Ferrari should look carefully to McLaren

When we talk about Ferrari and McLaren it’s impossible not to think to the uncountable technical challenges between the two historical team in this years of Formula 1. The big good news of this 2019 is for sure the regained speed of McLaren team.

The team seems solid and well lead, the pilots are young and talented but respectful towards each other. A very good mix which is bringing McLaren back to the high positions of the grid. But what choices were made and why it should be so interesting for Ferrari?

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Three key factors in car design

Among all the numerous factors that take part to the car design there are for sure also:

  • “roof-limit” for drag that each team choose
  • downforce that each team tries to develop
  • energy that each team think is right to transfer to the tyres, in order to warm them up and keep them in the right exercise window

These three factors are not independent from each other. On the contrary the are heavily tied and they mutually interact. For example by Increasing the downforce you usually increase also the drag and the energy you transfer to the tyres. On the contrary, if you try to decrease the drag you could easily decrease also the downforce and therefore the energy you bring to the tyres and so on.

The Ferrari’s factors

It is clear to everybody that Ferrari solved the equation by choosing a car with low downforce and therefore low drag. This allow the red team to have a good acceleration and a remarkable top speed, but Vettel and Leclerc are clearly loosing in the slow corners and, more important now, they have a big tyre problem. The two SF90 have a really hard time taking the tyres to the right temperature window and then, even if they get there, to maintain that window. The best qualifying result for the team were on the tracks where the high speed part is crucial: Barharin, Canada and they have the potential also in Azerbaijan.

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Did McLaren solve the equation?

At Woking the McLaren Design Team made some choices very similar to Ferrari: the car has a low drag/high efficiency setup, capable of reaching remarkable high speed in straight line. At least as far as the Renault Power Unit allows. Also the new front wing philosophy is the same of the SF90: the “outwash”.

It is for sure not by chance that summing up the qualifying result of the two drivers, the best for the orange cars arrived in Bahrain, Azerbaijan, Canada and finally in France.

Wait a minute, did I just say France? If the design philosophies of Ferrari and McLaren are so similar, why in France the McLaren did so well? Well this is the key point of what we are trying to say here. McLaren openly said that their car was designed for low drag/high efficiency. But also he added that they are very happy with the tyres, that work very well on their cars! As a matter of fact, the request to Pirelli to get back to the old tyres, headed by RedBull and Ferrari cannot find the required majority (7/10)  because apart from Mercedes’s clients, the Zak Brown’s team is saying no, since they are happy with this year’s tyres.

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What McLaren is doing that Ferrari should do?

It is obvious that there is not just one factor that makes the orange cars fast in the straights and happy with the tyres. The result is always a combination of multiple aspects. But having seen the analogies between the two designs, it seems clear that McLaren designers have solved the equation of the three factors quite brilliantly.

At Paul Ricard, where it is very important to have both straight line speed and the tyres working fine, Norris and Sainz were super fast!

So it would be good for Ferrari to give a deep look to the car of their historic rivals. The Woking cars could somehow have the key to allow Ferrari to make the jump ahead they need with the tyres, in order to at least try to contain the Mercedes dominance. In France, the guys headed by Toto Wollf demonstrated clearly that they solved perfectly the three factors equation!


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Federico Albano

Ingegnere Navale, appassionato di Formula 1 e tifoso Ferrari da oltre 25 anni