The 2015 Grand Prix season is nearly upon us and the teams are busy unveiling their contenders. Ferrari Scuderia, the team that more than any other embodies all that is Formula 1, rolled its SF15-T off the truck and into the public eye this past weekend at pre-season testing in Spain.
Results-wise, last season was not so good from the boys from Maranello. Sure, everyone started from square one with respect to the new engine regulations and some teams came off worse than Ferrari, but there's little doubt that the powers that be would have been mighty displeased with the number of points the team brought home.
So, after an off-season with some notable shakeups (which is a very polite way of saying there were mass firings accompanied by not-so-veiled recriminations) Ferrari is out to set things right.
The SF15-T is the instrument designed to bring that about.
The most obvious feature on the SF15-T versus last year's car is the nose section. Although the 2014 car was not as, uh, unaesthetic as many of its competitors, it wasn't going to win any beauty pageants either. Luckily the FIA (the people who make the rules) instituted a change for 2015 that allowed designers to redesign the nose sections into shapes more pleasing to the eye as well as the wind tunnel. Or, as the Ferrari press release puts it: "After a few seasons of rather unappealing aesthetics, the 2015 rules permit the SF15-T an attractive nose shape which also brings excellent aerodynamic performance."
Yes, she's got a pretty nose, but there's more to it than looks. The shape needs to meet size regulations as well as front end crash performance. Aero performance has also been improved. Have a close look at the pictures, and you can see the overall nose shape is designed not only to help with airflow around and under the center section of the car, but it is also working in close concert with the outer edges of the front wing. I count ten separate elements on each end of the front wing, and those produce more than just downforce – they affect everything from follow-on airflow to the underbody, to how air is managed into the brake cooling ductwork, to flow to the bargeboards.
In recent seasons, more and more attention has been given to the design of the rear bodywork, slowly morphing over time to give it a look like shrink-wrapped plastic covering the engine and all of the rear end components.
The SF15 continues this design trend. "A casual glance at the back of the car reveals a much more tightly packaged rear end which allows more downforce to be extracted from the critical surfaces around the rear of the car," according to Ferrari. "The rear wing family has been extensively redesigned to deliver stable performance in corners while producing a larger DRS effect on the straights."
And what goes on under that sculpted skin has not been overlooked either. The integration of all the various systems, the Power Unit suspension components, oil and engine coolers have been carefully looked after. "A range of carefully chosen design targets ensure that the SF15-T has optimum choice of cooling to provide the best overall downforce and power levels," continues the Ferrari release. "In addition to carefully designed internal airflow, the SF15-T has a much improved cooler matrix layout that allows several tenths of a second per lap compared to the previous year."
There's no indication of huge gains in the braking department, but then again, F1 teams try to keep any big breakthroughs secret, and even a mediocre F1 car can stop hard enough to displace your eyeballs.
That same general idea can also be applied to the SF15's transmission. The car has eight forward gears, and as in previous seasons, the ratios are fixed for the entire season once they are run in the first race. That is due to (yet another) almost inexplicable rule from the FIA, but it's the same for everyone.
The FIA has increased the minimum weight of the car by 11 kilos this season, bringing the total up to a featherweight 702 kg (1548 lbs). That's 702 kilos being pushed around by 800+ horsepower. Impressive, isn't it? Effectively what that 11 extra kilos gives Ferrari is more ballast placement options. As the team states, "The SF15-T uses this extra allowance in the regulations to buy some additional performance features under the skin of the car while retaining a workable level of ballast to trim the center of gravity of the car."
Which, if you read between the lines and saw what the Scuderia and others were struggling with last season, means that ballast can be added as far towards the front and down low as possible, so they car can have a better chance of getting the front end to bite on turn-in and then stick all the way through the corner.
And then there's the tires. The 2015 Pirellis are not radically different from last year but there's a new rear casing that delivers better grip, "especially while loaded in combined conditions of cornering and traction." Which is a nice way of saying you can turn and stand on it like a lunatic at the same time.
Ferrari sums it up this way: "The range of compounds for the season and the selection of compounds taken to each circuit will be very similar to 2014. However, the performance level of the SF15-T will be much higher than the F14T, and should allow us to exploit all the performance available in the rubber."
Here are the full technical specs of the SF15-T:
- Chassis in carbon-fibre and honeycomb composite structure
- Ferrari longitudinal gearbox
- Servo controlled hydraulic limited-slip differential
- Semiautomatic sequential and electronically controlled gearbox with quick shift
- Number of gears: 8 +Reverse
- Brembo ventilated carbon-fibre disc brakes (front and rear) and brake by wire rear brakes
- Independent suspension, pull-rod activated torsion springs front and rear
- Weight with water, lubricant and driver: 702 kg
- OZ wheels (front and rear) : 13’’
- Displacement: 1600 cc
- Battery energy: 4Mj