After the excellent 2015 season that brought Ferrari back to success, and a lot of hope to return to fight for the championship victory, everything is in vain from the following season. The Ferrari SF16-H, after a good - but not incredible - start to the season sees a slow and progressive loss of competitiveness during the year, which does not allow him to fight for the final triumph.
Mercedes, now the undisputed queen of the new hybrid turbo era, doesn't discount even in 2016: after some difficulties encountered at the beginning of the season, the W07 dominates entirely, taking home nineteen victories out of twenty-one races available.
The spoils of Ferrari, on the other hand, see the shadow of a recent horrible season: in fact, as happened in 2014, the championship ends without any victory or pole position.
Indeed, it also sees the return of Red Bull, which after the unsuccessful 2015 season reappeared at the top of the standings, managing to take home the remaining two wins and a pole position in Monte Carlo. With these results, the Austro-British team manages to surpass the performance of Ferrari, returning to be the main opponent of Mercedes.
The new SF16-H, in which the H stands for hybrid, is the third Ferrari of the turbo hybrid era presented in Maranello, which runs for the 2016 season of the Formula 1 World Championship, whose project is led by Simone Resta, James Allison and Rory Byrne.
The main objective of the project is to improve the aerodynamic aspect, a department where Ferrari encountered the greatest difficulties in 2015. The Maranello team, however, is also intensely committed to the rest of the departments, given the sidereal performance distance from the Stuttgart team, both in terms of chassis and engine.
Since its presentation, a significant change is clearly visible compared to the previous SF15-T: the front nose is completely different, being significantly shortened, thus adapting to the rest of the other teams that have already adopted this solution.
Furthermore, seen from the side, its kind of clear that the front nose does not follow a linear path as it was the previous year, in fact the upper part is almost completely straight, characterized by a detail, the vanity panel, a piece of bodywork that gives way to vent the air flows of the S-duct, while it almost has an excavation in the lower part, which ends with a pronounced nose right on the tip of the wing. The front nose is not only shortened, but is also higher, to allow the air flows to be directed towards the rear.
The comeback to the push-rod scheme
Another key innovation brought to the SF16-H concerned the front suspension, as the pull-rod model is abandoned to switch to the push-rod scheme.
The substantial difference lies in the third element inside the body: if in the pull rod model the third element is at the base of the body, in the push rod the third element is at the top. In this way the weights of the barbells are high and these favours the management of the tires and should allow them to last longer.
All these aerodynamic features allow for lower resistance to advancement, while the rear suspension remains unchanged, maintaining the pull-rod pattern.
An intense work on the aerodynamic aspect
Since 2016, new rules have been introduced regarding the drivers' head area: in fact, the head protectors are raised by twenty millimetres. Always concentrating on the center of the car, a modification is made to the airscope area: this is slightly away from the driver's position, to avoid helmet turbulence.
This is an important aerodynamic care that allows the air flows to enter the airscope in a more linear way, allowing a better filling of the intake. The dynamic air intake changes its shape, and passes from the triangular shape it had on the SF15-T to a more rounded shape, while behind it two fins are added, which allow the rear to receive greater aerodynamic load.
The new power unit is not upset, but an attempt is made to increase its performance by acting on the combustion chamber and the hybrid part, and for this reason it needs to receive more air, being a more powerful engine. Behind the driver, in fact, there are numerous vents of hot air to let this engine breathe, which certainly needs to dissipate the hot air, especially in Grand Prix races with high temperatures.
The engine must remain reliable for at least four races, and this is connected to the air intakes of the radiators, which are also larger to cool the engine. As for the car's bellies, they are shorter and built over the line of the body, while the sides first narrow towards the rear compared to the previous SF15-T. And the diffuser benefits from this, where a greater amount of air can travel; moreover, the sides fall downwards, to decrease the resistance to advancement.
Changes have been made to the flow deviators, which while maintaining the bridge layout have a different shape, and the flap that was inside is eliminated, which had the task of generating air vortices to be conveyed towards the rear of the car.
The bonnet is less voluminous and consists of an air channel that passes through it, allowing the diffuser to generate aerodynamic load. The fin is also smaller than last year's Ferrari, in favor of less drag. Moving to the rear wing, there are no major changes: the support on the single pylon is confirmed, while the monkey seat is connected directly to the latter organ.
In pre-season tests it will already be seen that the support pylon will end up in the exhaust, to exploit an aerodynamic advantage by straightening the turbulent flow that comes out of the turbine. Two smaller drains of the wastegate are placed on the sides of the main drain, as required in the 2016 regulation.
A season below expectations
The season opens in Australia with a surprising start: from the second row Vettel and Raikkonen jump to first and second position leading the race for several laps. Then, due to a red flag, the race is in favor of Mercedes, with Vettel falling back to third after stopping for the last stop. In the final laps the German will not be able to bring home a winning attack on Lewis Hamilton and will finish the race on the lowest step of the podium, while Raikkonen's other Ferrari will retire due to a broken turbo.
In Bahrain the reliability problems of the SF16-H were highlighted once again: during the reconnaissance lap, Vettel was forced to retire due to an engine problem. Kimi Raikkonen, on the other hand, will close with an excellent second place.
In the following Grand Prix, in China a contact at the first corner between the two Ferrari drivers mortifies the hopes of the Scuderia di Maranello to obtain a good position for both drivers. Daniil Kvyat, with a good start, tries a pass inside on Vettel, who is forced to widen his trajectory to avoid a possible contact: the German hits team mate Raikkonen, damaging his front wing. The Finn will be forced to return to the pits to replace the nose, slipping to the rear of the group. Vettel will finish second, while Raikkonen will be able to climb up to fifth position.
In Russia, in the very early stages of the race, Vettel and the Red Bull driver, Kvyat, will again be protagonists: The Russian hits the German in the first corner. Then, continuing into turn 3, Kvyat again collides with Vettel who ends up in a spin, hitting the barriers and ending the race, while Raikkonen will finish on the podium behind the two Mercedes.
In Spain for the first time neither of the two Reds manages to qualify in the second row, confirming the positive growth path of Red Bull, which places both cars behind the unattainable Mercedes. The next day, however, a tempting opportunity for victory arrives: the two Mercedes come into contact and end up outside in turn 4, opening the way for their rivals.
But the winner will be the newly promoted Red Bull driver, Verstappen, who finishes ahead of Kimi Raikkonen, with the Finn who is unable to bring the decisive attack against the young Dutchman. Sebastian Vettel is also on the podium. This will become the only race of the season where both Ferraris will be on the podium, but despite this, the victory fades once again.
Ferrari's negative trend continues in Monte Carlo too, starting from nine tenths of a second away in qualifying from Ricciardo's Red Bull. In a race characterized by rain Vettel did not go beyond fourth position, while Raikkonen broke the front wing due to an error at the hairpin and was forced to stop.
In the subsequent Canadian and European Grand Prix (in the new Azerbaijani track in Baku), Ferrari collected two second places thanks to Sebastian Vettel, but Mercedes' superiority in tire management was highlighted.
In Austria the Maranello team won third place with Kimi Raikkonen, while Vettel was forced to retire due to a spin on the finish straight due to the right rear tire bursting. In the following races in Great Britain, Hungary, Germany and Belgium all the difficulties of the SF16-H are highlighted, which fails to bring the necessary updates to fight for the podium, while the growth of Red Bull continues and constantly beats Ferrari both in qualifying and in the race.
Only in Italy does Ferrari return to the podium thanks to the third position of Vettel, in a track more congenial to the SF16-H, but this does not take away from the sidereal distance of performance that has been formed by the Mercedes, capable of making only one pit stop, unlike the two stops of the opponents.
In Singapore, Vettel was stopped in qualifying by a technical problem with the anti-roll bar, which caused him to be eliminated in Q1. In the race the German finished fifth with a great comeback, and Raikkonen also became the protagonist of a strong test, finishing fourth and losing the podium due to a strategic error.
In Malaysia, at the start, Vettel makes a risky braking and ends up hitting Rosberg, with the consequent withdrawal of the Ferrari driver. Raikkonen finished fourth, but the day saw a Red Bull brace who gained gold points to secure second place in the constructors' standings.
In the Japanese Grand Prix, Ferrari conquers the entire second row, but due to two penalties (Vettel for the accident caused in Sepang and Raikkonen for the replacement of the gearbox) they have to fall back in the standings, therefore in the race they do not go beyond the fourth and fifth place.
In the following American events in Austin, Mexico City and São Paulo, Ferrari fails to grab any podium, despite the excellent race in Mexico and the penalty attributed to Vettel (while he was in battle with the Red Bulls to get the podium), came third and then relegated. In Brazil, Ferrari mathematically lost second place in the constructors' classification with one race to spare.
In the final stage in Abu Dhabi, Ferrari made an excellent strategy by returning Vettel very late and then, with fresher tires, recovering and closing behind Mercedes rivals, winning the eleventh and final podium for the Ferrari SF16-H.
The season ends with the clear supremacy of Mercedes which confirms itself as the dominating team, closing with 765 points, establishing a new record of points. To give meaning to the gap that has been established between the winning team and the one that was supposed to put the Stuttgart team in more difficulty, namely Ferrari, at the beginning of the season, just look at the comparisons between points, victories and performances: Ferrari concludes with 398 points, just over half of what Mercedes did.
The notably negative figure is the scoreboard of victories: as happened in 2014 no success arrives, just as no pole position is won. These data testify to the unsuccessful 2016 season, and the poor performance of the Ferrari SF16-H, which during the course of the year sees a decline in performance, both in qualifying and in the race, due to the lack of updates that had to be used for winning races and fighting for the championship and the great difficulties of tuning the car.
Furthermore, no progress has been seen in terms of the chassis and aerodynamics during the year; the only department where Ferrari keeps pace is that of the power unit, but despite this there remains a significant negative difference compared to Mercedes, especially in qualifying, where the more aggressive engine mappings are expressed.
Ferrari closes the championship in third place in the constructors' standings, behind Mercedes and Red Bull, while the confrontation between Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen ends with a very short gap of points, a sign above all of the difficulties encountered by the German driver and in general tuning of the car.
Despite this, Vettel manages to beat the Finn in the comparison of the number of podiums won: seven to four. Ferrari, on the other hand, closed the season with many question marks and a lot of work to do during the winter, to allow the team to quickly return to the position that best represents the Scuderia's objectives, namely to win.