In 1996, the Ferrari F310 was born from the ideas of John Barnard, the first car of Maranello driven by world champion Michael Schumacher. The 1996 vintage was heavily dominated by Williams and Damon Hill, yet the F310 remained in the hearts of fans and fans, thanks to the German driver's three victories in his debut season with Ferrari.
Starting from the 1996 vintage, the Maranello team managed to put the many dark years behind them, marked by few emotions, starting to breathe the air of high rankings, while remaining aware that the work to be done to get back to the top is enormous.
The F310, signed in this way to highlight the transition to the 3-liter displacement and the 10-cylinder architecture of the engine, relaunches Ferrari, which would then return to the roof of the world four years later, perhaps starting the most significant period. of its history.
The technical innovations of the F310
The leap forward that Ferrari made compared to 1995 depended on significant details: the sides, with the inlets of the radiators detached from the body of the chassis, recalled those of military jets.
The peculiar and voluminous protections on the sides of the driver's head become necessary following the introduction of stricter safety rules for the passenger compartment after the tragic events of 1994. Detaching themselves from the philosophy of rival teams, first of all Williams and Benetton, the Ferrari engineers remain initially tied to the philosophy of the low nose.
Despite this, the car has important innovations, starting from the cockpit, where the steering wheel integrates for the first time all the controls previously housed on the dashboard: thus the multifunctional steering wheels begin to take shape, able to provide the driver with greater concentration in driving.
The beating heart under the bonnet is the 10-cylinder 046 engine, preferred to the classic V12 supplied up to 1995. Schumacher tests the 412 T2 at Fiorano, being impressed by the 12-cylinder and the power it is capable of delivering.
However, in Maranello they opted for a compromise choice designed to reduce displacement and fuel consumption, which is why the engine is replaced with the new unit.
Solutions in progress
The high nose was not used immediately due to the choice of the English technician Barnard, creator of the McLaren successes in the mid-80s, as he plans to modify the car in the course of construction.
It is no coincidence, therefore, that starting from the Canadian Grand Prix, the F310 also sports a decidedly inclined upward front profile, with two vertical support pillars that support the front wing.
A typical feature of Barnard's projects is precisely that of starting with a basic concept of the car, thus concentrating all the work on the mechanics, and then introducing gradual updates to the aerodynamics over the course of the season.
The F310 certainly falls short of the Williams FW18, but the serious problems are encountered from the point of view of reliability. As told by Schumacher's teammate, Eddie Irvine, the car often reveals problems and breakdowns, not only during the grand prix (retirements during the season reach thirteen), but also in practice sessions at Fiorano.
The main problem consists in the fact that the engine initially suffers from high temperatures, due to the conformation of the air intake above the rider's head, with Schumacher and Irvine even forced to tilt the helmet in a straight line to ensure greater intake of 10-cylinder fresh air with 75-degree V opening designed by engineer Paolo Martinelli.
In order to deal with this problem, the Ferrari engineers are obliged to review the area of the bonnet in several sections to which continuous modifications were applied.
But the drawbacks are not limited to that and even include the carbon fuel tank initially leaking gas! The gearbox features a titanium gearbox and miniaturized interior elements. This solution also proved fallacious in the winter preparation phase, so much so that the 412 T2 gearbox is temporarily installed on the F310, and the reintroduction of the original transmission, suitably modified, only takes place at a later time, on the occasion of the European Grand Prix. at the Nurburgring.
Consequently, taking into account the kilometers travelled before the opening of the world championship in Melbourne, Ferrari immediately found itself in debt of testing experience compared to its rivals.
The magic of Michael Schumacher
Throughout the season the two riders of the Red team have to deal with continuous mechanical problems, and when the car manages to cover the entire distance of the Grand Prix, the overwhelm of Renault-powered Williams appears to be indisputable.
The desirable result for Schumacher and Irvine is almost always the lowest step of the podium.
Irvine himself will then say that Ferrari's great fortune is precisely that of having Schumacher driving, not only for his skills at the wheel, in a car that, as the Irish driver will say, after just three laps he finds himself with the rear tires. completely destroyed, but also due to the German driver's ability to contribute to the development of the single-seater, primarily the engine.
And it is thanks to Schumacher's tenacity that Ferrari manages to end the season with four poles and three wins, obtained in Belgium, Italy and Spain, in the rain, where Schumacher shows all his talent.
In Barcelona, Schumacher wins for the first time with Ferrari, despite the fact that the extinction of a spark plug prevents the engine from delivering properly. In Belgium, despite the steering being damaged during the race, the German driver managed to triumph.
In Italy, despite the final thrill following the collision with the wheels that delimit the perimeter of the circuit, Michael wins in front of the cheering public for Ferrari's return to triumph in Italy, after eight years.
For this reason, even if in 1996 the world championship crown remains firmly in the hands of Williams from start to finish, the F310 represents the beginning of an epic cycle, a long series of chapters that still occupy many pages of the long book of the history of Formula 1.
Simone Pietro Zazza