Ferrari F2012, a championship lost to the last, a feat of Alonso

Fresh from a year dominated by Red Bull, the Formula 1 Circus looks forward to the start of the 2012 season: the hope of seeing Ferrari and McLaren at the level of the Milton Keynes team, the return of Lotus, which after participating in two previous years unlucky as Team Lotus (forced due to a diatribe with Lotus Cars to change its name, thus becoming Caterham F1 Team), it becomes Lotus F1 Team, complete with black livery with gold lettering, the growth of Mercedes and some unexpected outsiders make the 2012 championship grid promising to say the least.

What the whole Formula One environment cannot imagine is the unpredictability of the new season, characterized by seven different winners in the first races, and a close fight to the last between the reigning champion Sebastian Vettel and Ferrari driver Fernando Alonso, which ended with bated breath in a chaotic Brazilian Grand Prix, in favor of the German Red Bull driver.

However, the Spaniard's epic driving remains, deserving to have fought to the end with an indecipherable, inconstant and complex Ferrari F2012 to develop, capable of giving great satisfactions and terrible defeats, made less heavy by Alonso's skills.

F2012: where does the tear with the RB8 come from?

From the point of view of pure performance, on the starting grid the RB8 on many occasions trudges against the McLaren MP4-27, but both enjoy an excellent base balance, which makes it much easier to adapt to each track.

Above all, the single-seater of Hamilton and Button seems to enjoy a unique synergy, made possible by the development of all the areas of the car. Yet neither of the two McLaren drivers manages to reach at least the top three in the Drivers' Championship, thanks to the many reliability problems of the MP4-27.

Compared to these two competitors, the F2012 turns out to be much more nervous in the balancing phase, showing an indecipherable inconstancy: in the twenty Grand Prix disputed, the Ferrari drivers go from not being able to qualify for Q3, to winning the race the next day as in the case of the European Grand Prix, raced in Valencia.

Why can't the Cavallino single-seater have the same balance as the competition?

The front part of the F2012 arouses a lot of interest in the opponents: the stepped nose and the pull-rod suspension should guarantee an excellent functioning of the front end, which was born with the idea of ​​guaranteeing excellent cornering and a low resistance value. advancement.

The problems arise as you move towards the rear: on the sides stand out the dual element radiant packs, in full Mercedes style, designed to contain the surface and the volume, while generating a very high drag value.

During the season, by intervening on the external components linked to the passage of flows, the Cavallino technicians managed to limit the damage, but the nerve center of the F2012 lies in the exhausts.

The issue related to engine exhaust manifolds

The many controversies related to the solutions adopted in 2011 led to a series of limitations and restrictions on exhausts by the FIA, thus forcing the designers to work hard to partially recover the lost load.

At the beginning of the season, the F2012 comes with a solution designed to allow the exhaust gases to flow into the area of ​​the rear wheel foot, since in this particular area the external part of the diffuser channel also flows, which, if correctly powered, produces additional downforce. The load generated ensures that the F2012 is very fast on the go and out of corners, allowing the drivers to go on the gas very early. The jet of hot air expelled from the exhausts, however, ends up generating a too deteriorating effect on the tread of the rear tires, thus forcing the team directed by Pat Fry to correct the solution during the current season.

Various evolutions have been adopted to calibrate the exhausts, largely inspired by configurations adopted by the competition. After having rotated the course of the ducts first inside and then outwards, the Ferrari technicians introduced a new rear part of the sides, thus also modifying the lines of the frame, including a different arrangement at the exit of the terminals.

In particular, the specification used at Scarperia introduces an upward flow direction change, in full Lotus style, facing the lower wing profile, thus guaranteeing the F2012 an advantage in terms of top speed, and an increase load, directly exploiting the surface of the lower floor of the rear wing.

The novelty guarantees significant advantages on tracks with numerous braking and accelerations interspersed with numerous long straights, and to find a better balance between performance and aerodynamic load, even at Maranello they are obliged to introduce - starting from the Canadian Grand Prix - the Coanda effect terminals, launched for the first time on the Sauber.

The Coanda effect is obtained by managing to keep the flow constant even in the points where there are no channels in which the latter can slip. The rear part of the sides, in response to the new regulations, has taken on a very harmonious and sinuous shape, such as to reconcile a better flow of air combined with exhaust gases towards the diffuser.

With the arrival of the last configuration of the escapements, the flow reaches the foot of the rubber, in a much more controlled and delicate way, without stressing it or wearing it out, maintaining the right balance window for tire operation more consistently. But despite the improvements introduced, Ferrari continues to struggle compared to Red Bull in terms of grip and traction, perhaps thanks to an irregular blowing of the Renault engines, capable of generating a more efficient air flow, despite the regulatory constraints imposed by the FIA after 2011.

A legendary championship

On the eve of the 2012 season it is quite unthinkable to predict such an open and unpredictable season: the first seven Grands Prix end with seven different winners, Button, Alonso, Rosberg, Vettel, Maldonado, Webber and Hamilton, and suggest that in addition to the three teams at the top there are many teams ready to play their cards: an incredible Williams victorious in Barcelona, ​​a growing Mercedes, triumphant in Shanghai, a surprising second Sauber in Sepang, a newfound Lotus, winner of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, are all ingredients that contribute to making the vintage sparkling, which remains uncertain until the last.

In such a fierce competition, Fernando Alonso's driving makes the difference: despite the lack of load, the Spaniard manages to win two poles in Great Britain and Germany, both in the rain, and three wins, one of which is epochal.

At the European Grand Prix, held on the Valencia circuit, the Ferrari driver, who started from eleventh place, began a furious comeback, and with overtaking strokes, Alonso managed to slowly climb the rankings. Thanks to Vettel's technical problem, the Asturian leaps to the head and takes home a fundamental victory, sending the Spanish crowd into raptures that rushed to the stands for the event.

And it is precisely from such a race that the strengths of the F2012 emerge: in addition to Alonso's talent, Ferrari can count on reliability: in fact, no matter how fast, Red Bull and McLaren have various mechanical problems, thus losing precious points in terms of the championship.

On the contrary, in his run-up to the world championship, Alonso can boast an impeccable resistance of the components of his Ferrari, recording zero retirements due to mechanical problems. The Ferrari driver only had two retirements in 2012, caused by two accidents at the start: the scary one at the Belgian Grand Prix and the one that occurred in Japan.

Without these two caroms, the Spaniard would have probably ended the year by always reaching the checkered flag, except of course for technical problems never encountered in the other Grand Prix. And such an exciting championship cannot boast a dramatic and breathtaking epilogue like the one held in Interlagos, Brazil.

The leader of the world championship, Sebastian Vettel, comes to Sao Paulo with 13 points ahead of Alonso, who, after qualifying, finds himself starting in seventh place, three positions behind his Red Bull rival. Given the non-optimal form of the Red, before the start a triumphal parade is expected for the reigning champion.

When the traffic lights go out, one of the most chaotic races ever begins: in the rain, after only four corners, Vettel's left rear tire is hit by the wing of Bruno Senna, with the consequent spin of the German; as he turns, his RB8 is hit violently on the right side, again by the Brazilian driver of Williams.

In these frenetic moments, Vettel seems out of the game, and the world crown seems to pass into the hands of Alonso, who, however, with the German out, must finish at least in third position to win the championship, not an easy feat given the difficulties of his car on the Brazilian circuit.

Incredibly, the Red Bull driver turns around and resumes his race, without having found irreparable damage, thus starting a comeback that leads him to close in sixth position, also thanks to Hamilton's retirement after contact with Hulkenberg's Force India, surprisingly fighting for the victory of the Grand Prix.

Alonso does not go beyond second place, and for only 3 points Vettel is World Champion for the third time in a row, leaving a bad taste in the mouth of the Ferrari driver who has done so much to compete against his opponent during the season; but despite the defeat, he remains the masterful guide of the Spaniard, author of a year as a true champion. Simone Pietro Zazza

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