make a jump start, Vettel had to stop and restart a second time, thus letting Bottas' Mercedes slip in the lead.


It is even worse for Leclerc who, after touching Verstappen, damages the front wing and after two laps he has to stop in the pits, falling to the back of the group. Vettel gets an excellent second position, while Leclerc climbs up to sixth place, but the difficulties of the beginning of the season are starting to be , with the Mercedes proving to be much stronger on the race pace.


In the following weekend, in Mexico, Charles Leclerc returns to pole position for the seventh time this season, but this time he is lucky to take advantage of the penalty imposed on Verstappen, because the Dutchman had ignored the display of the yellow flags in the lap in which he had achieved the best time; Vettel is therefore in the front row.


In the race, however, only Vettel will be able to get on the podium, finishing second behind Hamilton, with Leclerc finishing fourth, taking the bonus point of the fastest lap. While the battle for third place in the drivers 'standings between the two Ferrari standard bearers and Max Verstappen continues, Mercedes wins the constructors' classification with three races to spare.


In the USA, for the first time after seven weekends, Ferrari is unable to place one of its cars on pole. Vettel has been edged by Bottas for a very few thousandths. The race will be a total disappointment: Vettel retires after seven laps due to the failure of the right rear suspension, while Leclerc ends fourth, with the satisfaction of the fastest lap, but without minimizing the speed to keep up with the Mercedes and Verstappen. Despite this, Ferrari mathematically acquired the second position in the constructors for the third consecutive year.


In the penultimate race in Brazil, the Ferraris commit a disaster. With five laps to go, when the group has recently regrouped for the entry of a Safety Car, Leclerc surprised Vettel in the S di Senna by placing fourth; the German immediately tries to hang up his teammate, but the two end up touching and damaging each other, just before the braking at the end of the Reta Oposta, and both are forced to retire.


At the last round in Abu Dhabi, Ferrari closed the season with an anonymous third place from Leclerc, but with no real chance of fighting for the victory, an indication of an SF90 that has steadily declined in performance since Sochi. Vettel finishes fifth. The championship ends with yet another supremacy of Mercedes dominating both championships, with Lewis Hamilton world champion ahead of teammate Bottas. To take home the third place in the drivers 'standings is Verstappen, who manages to beat Ferrari drivers Leclerc and Vettel, despite Ferrari finishing the constructors' championship ahead of Red Bull.


Analyzing the Ferrari season we see that there have been ups and downs over the course of the year. In the first part of the year, the SF90 proved to be a car capable of being competitive only on high-speed tracks, such as that of Sahkir, Montreal and Spielberg, coming close to several victories, but the car suffered a lot in the rest of the races, due to the shortcomings from the aerodynamic point of view, and a wobbly rear, which caused a high degradation of the rear tires.


From this point of view, the Ferrari drivers have suffered greatly from tire management, but from the summer break onwards, everything changes: the tracks of Spa and Monza prove, as expected, to be congenial to unleashing all the power of the SF90 engine, and conquer two extraordinary victories with the young Leclerc. A very valid aerodynamic package arrives in Singapore, which allows the team from Maranello to pull off a surprising one-two between qualifying and the race, despite the tortuous Marina Bay track that did not seem to be suitable for the characteristics of the SF90. In the following races despite numerous pole positions, thanks to the powerful Ferrari engine, no victory arrives, due to various reasons, reliability, bad luck, and strategic errors.


Bottom line is reached in Brazil with the double retirement of the two drivers due to an accident that is certainly avoidable, but the rivalry on the track between Vettel and Leclerc has now turned on and conditions the team's championship, with the young Monegasque who proved to be a tenacious driver, close-knit and with champion shots, after the consecration obtained with the double success on two Formula 1 cathedral tracks such as Spa and Monza. In addition, he proved to be very competitive on the flying lap, given the seven pole positions conquered, against the two of the much more experienced Vettel, of which those of Spa and Singapore will be remembered, obtained with a spectacular lap.


Going to better analyze the Vettel-Leclerc comparison, we see how the German driver managed to start better in the championship, but Leclerc has absolutely no disfiguration, counting how the new driver is very young and with little experience behind him compared to the much more experienced and Vettel multiple world champion, missing a probable victory in Bahrain, vanished due to a reliability problem and making himself protagonist for a few minutes in the home race in Monte Carlo, for having made extraordinary overtakes demonstrating all his talent and his unscrupulousness on the track. Vettel will have a great weekend in Canada with the victory on the track canceled by a penalty.


Two races later, however, there is the response from the Monegasque who comes close to winning in Austria, losing it with just three laps to go. In Germany, Vettel will touch a miracle, finishing second after starting from the back of the grid. At Spa and Monza Leclerc gets two great hat-tricks, while in Singapore after his pole position, Vettel will win. In the following races the German will have to retire twice due to problems with his car, but no more success comes, with Vettel and Leclerc sharing podium places. In the championship the Monegasque wins with 264 points; surprisingly beats Vettel, who reaches 240.


Leclerc also beats Vettel with victories by two to one, while in qualifying the Monegasque dominates by seven to two; moreover, he wins the Fia Pole Trophy for the highest number of poles obtained. It is also necessary to underline the missed victories of Leclerc in Bahrain due to bad luck and of Vettel in Canada for a somewhat questionable penalty, while Leclerc himself came close to winning in Austria.


The number of podiums also favors the young Monegasque for ten to nine. A year ends that sees the young promise Leclerc demonstrate all the value of him on the track, guaranteeing confidence for the next seasons, also given the renewal of the contract until 2024 earned at the end of the year. While Sebastian Vettel, waiting for a renewal, sees his star go down more and more, after having been in contention for the world championship in 2017 and 2018 and having lost the duel with Hamilton and Mercedes, with a very new teammate. strong and a team that seems to no longer lean in favor of the German champion.


The hierarchies at Ferrari seem to be changing. How much more can Vettel affect in the attempt to bring the title back to Maranello, which has been missing for too long? Another powder keg seems to have arisen in the team, in addition to the usual one in the championship: who is the real top driver in the garage after a tense and almost equal confrontation between Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc?


The fans, the professionals, and the most important personalities in the paddock are divided between those who claim that Vettel is a driver now in the descending phase and those who must now bet everything on the very young Leclerc, while there are those who claim that Sebastian is still a a pawn too important for the team, both on the track and for the development of the car, and that Leclerc still has to grow a lot and gain experience to become an established driver and ready to lead Ferrari in the fight for the championship. In the midst of all this storm, there still remains a goal that the people of Ferrari continue to pursue, but which now seems to be becoming an obsession: the regaining of the world title, which is now thirteen years after the last one.


Nicola Battello

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