With the advent of hybrid engines, officially introduced in Formula 1 in 2014, the hierarchies within the Circus change drastically: Red Bull, the dominating team from 2010 to 2013, gives way to the rise of Mercedes, determined by a huge capacity in knowing how to exploit and interpret the new regulations in the best possible way.
Over the course of the year, in addition to the absolute domination of the Three-pointed Star, the teams equipped with the engines of the Stuttgart House stand out, such as Williams, Force India and McLaren, none of which is even remotely able to counter the excessive power of the Arrows Silver, however managing to create an interesting melee package behind the men in gray.
The same Red Bull, powered by Renault, are not able to contain the unstoppable gear of the W05, nevertheless managing to prevail over the middle-high ranking group, thanks to the excellent chassis qualities of the single-seaters designed by Adrian Newey.
On the contrary, the advent of the Power Units has led to a dramatic situation in the Ferrari House: the F14T immediately reveals itself light years away from its main competitors, resulting in a definitive fracture of the environment that started in 2013: at the end of the season Fernando Alonso will leave the Maranello team, thus following in the footsteps of former Team Principal Stefano Domenicali, who greets the Red team after the 2014 Bahrain Grand Prix, the third stage of the season.
The hustle and bustle caused by the annus horribilis represents a sort of revolution, determined by the arrival in 2015 of the multiple world champion Sebastian Vettel, new standard bearer of Ferrari alongside Kimi Raikkonen, and Maurizio Arrivabene, who is entrusted with the helm of the pit wall of the Red. And for the relaunch season, the Italian team is on track with a decidedly more competitive car, a clear leap forward compared to the disappointing F14T: the SF15-T.
A clear change of philosophy on the front
The SF15-T certainly presents itself with radical innovations compared to the 2014 car, but from a technical point of view the new born of the Maranello team does not reflect a total revolution; the Ferrari technicians have not completely set aside the F14T, which was a failure in various points, but not in all areas of the car.
The part subjected to a major renovation is the front, characterized by a new nose; that of the SF15-T is much longer and flattened at the tip. A philosophy that contrasts sharply with the previous one, rather simple in lines to minimize aerodynamic drag.
The body has also undergone significant changes: the step has been softened and the frame has also undergone a change, aimed at a slight lowering of the center of gravity, useful for avoiding too angular shapes to the advantage of the free flow of air flow.
The new front suspension
The most interesting detail, however, consists of the front suspension, still of the pull-rod type, which represents an evolution compared to that mounted on the Mercedes W05, from which it obviously takes inspiration.
The roll center has changed considerably, thanks to the fixing points to the body placed in a lower position, with a less extreme angle than the geometry of the arms. Ferrari has also aligned the upper-front arm and the steering rod, taking care to enclose them in a single cover, taking up a solution that had given Sauber so many joys a couple of years earlier.
The lower triangle, on the other hand, follows the lines launched by Mercedes in 2014, characterized by an unprecedented tuning fork arm. On the other hand, the air intakes useful for cooling the brakes remain unchanged, also used as power inlets for blower hubs, derived directly from the F14T.
Ferrari will later also introduce a new front wing concept, featuring a curvilinear flap, a new vertical bulkhead on the upper flaps, a large curl and the removal of the side fin.
Overall, the new SF15-T boasts important innovations compared to the F14T, including a decidedly more raked car set-up, i.e. with a sloping car bottom, distinguished by the front end of the car in a lower position than the rear, useful to generate a higher value of the downforce.
As already mentioned above, the radical innovations seen on the front leave room for a much more conservative rear end similar to the F14T, with respect to which there is a new configuration of the engine hood and of the rear openings, useful for evacuating the hot air.
The season of recovery
For Ferrari the goal set on the eve of the 2015 vintage is to immediately put aside the previous season, characterized by only two podiums for Ferrari, without ever being able to climb the top step, thus proposing a zero as regards the seasonal victories, a catastrophic result for the Red, able to hit at least one victory in the championship since 1994.
Right from the start, the SF15-T does not disappoint expectations, and manages in part to overturn the hierarchies: in addition to the excellent feedback provided by the solutions introduced, the new Ferrari no longer suffers from the many problems related to the engine, and the gap compared with the motorized Mercedes is reduced.
Taking advantage of its drive unit called 059/4, decidedly more advanced than the 2014 version, with a bigger and more efficient Honeywell turbo and compressor, the SF15-T wins the role of anti-Mercedes, bypassing in terms of performance Williams and Red Bull.
Over the course of the season, several times Vettel and Raikkonen will manage to undermine at least one of the two Silver Arrows, especially exploiting the opportunities provided by some carelessness of the men in gray.
Exemplary is the victory of Sebastian Vettel in the Malaysian Grand Prix, raced in Sepang: starting from second place, the German, thanks to an excellent strategy of the pit wall, combined with an impressive race pace, manages to cross the finish line first, giving thus a success for Ferrari that had been missing for almost two years, obtained in 2013 in Barcelona with Alonso.
At the end of the championship, the Maranello team will collect three triumphs won with the German driver, and sixteen podiums, complete with Pole Position conquered in the Singapore Grand Prix, masterfully scored by the four-time world champion. Overall, the superiority of the Mercedes was still evident, but the tear with the Silver Arrows had definitely healed.
The SF15-T has rekindled the hopes of the Prancing Horses, aware that they cannot compete on an equal footing with the Anglo-German team yet, but the W06s appeared less distant, still fast and difficult to beat, but not impregnable; that anomalous and demeaning 2014 already appears light years away.
Simone Pietro Zazza