TECH TUESDAY: The subtle Suzuka floor tweaks that signal Ferrari's evolving design direction
Mark Hughes looks at Ferrari's continued development after the Scuderia brought upgrades to the Japanese Grand Prix, with Giorgio Piola providing technical illustrations.
Although their title aspirations are over, Ferrari continue to push ahead with developments on their F1-75. For Suzuka, there was a new floor which seeks to give greater high-speed downforce.
The floor is a subtle reworking of that introduced at the French Grand Prix in July. It retains the enhanced inboard inlets and the step down to the outboard inlets introduced then.
The new features are a reshaped outer vane at the front, and what appears to be a small reprofiling of the tunnel at front and rear. The exposed outboard rear corner of the floor would also appear to have a different flexibility characteristic to before, given that the stiffening bar is shorter and sited differently.
Since Technical Directive 039 (in effect since Spa) which defines how the ride height-defining central plank should be mounted to the floor, getting a good set-up balance between high and low speed has become even more difficult.
Because there can no longer be as much of a cushioning effect between plank and floor as it hits the ground, in some cases it has been necessary to increase the static rear ride heights at which the car is run. This reduces downforce, particularly in low-speed corners.
Creating a floor which keeps the airflow working on the relevant surfaces without breaking down as the ride height increases at low speed (to whatever it has been set at) is crucial. Downforce inevitably reduces as the ride height rises but retaining as much of it as possible brings valuable lap time.
Any car which has had to increase its rear ride height as a result of the plank mounting directive would by definition no longer have the ideal contouring of tunnel and bodywork around it. This latest tweak should allow the car to be re-optimised around the ride heights it must now run.
As the car is pressed down at high speed and the outer rear corners of the floor come closer to the track surface, there is a tendency for aerodynamic porpoising to be induced. Reducing the flexibility of the floor at that point will give better control of the downforce created at such high speeds, delaying the onset of porpoising. As such, the stiffening of the exposed area of floor will make higher downforce set-ups more accessible.
Ferrari’s Jock Clear explained in Suzuka that the team were now fully satisfied that the floor introduced in France was working as intended and that this had given the team the confidence to press ahead with this tweaked version of it.
“Performance is relative in this sport,” he said, “and it looked like we had stepped back a bit in France – and France was when we put a new floor on.” That’s why during recent races, the team had used the Friday practices to do back-to-back comparisons between the original floor and that introduced in France. “When we put the previous floor back on, it confirmed that the new one was in fact better.”
Any falling back in competitiveness to Red Bull was therefore from bigger improvements at Red Bull and not an under-performance from the new Ferrari floor.
The tweaked version of thar floor was brought to Singapore but not used.
“It was available to us in Singapore,” confirmed Clear in Suzuka, “but it’s producing a lot of high-speed downforce and so was more suitable for here. A look at the circuits to come and they will all benefit from a bit more high-speed downforce so we expect to retain it for the rest of the season.”