Ferrari have clearly chosen to go their own way in 2012. Their design marks a departure from the 2012 “common wisdom”, as displayed in the cars that we have seen so far (CT01, MP4-27 and VJM05). It also marks a departure from previous years and design philosophies, adopting a more explorative and anti-conventional path. The Ferrari F2012 really is an interesting car, so let’s dig our technical teeth into it:
Ok, the most striking feature is the nose. This, by itself, is a strange decision. I can see what Ferrari are trying to do, i.e. maximize the airflow travelling underneath the tub and towards the rear of the car. This is why they have adopted a completely vertical underside (matched with a completely vertical upper side), pushing the nose dimension to the limits allowed by the rules. In my opinion, however, a flat underside is less effective than a curved one (which is the solution that Force India and Caterham have adopted). Furthermore, the gap at the upper part between the two “bulges” is now completely filled (and this was necessary because the upper contour follows the lower, which is also flat). I imagine that this surface that meets the air straight-on is not ideal either for drag or for the airflow trying to go to the back. A case of what were they thinking? Time will tell.
Ferrari F2012 - front view
Staying at the front, the major surprise is the pullrod arrangement. With the nose sitting so high, I was very surprised to see Ferrari adopt this (although rumours were going about) and I even went on record that such an arrangement would not be adopted. I was wrong. The question is, though: were Ferrari right? As you can see in the photo above, the pullrod is nearly parallel to the ground – I calculate the angle to no more than 10-12 degrees. It’s going to be a complete nightmare for Ferrari to restore the suspension dynamics of a pushrod arrangement at such angles (even normal pullrods at increased angles suffer a small disadvantage in that area in comparison to pushrod arrangements).
One of the advantages of a pullrod arrangement is a slightly better CoG, but frankly, in that case, I don’t see it, due to the parallel orientation of the pullrod. You can see that clearly in the picture below, where I have marked where a pushrod would have been. The pullrod definitely sits higher. The other advantage is that a pullrod allows for more and clearer air to travel from the front wing to the back. I have to say that I fail to see how this is necessary and I highly doubt it can balance out the negatives of the substantially altered suspension dynamic characteristics. It may be a strange car to drive.
Ferrari F2012 Pullrod Vs Pushrod
The last car to feature pullrod suspension at the front was the European Minardi PS01 (and PS01 B), which was driven in 2001 by none other than Fernando Alonso himself. It’s a bit ironic, and he will definitely be hoping that his Ferrari’s handling characteristics don’t match those of his old Minardi. Check out the picture below, and you can see for yourself how much more radical Ferrari’s solution is in comparison with a normal pullrod, due to the increased nose of the F2012.
European Minardi PS01 - pullrod suspension
Moving on, the sidepods are very slim and the inlets are small. Another prediction that we made was that Ferrari would be sporting crash structures separate from the sidepods in the shape of wings, in front of the sidepod inlets (rumours which were encouraged by the news that Ferrari had failed early side-impact crash tests). We were wrong too. The sidepods are highly sculpted and undercut, but conventional. The interesting bit comes if we move a bit further to the back…
…and examine the exhaust and cooling outlets. Apparently Ferrari are not adopting the central cooling outlet, a la Red Bull, that has been common in all 2012-spec cars so far. The cooling outlets are merged with the exhaust in the fairings shown in the photograph below. The exhaust outlets are positioned as low and as outboard as possible – Ferrari clearly intend to blow the rear brake ducts (we again have to thank ScarbsF1 for that, who was the first to suggest it a long while back). How the exhaust-flow will combine with the cooling outlet air-flow is a mystery at this point, but I presume both will be directed at the brake duct fins. This fact, combined with the very weird front suspension geometry, could give unwanted handling characteristics to the car. It has long been argued that downforce applied straight to the wheels is very effective, but sudden loss of it (in off-throttle mode) can cause severe unbalance. Have Ferrari, in their quest for ultimate downforce, forsaken mechanical grip and driveability?
Ferrari F2012 - exhaust and sidepod cooling outlets
At the back, the bodywork is very tight around the gearbox which has been redesigned. It is now narrower and sits lower – you can also see the driveshafts which are ever so slightly angled upwards, a la Williams FW33 but nowhere near that radical. Another feature that is different in Ferrari F2012 is the air intakes at the top and the roll hoop. Ferrari are the only team thus far to retain the mono-blade carbon-fibre construction, and they have added an additional cooling inlet, apparently dedicated for the gearbox and hydraulics.
Ferrari F2012 - Rear view
All in all, and with the benefit of hindsight (having seen the other 2012 cars so far), it seems that Ferrari were trying to do something radically different to all the rest in 2012, and have accomplished it. A check list would look like that:
Nose shape different? Check.
Cooling and exhaust different? Check.
Front suspension different? Check.
Roll hoop and air intakes different? Check.
Ferrari fans can only hope that Ferrari will be justified for going radical and against the grain. It’s a make-or-break year for several people within the Ferrari organization (from the technical to the management side) and the sheer amount of change from last year’s car to the F2012 could be an indication of a very slight panic building within the team, under the pressure for immediate results.