Ferrari sidepod "hips" & where we've seen them before
An old feature makes a comeback in the form of Ferrari's unusual new sidepod design
You probably know the saying about buses - you wait forever for one and then three show up at once. Yet somehow, amongst all of the competing traffic from yesterday (including an FIA bombshell that Michael Masi will be moving on and the news that Otmar Szafnaur is now the Team Principal for rivals Alpine) it was the scarlet bus of Ferrari that managed to harness the internet's attention. And the main headlines? All about the sidepods.
Despite the unfortunate leaks of the F1-75 a whole day earlier than intended, the real extremity in the shape of the sidepods wasn't fully realised until the launch itself. I call them "hips" because that is simply what they reminded me of on first glance, but I was also thinking back on another moment in time where a similar design strategy had been chosen.
"the question remains as to which one of these philosophies has the best development longevity - as in, which has the potential to be continuously improved and amended throughout the remainder of the season"
I'm thinking of the 2011 McLaren. The Woking team surprised their fellow competitors at the start of the 2011 season by launching a set of "U-shaped" or "L-shaped" sidepods. Technical Director at the time - the highly experienced Paddy Lowe - said of the new shapes that,
"There are some novel features on the car - the long wheelbase and U-shaped sidepods are probably the most obvious examples. The thinking behind that is to feed as much good-quality air as possible to the rear-lower main plane and the floor of the car." - Paddy Lowe.
In fact, the car was not only novel but also a one-off. Despite a relatively successful season in 2011, McLaren chose to abandon the design in the following year. At the Ferrari F1-75 launch, Team Principal (& Technical Director) Mattia Binotto had this to say about the equally-unusually-shaped sidepods.
"There are sort of non-conventional shapes in terms of aero choices. The power-unit we put a lot of effort into design. I am not nervous because I know the team and I know how good they are." - Mattia Binotto.
Sound familiar? Whether the description of the design is novel, non-conventional or innovative, what we do know is that the language of explanation is very familiar. It certainly is a far cry from what the rest of the field are doing (directing air up and over the sidepods rather than through it) and in that regard it's a risk that Ferrari certainly think is worth taking. Though the question remains as to which one of these philosophies has the best development longevity - as in, which has the potential to be continuously improved and amended throughout the remainder of the season.
Thankfully for Ferrari the sidepods are just one of the focus areas in regards to the new car design - a lot of aerodynamic thought and effort has been put on the floors, something that is much more difficult to measure the success of at this moment in time. Binotto mentioned - and I think deliberately so - in his announcement that the power unit has had some major effort put into it. We know the Ferrari has been underperforming for several years, one of the reasons being that their powertrain was deemed to be operating illegally and so it's fair to imagine the slight scepticism that might be lingering for this also.
I'm cautiously hoping that the Italian team have pulled it out of the bag this year. It's been disappointing to watch them struggle in the middle of the field especially given the driver talent they have. We often look to history as a way of seeing what mistakes were made, let's just hope that the Ferrari haven't gone down the road McLaren have since abandoned.