TECH ANALYSIS: Ferrari's 2023 SF-23 – A complete redesign or subtle evolution?
Ferrari launched their brand-new SF-23 on Tuesday and it seems they've continued with last year's philosophy. Mark Hughes looks at why the Scuderia have focused on improving, rather than overhauling, their design.
Ferrari had a car fast enough last year to set 12 pole positions, four more even than the championship-winning Red Bull. So it’s perhaps not so surprising that the new SF-23 bears a very close resemblance to last year’s car.
The biggest factor blunting last year’s title challenge was the reliability of the power unit. After the double retirements in Baku, the PU ran in detuned form for the rest of the season as the team undertook the long project of making the ERS-H system more robust.
That work has been completed over the winter and the belief is that the power unit can now be safely run in the more aggressive way it was in the early part of last season, when it was the most potent unit on the grid.
Ferrari must hope that this, in combination with the tweaks they have made to the chassis, will be enough to fight with Red Bull for rather longer than was the case in 2022.
"Our 2023 car is an evolution of the one we raced last year, but in reality, it has been completely redesigned," said Head of Chassis Area Enrico Cardile as he outlined the changes. "On the aerodynamic side, we increased vertical downforce to adapt further to the new aero regulations and achieve the desired balance characteristics. The suspension has also been redesigned, to support aerodynamics and increase the range of adjustments that can be made to the car at the track.
"The most obvious changes are in the area of the front suspension where we have moved to a low track rod. The front wing is also different, as is the construction of the nose, while the bodywork is a more extreme version of what we saw last season."
It looks like a more svelte version of last year’s Ferrari, with the front lower corner of the sidepods scalloped away, suggesting that – like pretty much every other car so far launched – some radiator area has been moved out of there and higher up around the car’s shoulders.
It retains the ‘bathtub’ contours at the top of the sidepods, with a sunken depression aiding the air extraction and channelling it towards the rear beam wing.
The cooling rearrangement has not involved emulating the Red Bull bodywork ‘cannon’ towards a rear-extracted air exit. Instead, the bodywork where the engine cover and sidepod tops merge behind the cockpit remains extensively louvred.
The nose appears slightly flattened out and the front wing with which the car was launched featured slot gap separators which were angled in such a way as to create vortices, which will help accelerate the airflow towards the floor inlets at the bottom of the sidepods.
Mercedes last year produced a wing similar in principle to this and presented it in Austin and Mexico, but the FIA declared it not in conformity with the regulations as it judged the primary function of the slot gap separators in this case was not structural but aerodynamic.
It remains to be seen if Ferrari’s more subtle interpretation of the same idea will be deemed acceptable.