Sometimes it's funny to see how the Formula 1 single-seaters evolve, because development continues incessantly, but the engineers, over the months and sometimes even years, can opt to change the philosophy of the car, completely reversing its strengths.
Let's take Ferrari: the SF90 is a very fast car on the straights, but it loses cornering stability. And it's funny to think that two years earlier in Maranello have been decided to marry the opposite project, designing a single-seater that is literally glued to the asphalt when cornering.
We are talking about the SF70H, a car that failed to bring the world title back to Maranello, but managed to give great emotions to the Ferrari fans, teaching many solutions to the other teams.
In 2017, Ferrari returned from an unsatisfactory season, which ended with not even one success in twenty-one races. Furthermore, in 2017 the technical regulations in Formula One undergo a new technical revolution: thanks to the regulatory changes, the cars at first sight become much larger and incredibly fast, benefiting from the substantial aerodynamic increase of the single-seaters.
Precisely for this reason, Red Bull is listed as the favorite, while the Maranello team is expected to have the role of third force, even for some even fourth, given the great ambitions of Force India.
A courageous and revolutionary project
Since the presentation, however, many are surprised by the design of the SF70H, immediately realizing that the latter had much more potential than the SF16H, even from a development point of view.
One of the key elements that immediately strikes are the small intakes, with a more generous hot air outlet in the tail, useful for disposing of the temperature of the radiant masses, exploiting, instead, the flow of air conveyed to the rear diffuser to generate downforce.
In Maranello the aim is to divide the air threads intended for cooling the Power Unit from those that have a purely aerodynamic function. At the edges of the body, at the height of the S-duct outlet, two flaps stand out, specially designed to laminate the flow destined for the upper part of the belly, which precedes the radiator mouth.
Compared to the W08, the Ferrari SF70H appears very wide in the final part of the sides. What appears to be a defect, in reality hides a strong point, because the upper body hides a flare at the bottom, treated in a maniacal way, making the area known in jargon as Coca-Cola rather extreme.
Names of great prestige
The aerodynamic concepts of David Sanchez can boast details created by the hand of Rory Byrne, flanked by Simone Resta. A thorough research was carried out on the flow deviators, integrated with the refined bargeboards, while the nose of the SF16-H was re-proposed, with the addition of the S-duct, a concept that is already known in Maranello thanks to the F2008, all with the aim of increasing the flow rate under the body by making a small part of it vent in the upper section of the frame with a laminated flow.
The support pillars of the front wing have the same lines as in 2016. The delta profile of the main profile, compulsorily imposed by the regulation, stands out; for the rest compared to the SF16-H there are few innovations, if not for the saddle-shaped flaps.
The turning vanes are new and follow the Mercedes philosophy of 2016, but what is surprising is the size of the brake air intake, much more bulky than its direct competitors.
The front suspension maintains the push rod pattern of the SF16-H: the upper triangle follows the alignment with the steering arm, while the lower one is a tuning fork. In essence, therefore, no news in particular, with a decidedly conservative Ferrari.
The dynamic grip of the engine maintains the shape of 2016, thus ensuring an excellent level of efficiency. The hole between the roll bar supports also appears in 2017, as well as the two fins under the camera car.
The engine hood is characterized by the long fin that acts as a sail, while in the tail you can see the almost cantilever spoiler, similar to that of the W08, which serves to re-attach the flows towards the rear wing, lower and wider than the 'previous year, in order to increase efficiency.
In front of the rear wheel characterized by wide tires, there are only three puffs on the outer leading edge, with the slots being deeper than the previous car. The rear suspension is pull rod, and like Mercedes, it has a very short tie rod.
The SF70H proves to be a worthy rival to the WO8
Since the Barcelona tests, the data highlight the qualities of the SF70H. And from the first race in Melbourne, the Red team showed its excellent form: Vettel and Raikkonen managed the tires perfectly, keeping a steady and fast pace.
At the expense of top speed, the SF70H fails to shine completely in qualifying, often getting important gaps from the W08, but often the situation is reversed in the race, making team from Maranello the main antagonist of Mercedes, thanks to a disappointing Red Bull.
Vettel fought for a long time against Hamilton, and for half the championship he kept the top of the table. The Brit completes the comeback at Monza, but the key episode of 2017 occurs in the Singapore Grand Prix.
The collapse of Ferrari
On the tortuous Marina Bay circuit, the SF70H proved extremely competitive, taking pole position with Vettel and fourth place with Raikkonen. The two Red Bull drivers are placed between the two Ferraris, while Hamilton starts from fifth place.
Given the great difficulties of Mercedes, Vettel could not only regain the leadership of the world championship, only 3 points away, but considerably stretch on Hamilton. But for the first time since 2008, the Singapore Grand Prix is characterized by rain.
At the start, Raikkonen has an amazing off the line reaction, and comes alongdisde Verstappen, who in turn has almost reached Vettel. However, a few moments later the three find themselves involved in an incredible carom, and neither the two Ferrari drivers nor the Dutch Red Bull are able to escape unscathed from the contact, finding themselves out of the game after a single corner.
Vettel's comeback was definitively compromised by the engine problem encountered during qualifying for the Malaysian Grand Prix, in Sepang, for which he was forced to start last, finishing a race in which his Ferrari seemed to be unchallengeable, and by the spark plug problem verified at the start of the Japanese Grand Prix, in Suzuka; in just three races, Hamilton practically found the Drivers title in hand.
Despite the bitter conclusion, the SF70H still remains a fixed point today, both for Ferrari fans and for Formula 1: it gave the former the thrill of returning to fight for the championship, after the opaque 2016, while for the Circus launched solutions that we still find today in single-seaters, essentially teaching the Formula 1 teams.
Simone Pietro Zazza