Why Ferrari doesn’t fear its downgrade will derail F1 season

by lisettetylor897

The story of Formula 1’s development war in 2024 has been very much about whether car updates fall into the ‘upgrade’ or ‘downgrade’ category.

For some teams, like McLaren, Mercedes and Haas, each new iteration appears to be delivering the steps hoped to help push them forward.

For others – like Aston Martin, RB and Ferrari – new parts have led to some unintended consequences and left them not only facing competitive challenges but an urgency to get to the bottom of what has gone wrong.

In Ferrari’s case, its issue appears to revolve around a new floor that arrived as part of a Spanish Grand Prix upgrade.

While the new parts delivered more downforce, especially in the low-speed corners, one consequence was it helped trigger the return of bouncing in fast turns – something which has hampered the squad in recent races.

At last weekend’s British Grand Prix, Ferrari conducted a floor comparison across both cars to work out which solution was best – and in the end opted to roll back its floor to the Imola spec.

While that move proved best for the short term in giving Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc the best hope for the Silverstone weekend, moving forward the team clearly needs a more permanent solution.

Carlos Sainz, Ferrari SF-24

Carlos Sainz, Ferrari SF-24

Photo by: Erik Junius

But, more critical than that, is in getting an understanding of why what has been delivered to the track is not what was expected – because until it has that answer then it cannot hope to make any more progress.

As Mercedes technical director James Allison talked about earlier in the year, if an ‘upgrade’ proves to be a ‘downgrade’ then the consequences can be huge.

“That makes life hard because the moment you stop trusting your tools, you have to backtrack and you lose loads of time,” said Allison. “Time is your biggest friend, losing it your worst enemy.”

It is a situation not lost on Ferrari team principal Fred Vasseur, but there is no sense that he fears the Maranello squad cannot turn things around to get back in the fight at the front.

That confidence is based on the fact that, 12 months ago, Ferrari appeared to be going through an exact same scenario, where updates were not delivering all that had been hoped for and the team needed some understanding of what had gone wrong.

Charles Leclerc, Ferrari SF-23,Carlos Sainz, Ferrari SF-23

Charles Leclerc, Ferrari SF-23,Carlos Sainz, Ferrari SF-23

Photo by: Erik Junius

The breakthrough came at the Dutch Grand Prix when Ferrari elected to sacrifice its weekend preparations in favour of what was effectively a single-day test to focus entirely on car experiments.

It is why he thinks the call to split floors across the cars at Silverstone, even if it meant a potential hit to hopes for the British GP, was the right thing to do to kick start its understanding of what was going on.

“I think we had exactly the same situation last year, almost at the same stage of the season – Silverstone, Budapest and Spa,” he said.

“We stopped it at Zandvoort, had a good scan of the situation and had a good recovery because the weeks after, we were there.

“What is tough in this situation is you don’t have tests, proper tests, to fix it or to at least understand it. It is very difficult as a team to compromise or sacrifice Friday sessions when you know you are losing time during the weekend and say ‘ok, let’s forget about FP1, FP2 and focus on the mid-term’.

“Trust me, this decision as a team is difficult because you start the weekend – and it was even worse at Silverstone with the weather – and it means you put yourself in a tough situation.

“But this we knew before, but it was even worse that Saturday morning was with wet tyres, but it is like it is. We assumed the decision before the weekend, and I think it was the right call to do it.”

Charles Leclerc, Ferrari SF-24

Charles Leclerc, Ferrari SF-24

Photo by: Erik Junius

While the floor data from Silverstone’s practice running pointed to the new version being taken off the car for the remainder of the weekend, Vasseur says a decision will be taken in the next few days about what the squad will do for the next race in Hungary.

The focus before making that call is in trying to get to the bottom of why things have happened. Asked about the trigger for the problems, Vasseur said it was not known right now.

“Correlation is ok, the correlation on the downforce is ok,” he said. “It is still a question mark for everybody and sometimes the bouncing is popping up like this.

“It is quite difficult to have correlation because you don’t have bouncing in the wind tunnel. We all have metrics, and you cannot anticipate you have more bouncing with this part over another one. But to know if it will have a negative impact on performance is another story.”

Looking ahead, Vasseur does not believe that Ferrari will be impacted for long. And while it may require another race of seeking answers, he thinks it is simply a matter of producing new parts that eradicate the bouncing.

Asked if issues were an inherent problem with the SF-24 or just related to the updates, Vasseur said: “We changed all the aero parts and the bouncing appeared in Spain. To fix it you have tonnes of solutions.

“You have solutions with a compromise on performance, you have solutions without a compromise on performance – which is developing a new package.

“I think we are there now. We will have to have the next race with the current car, but the sooner the better we will bring upgrades that have less bouncing.”

While the floor issues have put Ferrari in a tricky spot for the last few races, and prompted questions over potential ‘downgrades’, Vasseur is sure the situation is not one to be too alarmed by.

He says history shows that Ferrari has had a good grip on bringing improvements to its car – so there is no need to panic that it has a one-off headache.

“I can’t speak about 2021, or 2020 but over the last 16 months, all the upgrades that we have brought have had very good correlation with what we did in the wind tunnel,” he said.

“It has been one of the assets of the team last year, to bring small upgrades and each time, it was paying off.

“This one, we had an issue, but it is not that we have an issue that it is the end of the world.”

Watch: How Hamilton Triumphed Against the Odds – F1 British Grand Prix Analysis

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