Ferrari made the biggest step last winter with their bravely-designed SF70H and its unique sidepod structures – did Ferrari took enough risk with the new SF71H to make the last and toughest step forward and beat Mercedes for the world title?
After three seasons of the hybrid turbo era in which Ferrari won only three times (all in one season in 2015), Ferrari became the new 2017, and with the new SF70H, it began to attract attention with technical solutions and innovation.
Work did not pay off in the end due to Vettel’s errors and reliability problems in Malaysia and Japan, but we should be fair and say that the Mercedes W08 was, on average, a faster car in 20 races on the calendar, as confirmed by the results.
The Ferrari with the new SF71H wants to progress in key areas, correct weaknesses in reliability and quality control, and challenge Mercedes on every track in Formula One this season. Will it be eonough for winning their first constructiors’ title since 2008 or the first drivers’ title since 2007?
Front wing and nose
Nose and front wing are very similar to what Ferrari finished last season, and despite teams doesn’t want to show too much on the launch of their cars, there are several interesting details.
The above elements are curved and aggressively tapper towards the central, 50 cm wide neutral section, just like on some front wings they used last year, and the wing in that section consists of seven elements.
The main horizontal section is cut close to the center of the wing, and in the space between the slit and the purple r-router wing there are total of five elements because there is another missing slit in the upper flap.
The r-vane is horizontally coupled to a double yellow cascade that has three small r-vanes on its top, and the black edge of the front wing consists of seven elements and creates a strong series of vortices which help direct the air around and across the front wheels.
The front wing carriers are also new and are now considerably longer and have vertical slots just like on McLaren in 2017, and behind them are the S-duct openings (yellow). The output of the S-duct system (marked purple) is located on the upper side of the chassis, exactly at the mounting position for the push rod front suspension (white arrows represent the air flow coming out of the S-duct system and which helps the airflow coming from the nose to stay attached).
On the upper picture there are also small, almost vertical elements (green) on the edges of the front wing, which complete the open aerodynamic structure at the edges of the front wing where air is directed over and around the front wheels.
Area behind front wheels
The airflow coming from the front wing flap edges and from aerodynamically profiled front wing carriers is further routed along the triple curved vertical vanes (blue) that protrude from the edges of the chassis and shape and direct it to the main triple bargeboards (shown below in plain blue). At their base there are green blades curved like the boomerangs that Ferrari has been using since the beginning of 2017 and have been copied by numerous teams including Red Bull.
This area offers great potential for aerodynamic development, which since 2017 starts at 430 mm behind the center line of the front wheels, giving the teams much more space to manipulate and prepare air flow at the beginning of the floor, sidepods and cooling outlets.
For example, Ferrari decided to extend the wheelbase compared to last season so that more space would be left between the front wheels and the front edge of the sidepods and to better manage the air flow in this area. With its W08 (and the new W09), Mercedes is an example of extreme use of a long wheelbase to increase the space behind the front wheels.
These elements do not create downforces by themselves, but are doing the key job of getting the better air flow to reach the places they need to reach – at the beginning of the floor, the sidepods, the rear wing and the diffuser that make the most downforce on the F1 cars.
Sidepods and halo protection system
The area where Ferrari was the most innovative in 2017 and attracted the most attention of other teams were sidepods.
Ferrari moved the cooling outlets to the rear, and the mandatory lateral safety structure (made of extremely solid Zylon that gradually absorbs the impact energy) that protrudes from the upper and lower chassis are integrated into the horizontal profiles (the lower is the reason why the floor ahead of the sidepods is raised on all cars).
The new SF71H has even more narrowed sidepods and frontal radiator openings while upper opening is still maintained like in 2017 (marked white). The openings are smaller than last year, and the front opening is moved even more upward to allow more air to pass around the lower side of the sidepods to the inner side of the rear wheels.
The horizontal safety structure (bottom of the frontal opening for radiators) is vertically coupled to the horizontal wing above (purple on the upper photo, yellow on the bottom), and in the free space above (left in black) Ferrari has placed two curved fins marked green in the lower picture).
Horizontal fins that comes out of the chassis (blue) help direct the airflow into the radiator openings that Ferrari already used last year.
The detail that delights in the new Ferrari are certainly the rearview mirrors that are open at the front to sent some of the airflow into the upper sidepod cooling opening.
Despite the effort the team invests in details like the rearview mirror, no one has ever remembered making them open like this, similar to what Red Bull did with RB13 nose in 2017.
The gain with this solution is certainly not big, but it’s also easy and cheap to copy if the teams decide to do it.
Halo protection in Ferrari’s red but the lower part is left in black to make the whole thing look visually smaller and distort the aesthetics of the car less.
Ferrari also showed an additional aerodynamic profile on the upper part of the halo system, similar to what we saw at McLaren’s test at the end of 2017 and at Alfa Romeo Sauber in 2018. Certainly, this area will be developed by all teams and this is just the beginning of the fight to reduce the influence that the halo system has on aerodynamics and cooling.
Power unit and rear end
Even before the launch of the new SF71H, the Ferrari announced that they had achieved the necessary reliability with the new engine to withstand the whole season with three engines per driver, but also maintained power from the end of last season.
Despite this being a valuable achievement, Ferrari prepares performance improvements during the season, but with only three engines team will only have two opportunities to introduce new specifications if they do not want to get a grid penalty.
Mercedes is the only one of the four engine manufacturers to prepare a brand new engine, and it will be interesting to keep an eye on the race between the two leading Formula 1 manufacturers. Ferrari, after last season, has to look closely on the reliability details but they are also under pressure that Mercedes does not increase its power advantage, especially in aggressive maps used in qualifying, at the start of the race and important in/out laps in the race.
Despite the fact that the FIA banned 750 mm high T-wings in front of the rear wing, the teams still has a certain freedom in 2018 so there will still be similar wings at that place, albeit somewhat lower.
The Ferrari set up a thin wing bent down (yellow) to help direct and correct the turbulent airflow coming from the engine cover and the halo protection and send it over to the diffuser and below the rear wing.
The airbox above the driver’s head is very similar to Mercedes and consists of three parts, just like the extended side ears they used in the last third of last season when they introduced an improved ERS cooling system.
The central part serves the supply of the V6 engine with air, and the side parts for cooling the ERS and the transmission system. Interestingly, more and more teams are converging on this design that first started using Mercedes 2016 last year, who in 2017 and 2018 accepted a number of teams such as Williams, Force India, Ferrari, Toro Rosso and Haas.
The lower picture shows the curved T-wing from the other perspective (green) as well as the reduced engine cover shark fin (pink) while Ferrari has also extended the metal cover on rear crash structure to highlight the aerodynamic effect on this important area beneath the rear wing.
The extended metal plate, driven by hot exhaust gases, serve as a ramp with its mild upward slope and helps connect the airflow of the rear wing and diffuser.
On the part of the floor in front of the rear wheels Ferrari has shown relatively simple four slits (blue) that create vortices that help isolate the airflow beneath the floor from the turbulence caused by the rotating rear wheels.
There is also a yellow horizontal fence that also helps isolate the airflow that reaches the lower side of the sidepod and which travels over the diffuser and underneath the rear wing from the rear wheels.
Ferrari continued with the development of successful concepts introduced by the innovative SF70H, and in some of the details followed the proven concepts of rivals such as the airbox and the extension of the wheelbase.
Sidepods are not as innovative as last season, but such a step is difficult to repeat for two years in a row. However, the new SF71H is noticeably narrower at the beginning of the sidepods, which should help to reduce air resistance, one of the SF70H deficiencies compared to Mercedes W08.
What Ferrari has managed to do about the power unit, its instalation, reducing weight and lowering the center of gravity remains unknown, but the first indications we will have on Monday when new cars will be on the track together for the first time.