Ferrari F1-86, the disastrous Prancing Horse car caused by engine and chassis problems

2021-03-21 23:00

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Ferrari F1-86, the disastrous Prancing Horse car caused by engine and chassis problems

The Ferrari F1-86 is the car with which Ferrari participates in the 37th Formula 1 World Championship in 1986. This car has the arduous task of replac


The Ferrari F1-86 is the car with which Ferrari participates in the 37th Formula 1 World Championship in 1986. This car has the arduous task of replacing the Ferrari 156-85, which proved to be very competitive although not always reliable.


The new single-seater produced in Maranello, however, will disappoint expectations, as the previous year Ferrari itself had contended for the title with McLaren up to three races from the end of the championship, while the F1-86 not only denounced a lower performance level, but it will cause early withdrawals from the races due to various technical problems.


During the year the car will be updated, and the engine will gain above all in power: its latest version will be called F1-86 B.


The car uses an innovative chassis and aerodynamic conformation compared to the previous model, as the 156-85, although different from the previous ones, will not be evolved much because it derives from the 126 series, which debuted in 1981 and underwent continuous improvements up to the latest model from 1984, the Ferrari 126 C4.


The 156-85 uses the Ferrari 031 engine, derived from the one used in 1984 but with more power and with the intake positioned in the center and the exhausts on the sides, instead of the other way around. In this period, all the teams are looking to increase power, so much so that from the following season the FIA ​​will reduce, for safety reasons, the concessions made to the designers. Ferrari also decided to focus on engine power, pushing the 120° engine to its limit while waiting for the new narrow V engine for 1987.


Thus was born the F1-86, equipped with a powerful engine at least in testing: its engine, in fact, called type 032, delivers an initial power of 850 horsepower, which becomes 890 during the year. In addition, an even more powerful engine is used in qualifying, capable of touching 1.200 horsepower on the fastest tracks. These powers are achieved through the use of two turbochargers, coupled to a 120° V6 engine.


A season to forget


Despite the premises, it is not enough for Ferrari to have a powerful engine to win the championship: during the season there are several retirements attributable to the unreliability of the car, due to the excessively high temperatures that the engine generates, as well as to too small air intakes to ensure adequate heat disposal, as happened at the end of the 1985 season.


However, the Italian technicians will not be able to design air vents that are too large, as these would have compromised the aerodynamic qualities of the vehicle. If the great power of the engine, at the beginning of the season, could be considered a strong point, in the rest of the championship it will instead prove to be a weak point because it is badly combined with the transverse five-speed gearbox, which cannot withstand the enormous stresses that the powertrain transmits, mainly due to the drive torque.


Upstream of the various problems of this car, the internal struggles of the team also arise: this will depend on the presence of two groups of technicians, one of which works on the design of the chassis and a second on that of mechanics, of which the engine goes first of everything.


According to the frame builders, the engine should be designed according to the body, while the engineers argue that the frame should have been designed around the engine. Neither side will ever find an agreement and the two groups will continue their work each on his own path: this will cause various problems in being able to adequately exploit the engine power. In fact, the car will be difficult to manage for the drivers, having too nervous reactions compared to the competitors.


One of the main defects of the car is the configuration of the engine: the wide V at 120°, chosen at the time of the high exhausts in order not to further worsen the center of gravity of the car, does not allow adequate tapering of the rear part of the car, therefore the Coca-Cola section in F1-86 is less effective than in other cars with narrower V engines, such as Honda, Porsche and Renault.


Precisely for this reason, at the same time Ferrari continues the development of a new version of the turbo engine with the V between the cylinders at 90° instead of 120°, after having concentrated on a four-cylinder in 1985 in view of a reduction in displacement. provided for by the regulations for 1986, subsequently canceled.


That of 1986 will therefore prove to be a season to forget for the fans of Maranello: the official drivers are the world vice-champion Michele Alboreto and the Swede Stefan Johansson. From the point of view of piloting, Ferrari could have many certainties, as Alboreto had proved his worth while Johansson proved to be constant, as well as a trustworthy assistant of the Italian driver.


During 1986 the Swede will have better luck than his team-mate, as the cars he uses will suffer fewer mechanical failures: out of sixteen races Johansson will retire six times, compared to nine retirements by Alboreto, while for seven times Johansson will score points compared to the four placings of Alboreto.


Overall, the F1-86 will win five podiums, including four third places for Johansson (in Belgium, Austria, Italy and Australia) and a second place for Alboreto on the Zellweger circuit, which represents the best result of the season for Ferrari and for the Milanese.

Ferrari will not even win a race; this had not happened since 1980.


In practice, the results are certainly not better, given that Ferrari rarely manages to qualify within the top ten: the best result on the grid will in fact be Alboreto's fourth place obtained during qualifying for the Monaco Grand Prix.


The Ferrari F1-86 will therefore conclude its disastrous appearance in Formula 1 with the conquest of 37 points, useful to acquire at least the fourth place in the constructors 'standings, behind Williams, McLaren and Lotus, while as regards the drivers' standings Johansson will get the fifth place, and Alboreto will fall to ninth.


Andrea Rasponi

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