Ferrari haven’t been world champion for eight years now, and for a squad that spent much of the early 2000s dominating the sport, it must be a particularly bitter pill to swallow. The 2015 SF15-T was the best of the rest behind the all-conquering Mercedes, and this season the Maranello squad will be hoping their new mount, the SF16-H, will be the car that takes them back to the top of the sport. The new car looks notably different to it’s predecessor, with changes all around. If the team can get on top of all of these changes quickly, and if the 2016-spec power unit is competitive, then this year, Ferrari could be a real contender for the title.
The first changes to note are clear from the front of the car, with the SF 16-H on top and the SF 15-T below:
Immediately the new nose jumps out as one of the most striking differences. After utilising a more bulbous solution previously, Ferrari have finally converged to a more commonly seen solution on the grid with the ‘thumb-tip’ nose as seen on cars such as the Williams and McLaren. Additionally, the widely spaced front wing mounts remain, which will ensure a large amount of airflow will reach the splitter and the rest of the underside of the car, theoretically making the SF 16-H more aerodynamically efficient in this area. This will be an aspect of the car the team have concentrated on for 2016, because revising the underbody aerodynamics to make full use of the extra airflow will bring big gains in terms of lap time.
The FIA television cameras that were mounted on the side of the nose at the start of 2015 were eventually placed on stalks and raised above the top face of the nose, and this can be seen on the new car as well. This effectively allows the team to use them as aerodynamic ‘flow conditioners’ – smoothing out some of the turbulent airflow that passes over them, allowing the components behind them in the flow to work as intended with more predictable behaviour.
The front suspension is another area of big change. For the past four seasons, Ferrari have used a pullrod system, as shown on the left highlighted in yellow. This means the suspension system uses this ‘rod’ to ‘pull’ the top wishbone down to the track. For this year however, they are using a pushrod system, shown on the right in orange. This means the ‘rod’ is used to ‘push’ the bottom wishbone down to the track. The main advantage of the pushrod setup is that it has a tendency to keep the car more level, while the location of the mounting points makes it far easier to work on and tweak setups during a session. However, it does have a higher centre of gravity than a pullrod system (if you look at the components that make up the suspension on the left, as a whole they are visibly lower than the pushrod setup on the right). This could have a noticeable effect on the car, especially considering the next point: the roll centre of the SF 16-H is lower than that of the SF 15-T due to the changed suspension geometry . Combining these two points could well make the car much more responsive during cornering, but that may come at the expense of increased tyre wear.
Towards the rear of the car, there is just as much change. Again, the 2016 car is on top, with the SF15-T below:
The air intakes on the sidepods are smaller than last year, suggesting the team have got on top of cooling, with this suggestion being backed up by one of the most impressive aspects of the car: how tightly the bodywork wraps around the power unit and gearbox. This flowing shape allows the airflow to stick to it, feeding air to the diffuser which is one of the vital downforce-producing components on a Formula 1 car. This is better shown in a three-quarter view (the yellow lines are to highlight the approximate nature of the airflow around the sidepod and into the diffuser, showing just how important this area is):
Finally, something to note for the new SF16-H along with the rest of the grid this season is the new rules regarding the exhaust. The wastegate on the turbocharger aims to regulate the maximum boost pressure by taking some of the exhaust gases from the flow, but when these gases are returned to the exhaust, they act as a muffler, making the cars quieter. In reaction to the complaints about the lack of noise from last season, these gases now must be routed through a separate exhaust pipe or pipes, which should make the cars slightly louder for 2016.
Overall, the Ferrari SF16-H looks to be a huge improvement over the SF15-T, and there is every chance that it will take the fight to Mercedes. However, it remains to be seen what the Silver Arrows can come up with, and Ferrari will need to get up to speed with their changes very quickly during testing if they are to be fast out of the blocks.
Over the next few weeks, I will analyse all of the remaining F1 2016 cars and their progress in pre-season testing, before branching out into the wider world of motorsport.
All Images © Scuderia Ferrari / Ercole Colombo