The Ferrari 248 F1 Unveiled at Mugello
The new Prancing Horse single seater was officially unveiled by the Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro in front of the Italian and world press at Mugello. The new car will compete in the next Formula 1 world championship. The new 248 mark indicates the engine characteristics: 2.4 liter, 8 cylinder.A Completely New Car from Every Point of View
The traditional press conference held at the presentation of the new single-seater that will compete in the Formula 1 world championship began with the engineers who have developed the car over the past months: Aldo Costa, Ross Brawn and Rory Byrne. Byrne opened and underlined how his role in the company was changing. He was progressively filling a consultancy role for all the new House of Maranello projects and, in particular, regarding the engineering of the cars.
Then came Aldo Costa, creator of the 248 F1, to reflect on Byrne's role and the characteristics of the car in detail. He declared that: 'it was mainly to do with the V8 engine and we imposed a radical change from both a mechanical and aerodynamic point of view. The aerodynamics are still at a preliminary stage and will be until the first race of the season. As regards the chassis, this is totally new, above all in the centre section. We decided on this in order to optimize the weight distribution and lighten the entire structure. The same goes for the suspension, especially in the completely redesigned rear end. The transmission too is all new (though constructed from composite materials) and also the differential. In building these two new elements in particular, we had to pay close attention to the characteristics of the V8. The greater vibrations generated by the engine brought more initial problems'.
The gathered journalists then asked questions to which Brawn replied that 'from the midway point of last season when we realized we could not challenge for the top spots, we began concentrating more on development, especially the blend of the aerodynamic configuration and the characteristics of the new V8. Despite the progress that the Bridgestone tires have made with the reintroduction of tire changes, we expect to see lap times that are a second or two slower than last year'.
After Aldo Costa, Ross Brawn and Rory Byrne came Paolo Martinelli, Formula 1 Engine Director, and Gilles Simon, head of planning and engine development, to face the journalists during the press conference to launch the new 248 F1.
'It is a totally new project', began Martinelli. 'It is a return to the past, as the name of the car demonstrates. We started working on this engine midway through 2004 and then tested it on the bench. Last August it made its first outing, at Fiorano, and in the autumn of 2005 we completed the V8. Now we are close to the final version. Obviously, in the course of the season we will have to cope with a very steep learning curve. Gilles Simon's success in development was underlined: 'the calculations were made long ago and even if the regulation changes were related to us rather late in the day, fundamental modifications such as the selection of the centre of gravity had already been made'. 'The rules outline global constraints but do allow a lot of space for projectual experimentation', continued Martinelli.
'The 90° angle was our choice as was settling on the minimum weight for the non-moving parts. The real challenge, however, was lightening the weight of the moving components'. 'For the first time in ten years a drop in performance was recorded and this was fundamental. The change in power meant some greater investment, but, in the long run, it will be more economical. The overall output of the engine remains unchanged and so some factors were the same as on the V10'. Martinelli also revealed that there had been some dialogue between the engineers who work on road-going cars and those who concentrate on racing models. 'We met the people who work on GTs and exchange opinion in analyzing problems and the methods to resolve them. It was by no means a one-way communication' 'We were certainly on shared ground', added Simon. 'However, there are many differences, for example in our time schedules. We made a lot of input and so did they. It was a process of cross contamination'.Source - Ferrari S.p.A.
In 2005 the prancing horse pulled up lame. Were it not for Michelin's embarrassment and subsequent withdraw of the teams they supplied with tires, Ferrari may not have even scored a single victory. The once dominant Michael Schumacher seemed to have to do all he could to even place. At the beginning of the 2006 season the Ferrari 248 F1 looked like a young thoroughbred; there were bursts of speed and some flickers of former glory. By the middle-to-late part of the season not only did the prancing horse come of age, it may very well have been the most dominant car on the track.
The 2006 chassis carried on many of the traditions of Ferrari styling that started back in 2001. And while the 248 F1 would undergo many refinements throughout the season it still bore many similarities to its predecessors. Most obvious of those carry-over designs was the styling of the nose. The wide nose and slope seemed almost unchanged from the 2005 design but a closer look revealed many major refinements to those familiar Ferrari lines. Of course, one of the more obvious changes occurred in the cockpit rather than to the outside of the car. Rubens Barrichello departed Ferrari to drive for BAR Honda. So to drive the second car Ferrari hired Brazilian Felipe Massa to be Michael Schumacher's teammate.
At the time of the launch, the biggest concern in design centered around the V-8 fitted under the hood instead of the V-10 that normally had to be compensated for. At the time of the launch the 248 also carried the extra box wing attached to the underside of the front wing directly under the nose just like it did during the 2005 season. While the overall look seemed similar there were quite a few other drastic (in Formula One terms) changes. The nose sat a little higher. And while the width of the nose seemed about the same as the F2005, the nose was thinner giving the 248 F1 a sharper beak. The front wing had minor changes to it. But from the wheels back there were some wholesale changes.
Most noticeable on the 248 was the location of the rear-view mirrors; located out wide on the sidepod. This could very easily distract from the many changes to the sidepod itself. Much more bulb-like, similar to the Renault styling, this drastically effected the contours of the radiator inlets to help improve airflow around the car. The sidepods also were redesigned with a more dramatic 'coke bottle' shape.
The airbox and cowling had been redesigned slightly. Speaking of the cowling, the chimney had been redesigned and more neatly incorporated with the T-wing. The mid-span wing attached to the end of the cowling fin remained but the rear-wing underwent some modifications throughout the season. At the launch the rear wing boasted a slightly contoured leading edge with a smaller cross sectioned rear wing at its extremities.
Going into the first race the Ferrari proved fast as Michael Schumacher took the pole at Bahrain. Fernando Alonso and his Renault would end up getting the upper hand taking the win while Michael Schumacher would end up second. Besides appearing to be back on pace, the 248 appeared with some new modifications. Gone was the box wing under the nose. Instead, a deep spoon front wing had been adopted. Included in this design was a full-length upper profile wing that helped stabilize the front of the car without adding much drag.
It seemed the Ferrari was back on pace but it was Renault who took the first three races. Despite Renault's success, Ferrari was making improvements on the track and on the car. In Malaysia Ferrari debuted their cooling drums that helped to extract the hot air from the brake calipers. This did little to help the Ferraris, however, as neither one of the drivers qualified well. Massa would have an inspired race, however, as he would end up finishing 5th from his 21st starting spot.
Things didn't get a whole lot better in Australia as neither of the Ferrari drivers qualified exceptionally well again. It turned immediately worse as each of the drivers suffered accidents. All of a sudden, it appeared the 2006 season would be somewhat of a repeat of 2005.
Ferrari would experience a couple of bright spots over the next two races. In San Marino, Michael Schumacher was able to grab the pole and ended up taking the victory. Michael would start the European Grand Prix from the second starting spot but would end up taking the win. These victories gave Michael's title chances a boost but would need more given Alonso's steady performances. Overall, the car was beginning to come into its own given the fact that only minor changes or modifications had been made to smaller elements of the car. In San Marino Ferrari ushered in their rim shields that worked with the cooling drums to help extract heat away from the tires to help stabilize tire pressures. At the European Grand Prix, Ferrari only made minor design changes to the body work to help with cooling and with airflow around the car and toward the rear-wing.
The shinning moments experienced the last two races quickly waned and utterly disappeared for the next four. Fernando Alonso would roll to four-straight victories. Michael's title chances still remained as he was able to achieve a few second-place finishes at Spain, Britain and Canada. Massa's good results at these races also helped keep Ferrari's chances for the constructor's championship alive. For Schumacher and Massa, despite coming home in fifth and ninth respectively at Monaco, it seemed like a win. Michael started from the back of the grid after it was determined he blocked Alonso during qualifying by parking his car practically in the racing line after it had failed. Massa also started from the back in twenty-first. Each Ferrari driver roared up through the field on the tight and twisty Monaco streets to earn valuable championship points.
Changes made to the front wing for Canada prepared the 248s' well for the next race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The lower profile upper and lower wings bode well for the long straightaway at Indy. The upper profile of the wing had area removed from it near where it connected to the nose to help eliminate some drag. Coupled to this refinement up front, Ferrari designers re-tooled the shape of the rear diffuser by slightly curving the tips. This helped to further extract air from under the car helping with stability at the rear. These subtle design changes seemed to help some as Ferrari would sweep the top two spots in qualifying and the race; a sign of the dominance Ferrari would display for the next three races.
For France Ferrari designers would tighten the engine cowling to help aid in the flow of air toward the rear wing. This, and a dominant display of driving by Michael, also went to tighten the driver's title chase again. After the Canadian Grand Prix the difference between Fernando Alonso and Michael Schumacher stretched to almost thirty points. Over the last two races Alonso had been able to put together a couple of good results. However, Michael was able to take full advantage of his Ferrari chassis coming into its own and scored back-to-back wins bringing the race for the championship down to only a seventeen point difference. And Michael would only further close the gap after the next round in Germany.
Coming into Germany Renault's controversial mass damper system came under fire, and thus, was abandoned for the race and the rest of the season. It would seem, as well, this change further evened the differences between Renault's R26 and the Ferrari 248 F1. Schumacher would eek out a victory over his teammate Felipe Massa in Germany. The difference, however, was the fact that both of the Renaults floundered down in fifth and sixth place. At the end of this race the constructor's championship tightened to only ten points, advantage still Renault. The driver's title race also tightened to only eleven points with Alonso still holding the lead. 2006 would not be a walk for Renault. The Ferrari chassis was making it an exciting and drama-filled season that would only get more interesting.
The next race in Hungary was a wet and wild race. Schumacher got too close to Fisichella and tore off his front wing. After getting the front wing replaced Michael found himself in battles all race long. Eventually Michael had to retire with a broken track rod. However, due to all the carnage from the race, Schumacher's retirement only meant he would finish no worse than eighth, still worth a championship point.
The Turkish Grand Prix seemed to be the turning point for the season, a seemingly harmless result that sets in motion the fateful things that ruin what could have been possible. With the gap between the Renault R26 and the Ferrari 248 gone there were no design changes made to the Ferrari chassis for the Turkish Grand Prix. Felipe Massa would take the win while Alonso clipped Schumacher by only one tenth of a second for second. The turning point was the fact Alonso and Michael only finished five seconds behind Massa. This denied Michael the possibility of a max ten points. This point seemed moot, however, as Michael would go on to win the next two races effectively tying the driver's championship race. The constructor's race heated up white hot as well. After Monza, Ferrari took the lead in the constructor's title chase. This lead was lost after the Chinese Grand Prix but the difference was only one point.
The next race in Japan almost sealed the deal for the driver's and possibly even the constructor's title. Things were looking great for Ferrari going into the race. Ferrari had the top two spots on the grid with Massa on the pole. But the air in Ferrari's sails went out when Michael's engine gave out. Fernando Alonso hadn't scored a victory in over seven races with the last one being in Canada. However, Alonso stormed home sixteen seconds up on Massa's Ferrari giving the Spaniard a ten point lead over Schumacher. With Giancarlo Fisichella coming home in third the sixteen points scored between the two Renault drivers also opened the difference in the constructor's race by nine points. The interesting thing about the race was the fact Ferrari had made some adjustments to their engine to help provide more needed torque.
The last race of the season came down to a battle for the constructor's title more than a battle for the driver's. All Fernando had to do was finish eighth or better to clinch, but there was still the possibility for Ferrari, albeit slim, to win the constructor's championship. Felipe did his part by taking the win but Alonso did anything but hold back as he came home in second. Michael had a poor start but drove well in his last ever race to claim fourth place.
While unable to achieve the type of results its predecessors had been able to, especially in 2004, the 248 F1 proved it came from the same blood lines and pedigree. The 248 would go on to earn nine victories and twenty-six top-five performances between the two cars. The 2006 chassis would be powered to a total of seven poles and nine fastest laps of the race. The team suffered a total of only four DNFs between its two cars with three out of the four being as the result of accidents.
The 248 F1 chassis proved the embarrassment suffered in 2005 was over. The chassis also proved the team was still able to run with the other thoroughbreds. In fact, F1 Racing magazine named the 248 its car of the year. The design and the innovations with the gearbox, engine, and electronics proved good for breeding future champions and helped poise Ferrari for the future instead of causing the team to worry about it. All-in-all, despite the fact it didn't win either the driver's or the constructor's championships, the 248 F1 will be remembered as a car that helped position Ferrari to be able to earn those titles once again.By Jeremy McMullen