Ferrari’s Higher Wind Tunnel Allowance Hasn’t Helped Competitiveness Against Red Bull
Ferrari has had a difficult start to the year, struggling to keep up with Red Bull’s pace despite having a higher allowance for wind tunnel testing time and CFD work.
Red Bull’s dominant start to the 2023 Formula 1 season has prompted Ferrari to question whether the penalty the team received for breaching the budget cap was severe enough.
Ferrari is of the opinion that Red Bull’s performance at the start of the 2023 Formula 1 season indicates that the penalty they received for violating the budget cap was not severe enough.
Despite acknowledging Red Bull’s impressive work on the RB19, which has led to them winning the first three races of the season comfortably, aided by weight reduction and improved straight-line speed when the car’s drag reduction system is engaged.
It is worth noting that Red Bull had to face a 10% reduction in its aerodynamic testing allowance as a consequence of its breach of the budget cap during the first year of F1’s new financial regulations in 2021. In addition to the penalty, Red Bull was also fined $7 million, which did not come from their future budget cap allowances.
When the penalty was announced, Ferrari, along with other teams, believed that Red Bull should have received a harsher punishment that would have included future budget cap reductions.
According to Ferrari team boss, Fred Vasseur, Red Bull’s penalty was “very lenient” and estimated that it amounts to less than a tenth of a second in lap time. Vasseur further claims that Red Bull has compensated for the penalty by allocating the funds that would have been used for more aero work to other crucial areas of the car.
When asked by F1Lead whether he thought Red Bull had done a good job or if their dominance showed that the penalty was too lenient, Vasseur responded by saying that both were true. He acknowledged that Red Bull had done an excellent job but insisted that the penalty was still very lenient.
Vasseur emphasized that the development rate during the season is not linear and that a 10% reduction in aerodynamic testing allowance can have a significant impact. Additionally, Red Bull could have allocated the money they saved from the penalty to other areas of the car, such as weight reduction, which would have further benefited their performance.
Vasseur also noted that he is not entirely convinced that the penalty’s effect on Red Bull’s performance was significant, especially considering that teams typically have an advantage at the start of the season due to their investments in the previous year’s development.
He made it clear that he is not trying to find excuses and acknowledged that Red Bull did an excellent job with their car, but reiterated that the penalty was still too light.
Vasseur concluded by reiterating his belief that the penalty given to Red Bull was too light. He explained that Red Bull was already entitled to the lowest allowance for wind tunnel testing time and computational fluid dynamics (CFD) work, which is 70% of the baseline figure, as they had won the constructors’ championship. Despite this, the team was still able to perform well and win races, indicating that the penalty was not enough to deter them from achieving success.
As a result of the cost cap penalty, which applies for 12 months from October to October, Red Bull’s wind tunnel testing time and CFD work allowance were further reduced by 10%, to 63% of the baseline figure.
This means that during the eight-week aero testing period, Red Bull could perform only 202 wind tunnel runs and 1260 CFD items, which is a reduction of 22 wind tunnel runs and 140 CFD items compared to their baseline allowance.
In comparison, Ferrari has a higher allowance than Red Bull, with 38 more wind tunnel runs and 240 more CFD items in its allowance per aero testing period.
However, Ferrari has not been able to capitalize on this advantage, as they have been less competitive relative to Red Bull this season, especially in race trim. In fact, Ferrari seems to be falling behind Red Bull, despite having a higher allowance, suggesting that other factors beyond the allowance may be contributing to Red Bull’s success.
It’s worth noting that Ferrari has had a difficult start to the year, which may have contributed to their deficit to Red Bull. Lead driver Charles Leclerc retired from two grands prix, and Ferrari has suffered from a noticeable lack of pace in the only race he finished, which was in Saudi Arabia, where he started from a disadvantaged grid position due to reliability concerns.
Despite Leclerc’s occasional relative threat to Red Bull over one lap, Ferrari has not managed to finish as the second-best team in any of the first three races, indicating that they have significant ground to make up.
Vasseur has suggested that Ferrari’s car was difficult to drive at its absolute maximum at the beginning of the season, and they have tried to address this by running the car in a more user-friendly way, which seemed to have paid off in Australia. However, Ferrari was still frustrated because they did not perform well collectively in that race.
Vasseur hinted that Ferrari’s true pace may have been disguised once again, suggesting that they have not been able to fully demonstrate their potential yet.
Vasseur has stated that in the first three events of the season, Ferrari had the impression that they were not far behind and could compete with Red Bull in qualifying, but found it more challenging to keep up with them in the race.
According to Vasseur, the data they have analyzed suggests that Red Bull’s advantage over Ferrari in the race at Melbourne was significantly lower. However, Ferrari still needs to make improvements to bridge the gap with Red Bull in race performance.
Vasseur suggests that the difficulty with driving the car at its absolute limit, with varying fuel levels and tire conditions, has contributed to Ferrari’s performance struggles. If the car is too “peaky,” drivers may be able to manage it in qualifying for one lap with fresh tires, but it becomes more difficult to maintain over the course of a race. He notes that Ferrari has taken a different direction in the last couple of weeks, likely to address this issue and make the car more consistent across different driving conditions.
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