Giorgio Piola's F1 technical analysis
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Giorgio Piola's F1 technical analysis

How Ferrari's new F1 gearbox casing helped boost its aero

Formula 1's 2021 season presented unprecedented challenges to teams, as the impact of the coronavirus pandemic meant they could not produce all-new cars.

How Ferrari's new F1 gearbox casing helped boost its aero

The strict homologation rules put a limit of the scope of changes anyone could make from their 2020 challengers, plus there was the added complication of new floor rules aimed to reduce downforce.

For a team like Ferrari, the restrictions were far from ideal, as it had battled through last year with a car that it knew was too draggy. That left it with a tough choice about what, amid F1's token system of changes, it could alter to give it the biggest benefit from any changes.

In the end, Ferrari felt that spending its tokens on the design of its gearbox casing would give the most bang for its bucks, as the changes had both mechanical and aerodynamic implications that helped to address issues and add performance.

From an aerodynamic point of view, the shape of the gearbox casing has been altered in order to improve its relationship with the floor.

This is an area which Ferrari continues to remaster, having reintroduced panels to create a roof over the tunnels beside and beneath the gearbox casing and crash structure last season.

Ferrari SF71H floor channels

Ferrari SF71H floor channels

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

The roof panels help to keep the flow moving into the coke bottle region once in the tunnel, rather than allowing it the option to seep out and disturb the surrounding flow structures.

The more tightly packaged keel section of the gearbox casing provides more space for the air to flow into the channels in the coke bottle region too, something that the team likely considered a factor given the narrower floors for 2021.

Raising the central portion of the casing has also resulted in the internals being raised by approximately 30mm, positioning weight a little higher. Measures have also likely been taken to improve torsional rigidity which was understood to be an issue with the SF1000.

Ferrari SF21 gearbox detail

Ferrari SF21 gearbox detail

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

Having spent its tokens at the rear of the car, Ferrari had to think laterally when it came to another issue though.

In a normal year it would have likely designed and raced an all-new nose solution. However, due to the token and homologation system it had to work around the constraints of its current design and come up with an arrangement that's more closely aligned with what the rest of the grid have.

Ferrari first introduced a thumb tip-style nose solution in 2016, with the design preferred by a number of their rivals in the years leading up to it.

Five years on, and the core design remains, although it has been through numerous changes throughout in order to better accommodate its aerodynamic demands.

Comparaison of the Ferrari SF16H and the SF15T

Comparaison of the Ferrari SF16H and the SF15T

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

Ferrari switched from the flat, wide nose solution that the SF15-T sported in 2015, to the thumb tip extension in 2016 as the team looked to improve flow through the central portion of the car.

Ferrari SF16-H old vs new nose comparison, Japanese GP

Ferrari SF16-H old vs new nose comparison, Japanese GP

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

Small adaptations persisted throughout the season in an effort to optimise flow as it passed by the front wing pillars and onto the turning vanes.

Ferrari SF70H and SF16-H top view comparison

Ferrari SF70H and SF16-H top view comparison

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

As the overhangs were increased at the front and rear of the cars in 2017 the general nose design was retained and extended forward to meet with the delta shaped front wing.

Ferrari SF70H s duct overview

Ferrari SF70H s duct overview

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

The elongation of the nose led to the reintroduction of the 'S' duct, with Ferrari favouring a forward inlet and crossover channels within the nose that delivered the airflow to the outlet on top of the chassis.

Ferrari SF71H front wing

Ferrari SF71H front wing

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

The team looked for additional performance from the front wing pillars and turning vanes in 2018, with longer pillars used that included a series of holes in their surface to manipulate the airflow.

Ferrari SF90, front wing comparison

Ferrari SF90, front wing comparison

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

The team ditched the idea of having holes in the pillars during 2019, as an upgrade introduced by the Scuderia added a plough-like device that created channels between the nose tip and wing pillars.

Ferrari SF1000 nose inlet detail

Ferrari SF1000 nose inlet detail

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

In an effort to optimise flow through these channels their size was altered during 2020.

Ferrari SF1000 front wing detail

Ferrari SF1000 front wing detail

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

A different angle gives us a better understanding of the shapes involved. Unable to change the internal makeup of the crash structure, Ferrari worked hard on adapting its design for 2021 in order to unlock more aerodynamic performance.

These alterations centre around the introduction of the 'cape' solution, as used by a large percentage of the grid, which has required the team to narrow the front wing pillars in order to expose the airflow to the curved leading edge of the cape either side of the nose.

Ferrari SF21 nose s duct winglets SF1000 as comparison

Ferrari SF21 nose s duct winglets SF1000 as comparison

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

The cape offers an opportunity to influence the airflow under, over and around the nose in a slightly different way to its previous arrangement.

Also, the now narrower channels feed the airflow captured under the nose by virtue of the plough extension (seen below, highlighted in yellow), isolating it from the airflow created by the cape for a short while in order to improve how the flow converges beneath the nose.

You'll also note how a small inlet is also present beneath the nose which the plough will feed airflow towards.

Meanwhile, the 'S' duct arrangement has also been changed this year, with an outlet created where the nose butts up to the chassis, whereas previously the airflow was channelled internally through the vanity panel (upper right insets). This has also been paired with a cluster of winglets either side of the ramped section.

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