We are only a week away from the first 2017 car introductions. The kick-off will be by Sauber on the 20th of February. Expect to see much news due to these regulatory changes. Broader and lower: we expect the cars to be spectacular and aggressive-looking.
The last 2 months before the reveal are a hectic period. The pressure is on full to finish the work. It is also the month where the first teasers appear, and where the first rumours concerning the cars start circulating.
It is also these months where cars are run through simulators to accumulate data. Although these data are top secret, personal contacts give teams ways to peek at the other teams’ data.
Rumours sourced from the Italian media (specifically Formula1.it) imply that the Maranello team were not really happy when comparing their data to those of other teams. Wind-tunnel data has not been as good as expected when comparing it to the competition. The team has not made a very confident impression over the last couple of seasons, and this hits right at the heart of their insecurity.
Did James Allison’s departure of the team catch Maurizio Arrivabene by surprise? It seems so… Allison’s wife passed away in March 2016, and he left the team in June 2016 to spend more time with his family, Mattia Binotto then took over. By that point work on the 2017 car had already started, and Ferrari were left with a semi-developed car.
The 2017 car, the SF17-JB (possibly named after Jules Bianchi), made Ferrari decide to once again call in for help from Rory Byrne. The 72 year old, has already resigned from F1 more than once, but is called upon by Ferrari when they need help. Byrne was the leading designer in the period that Schumacher wan his world-titles at Ferrari.
Ferrari are not usually a team that would to exploit the regulation its limits these days, but the return of Byrne suggests the 2017 might be more radical and advanced than other season.
However, as already stated, rumours are that the car doesn’t aerodynamically perform as Ferrari wishes. Looking at the information arriving at Ferrari HQ in Maranello in recent weeks, they realised that the car they conceived may not be particularly competitive compared to the brand new Mercedes W08. It is not even a single issue problem, as we hear that the car under performs in aerodynamic drag (wind resistance), as well as in its capability to generate downforce. Is this because of the car being left without its original designer, or because of the aggressiveness of Byrne’s modifications?
What we gather is that Ferrari technicians have been sent back to the drawing board. This would make a major upgrade possible a couple of months into the season.
In an effort to compensate, the Italians are putting every thing they have to squeeze the last bit of power out of the engine. Will this prove to be effective?
This means that at the beginning of the season we will likely see Ferrari falling short to hook up with Mercedes. Not good news for the Tifosi. Will this season prove the closing of the gap with Mercedes, or will it tip the scale for Vettel and decide to switch teams?
Rather encouragingly, the team successfully fired up their 2017 Power Unit for the first time today (Sunday 12th) with the car due to turn a wheel in two weeks on the Friday 24th at Fiorano for a ‘filming day’.