KOREAN GP – DEVELOPMENTS FOR 2014Company press release. Maranello, 1 October
– Only two names have ever appeared on the winner's trophy for the Korean Grand Prix and this weekend at the Yeongam circuit , Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel will again be locked in combat as the 2013 championship reaches the home stretch, with Korea and Japan hosting the next two rounds within one week of each other. 'After the streets of Singapore, we're moving back to a track that has a bias towards medium and high speed corners, but you will still run towards the top end of the downforce range,' is Scuderia Ferrari Engineering Director Pat Fry's initial assessment of the challenge that awaits, on the outskirts of the sea port of Mokpo. 'However, after Turn 2 there is a very long straight which is a DRS zone so we will need good speed there.'
The next time Formula 1 will travel this far east will be for the start of the 2014 season in Australia and that date is already affecting the work of the Scuderia at the race track. 'We've still got some developments coming through for the next few races and we will be running and testing them to continue to try and improve the car,' says Fry. 'For 2014, because of the much larger changes to the cars on the engine side and also the aero aspect, it's naturally much harder to test components now, but there will be some small development bits we can run during this year's remaining free practice, looking more on the reliability front than anything else, which means we have busy Fridays planned for the next six races.'
Watching the results of the 2014 work with interest will be the Scuderia's Chief Designer Nikolas Tombazis, although this year's remaining races are still an important part of his workload. 'Our efforts will be partly aimed at continuing to understand better the tyres and tyre management, which might see some improvement compared to our competitors,' he says. 'And we are bringing small aero updates. One should not expect these to dramatically affect the final result but we feel they will bring some improvement.' The aforementioned tyres has been an area where the F138's performance seemed to take a step backwards after it had been one of the car's strong points earlier in the year. 'That change occurred after the German GP, when the tyre belt changed from being metallic to being made of Kevlar,' reckons the Greek designer. 'However, it would be somewhat superficial to blame the tyres as the only reason for our decrease in performance. We also took some development steps that were not as strong and didn't work.' In his usual candid fashion, Tombazis goes on to reveal that the Maranello wind tunnel, about to resume service after a major updating programme, also contributed to the slower than desired pace of development on this year's car. 'Wind tunnel technology has been a weak point for us, compared to our competitors. We had some problems with our flow quality so it was not as uniform as it should be and we could not run as big a model as we would have liked. Our data and instrumentation was quite outdated so we couldn't do that many runs and experiments per day, which was a bit of a drawback. The past months we spent updating it have addressed all these problems. Therefore I am optimistic that, on this front, when we are fully up and running we will not be in deficit to our competitors.'
The 2014 car will not only benefit from these improved tools, but it will also be the first design to come out of a new organisational structure. 'For about a year and a half, we have been organised in a different way, with two deputy chief designers each looking at the projects for alternate years,' explains Tombazis. 'Fabio Montechi is the guy following the 2014 project, as Deputy Chief Designer, so he and I work very closely together. On the aerodynamic side, we've had a team working on the 2014 car for a year or so. Now we have reinforced that team with people who previously had worked on development of this year's car whose focus has shifted to 2014 and therefore, the numbers working on next year's car have increased dramatically.' Part of the reorganisation sees the return of James Allison to Maranello in the role of Technical Director. 'I've known James since 1994 and it will be our third time working together, once at Benetton and previously at Ferrari in the early 2000s,' says Tombazis. 'He's an excellent person technically and a good guy too. Together with Pat the two of them provide strong leadership: he brings a lot of knowledge, experience and capability to the team, making it stronger.'
While we have Tombazis in the chair, of course the 2014 car has to be a topic for discussion and, if much of the talk revolves around the radical changes on the engine front, the whole car will be very different to its predecessors. 'The changes aerodynamically are quite significant and in some key areas this involves reviewing our design completely,' he maintains. 'The front wing is designed to a different set of rules, the rear wing too and the elimination of the exhaust effect is also very significant. Furthermore, when it comes to interacting with the engine, cooling is very important and to get it right is very critical. All these factors mean the 2014 car will be very different, but we cannot claim it is starting from zero or from a clean sheet of paper, as you have to use your knowledge and experience from the past to design the car. This means there are areas where we feel we have to catch up with our competitors and others where indeed we are all starting from zero.' As to the overall look of next year's cars, Pat Fry believes the major differences lie beneath the surface: 'aerodynamically the visual changes will be relatively small, with the front wing getting narrower and the lower rear wing disappearing. I guess the body shapes will change slightly because of the exhaust positions moving and that has a significant impact on the aero performance side of the car. So in performance terms it's quite a dramatic change, but visually, the cars will look quite similar to the current ones.' For the next few days in Korea, it's the Scuderia's 'current one,' the F138 that will have Fry and the team's undivided attention as they continue to fight for what's on offer in 2013.