After five years of success and domination, the Ferrari-Schumacher duo finds itself in front of a confused, unpredictable, inexplicable 2005: the heir to the legendary F2004, the F2005, immediately reveals itself to be an underperforming car, light years away from Renault R25 and the McLaren MP4/20: for the Prancing Horses the year ended in a bitter way, with just one seasonal success, obtained among other things in the controversial Unitet States of America Grand Prix.
In 2006 Ferrari had to work hard to put aside a championship that had abruptly interrupted their leadership in the Circus, which had lasted for years, with the intention of designing a single-seater that must immediately prove to be up to the competition.
Ferrari reacts very well after the disappointing year, presenting itself with the 248 F1, a car that proves to be competitive right from the start, which, from the second half of the championship, establishes itself as the most performing car on the grid, recalling in the environment the joys experienced in the years prior to 2005, however, at the end of the season, giving an unpleasant and unexpected surprise.
The 248 F1 is the daughter of the new regulations
Rory Byrne, during the presentation, highlights the progressive change of his role within the team, and for this reason it is the same South African designer who supervises the design of the 248 F1 during the development phase.
Having said that, it is equally important to specify that the father of the new born in the Maranello car manufacturer is Aldo Costa, who goes into more detail regarding the characteristics of the new single-seater, who:
"It is mainly developed as a function of the new V8 engine, which has imposed a radical change both from a mechanical and aerodynamic point of view, although the latter component is still provisional at the moment, at least until the first race of the season".
"As far as the frame is concerned, it should be noted that a completely new project was opted for, which saw the total overhaul especially of the central area to further optimize the weight distribution and an overall lightening of the entire structure. concerns the suspensions, especially the completely redesigned rear one, as well as the transmission (always made of composite materials) and the differential. In particular, in the realization of these two new components, particular attention was paid to the new characteristics of the V8 which, in addition to greater vibrations, also presents some further difficulties from the point of view of race starts".
As stated by Ross Brawn, Ferrari began to work much more thoroughly on the 2006 car as early as mid-2005, when it was now clear, given the poor results obtained, that the F2005 was too far behind Renault and McLaren; there was no point in wasting time and resources on a badly born car, which was continuing to give bitter results.
The newborn V8 engine
The excessive performance of the engines of previous years pushed the FIA to put a stop, forcing the introduction of engines that go from a displacement of 3.0 liters to one of 2.4 liters, and with eight cylinders instead of ten. Only with this novelty, experts talk about lap times slower by at least three seconds, up to five seconds, obviously depending on the circuit.
This is therefore an important, radical upheaval, which obviously requires a redesign of the car compared to the design seen in previous years, as admitted by engineer Paolo Martinelli, Ferrari Formula 1 Engine Director:
"It is a totally new project, a return to the past as the initials of the new car also recall. We started working on this engine around mid-2004, then running it on the bench. first time at Fiorano and from autumn 2005 onwards we concentrated completely on the V8 engine. Now we have reached the almost final version. Obviously, during the season we will see a very important learning curve".
Gilles Simon, Head of Engine Design and Development, points out that the calculations at Ferrari were carried out a long time before the official communication of the regulation. Thus, fundamental choices such as the definition of the center of gravity had already been made.
"The regulation defines global constraints which, however, leave a lot of room for design capacity. The 90° angle was our choice, as was the achievement of the minimum weight of the static parts. The real challenge, however, will certainly be lightening all the moving components".
The start of the season and the growth in the current championship
The predictions turn out to be true: the 248 F1 proved to be very competitive right from the start, obtaining a second place with Schumacher in the inaugural race in Bahrain, fighting on equal terms with Alonso's Renault R26.
Overall, in the first part of the season, Schumacher obtained two victories, in the San Marino Grand Prix in Imola and in the European Grand Prix held on the Nurburgring circuit, also obtaining four second places. Not a bad start, also crowned by Felipe Massa's third place in the European Grand Prix, in his debut season with Ferrari.
But the real step forward was made by Ferrari in the second part of the year: in nine Grand Prix disputed, the Cavallino won seven and completed two double wins. Thanks to Massa's performance, Schumacher's comeback on Alonso begins to appear more and more plausible, almost obvious, and it is clear that the Spaniard, despite an extraordinary and top-level driving, can do very little against the Kaiser and his 248 F1.
The three consecutive victories obtained in the USA-France-Germany triptych, the success in Monza, seem to be the unmistakable signals that seem to herald Schumacher's eighth world title, but an incredible twist completely distorts the outcome of the 2006 season.
At the penultimate round of the season, that of Japan, Schumacher and Alonso are on equal points, but obviously the predictions give the German the favorite. At the end of qualifying, Ferrari conquered the entire front row, with Massa surprisingly ahead of the Kaiser, while Alonso had to settle for fifth place.
At the start, Schumacher overtakes Massa, while Alonso, with his usual driving as a phenomenon, manages to recover up to second place, but it is clear that the Spaniard cannot close the gap on the Ferrari of the seven-time world champion.
With this victory Schumacher would take the lead of the standings, completing a comeback that lasted all year, and would meet his Renault rival in Brazil, with a minimum advantage in the standings, but with a much higher car.
But on lap thirty-six, Schumacher's Ferrari begins to smoke, forcing the German to retire shortly after. It is a tragic scene for the Ferrari environment, which remains almost incredulous, in front of a mechanical failure that had not happened since the 2000 French Grand Prix.
The motivation is simple: starting with the Chinese Grand Prix, engine design would have been frozen for years. This only means one thing: to bring the best you have, at the cost of incurring a mechanical anomaly, which promptly came true.
The internal thrusts at Ferrari will cost the place to engineer Martinelli, who will have to abandon the Formula 1 project at the end of the season. The triumphal ride of the Ferrari's is interrupted at the very best moment, opening the doors of the world title to Alonso and Renault, which until now had trudged frantically behind the 248 F1.
The title did not arrive, yet this car still remains an icon of the Ferrari people today: it represents the last Ferrari driven by the Kaiser in Formula 1. Probably the comeback championship victory would have represented the most romantic and epic finale that Formula 1 could offer.
But despite the great bitterness, the 248 F1 still proves to be of vital importance, not only to quickly put aside the nightmare of 2005, but also to allow the Red to return immediately to compete at high levels, an aspect that will prove very useful in the close fight of the following years with McLaren, historical rival of Ferrari.
Simone Pietro Zazza