What caused Ferrari’s French GP nightmare

Ferrari slumped to its first non-score of the 2021 Formula 1 season at the French Grand Prix, in a race Charles Leclerc labelled one the most difficult of his career.

What caused Ferrari’s French GP nightmare

Neither Leclerc nor Carlos Sainz were able to keep their tyres alive long enough to match the lap times of their rivals, and their pace drop off and need for extra stops saw them slump to outside the top ten.

But while Ferrari was not alone in suffering more degradation in the French GP than expected, the Maranello outfit definitely felt things much worse than the opposition. And that has left the squad chasing answers as to why its SF21 car, which had taken pole position in Monaco and Baku, was left fighting at the back of the midfield pack.

The root cause of Ferrari's tyre degradation issue appears to revolve around the management of its front tyres. The team has found that the fronts of the SF21 tend to warm up quickly and operate in a very narrow temperature window.

Such a characteristic can be great for a qualifying lap – especially at slow speed tracks like Monaco and Baku where tyre warm up is a big factor. However, over a long race, where the tyre temperatures steadily rise, it means they can fall out of the other side and that triggers trouble.

It is a trait we've seen all season, with Ferrari proving to be quick in qualifying but not always managing to covert that in to race pace.

Sainz said after the Paul Ricard race: "It's been a tendency, and I'm not going to lie. It's something that it's been in the back of our minds going a bit into every race.

"We know we tend to struggle a bit more in the races than in qualifying. But I must say that there's also been a couple of weekends this year where this issue hasn't appeared.

"For example, in Barcelona the race pace wasn't an issue. It is also clear that we have a very narrow window of working range on our front tyres, so we tend to struggle a lot more with graining or with front wear than our competitors.

"So now it is about trying to understand why we have this such a narrow window, and why do we struggle more with this front tyre when compared to our competitors.

"I'm sure the whole team will go back tonight to the factory and from tomorrow we will be working extremely hard to try and address it because it's evident, and it's obvious. You don't need to be a genius to see that we are clearly struggling."

Read Also:

Several factors were at play to make the circumstances of the French GP so hard for Ferrari.

As a track with higher speed corners, Paul Ricard puts more energy through the tyres than venues like Monaco and Baku, so keeping tyre temperatures under control is harder. Furthermore, the rain that came on Saturday night and Sunday morning washed away much of the rubber that had been put down by cars earlier in the weekend.

It meant a 'green' track surface for the race that had considerable less grip – which is always a trigger for higher than normal degradation, plus graining, as cars slide more. Sainz experienced first hand just how much less grip there was than expected when he slid off the track on his way to the grid.

Ferrari's problem with the front tyres also seems to be something that cannot be eradicated through simple setup changes.

Team principal Mattia Binotto thinks the solution is something that can only be sorted in the medium to long term, with some major car component tweaks.

"Can we address it with a simple development on the current car? I think we may improve the situation but to solve it, I think we need to have some hardware change, like for example the rims, which is not possible [due to the] regulation," he said.

"I think it's more important for us at that stage to try to understand and address it for next year. I think that this issue may happen again at some races, but not all tracks. It is track and weather conditions related, but we need to prepare ourselves to face such situations in the future and at least try to mitigate the problem, since it will happen again."

Charles Leclerc, Ferrari SF21

Charles Leclerc, Ferrari SF21

Photo by: Charles Coates / Motorsport Images

The reference to the wheel rims is especially interesting, as it all but confirms that Ferrari is simply overheating its front tyres. Modern wheel rims, which have been homologated for this year so could only be changed by burning tokens, are incredibly complex.

Teams use them for both aerodynamic effect and air flow to help better manage the tyre temperatures. In Ferrari's case, it may be that it has gone too far in chasing aerodynamic gains over heat extraction – meaning the rim, and therefore the tyres, are getting hotter than the team would like.

But while Ferrari knows what went wrong in France, it now faces an intense few days to work out why it was so bad and what it can do to prevent a repeat.

Binotto added: "We need to go back, analyse the data have a brainstorming, and do some simulations. I think that will be part of the homework that we need to do."

But it knows that guaranteeing no repeat in Austria this weekend will be too much to ask.

shares
comments

Related video

Red Bull: "Ballsy" F1 strategy call was payback for Spanish GP

Previous article

Red Bull: "Ballsy" F1 strategy call was payback for Spanish GP

Next article

Gasly defends "hard racing" after Norris F1 criticism

Gasly defends "hard racing" after Norris F1 criticism
Load comments
Why unseen Hungary heroics could be Latifi's making Prime

Why unseen Hungary heroics could be Latifi's making

The chaotic start to the Hungarian GP set the scene for F1's less heralded drivers to make a name for themselves. Esteban Ocon did just that to win in fine style, but further down the order one driver was making his first visit to the points and - while the circumstances were fortunate - took full advantage of the chance presented to him

Hungarian Grand Prix driver ratings Prime

Hungarian Grand Prix driver ratings

This was race that showcased the best and worst of Formula 1, producing a first time winner and a memorable comeback to a podium finish. Avoiding trouble at the start and astute strategy calls were key to success, but where some drivers took full advantage, others made key errors that cost them dearly

Formula 1
Aug 2, 2021
The "heart-breaking" call that led to Ocon's Hungarian GP triumph Prime

The "heart-breaking" call that led to Ocon's Hungarian GP triumph

Set to restart the red-flagged Hungarian Grand Prix in second, Esteban Ocon had some doubts when he peeled into the pits to swap his intermediate tyres for slicks. But this "heart-breaking" call was vindicated in spectacular fashion as the Alpine driver staved off race-long pressure from Sebastian Vettel for a memorable maiden Formula 1 victory

Formula 1
Aug 2, 2021
The F1 champion who became an Indy king in his second career Prime

The F1 champion who became an Indy king in his second career

Emerson Fittipaldi’s decision to go racing with his brother led to him falling out of F1, but he bloomed again on the IndyCar scene. NIGEL ROEBUCK considers a career of two halves

Formula 1
Jul 31, 2021
Why Mercedes is pleased to be in the Hungary hunt at a 'Red Bull track' Prime

Why Mercedes is pleased to be in the Hungary hunt at a 'Red Bull track'

Mercedes ended Friday practice at the Hungaroring with a clear gap to Red Bull thanks to Valtteri Bottas’s pace in topping FP2. But there are other reasons why the Black Arrows squad feels satisfied with its progress so far at a track many Formula 1 observers reckon favours Red Bull overall...

Formula 1
Jul 30, 2021
How Red Bull endured its second car crash in two weeks Prime

How Red Bull endured its second car crash in two weeks

OPINION: Red Bull was justified to be upset that Lewis Hamilton survived his British GP clash with Max Verstappen and went on to win. But its attempts to lobby the FIA to reconsider the severity of Hamilton's in-race penalty were always likely to backfire, and have only succeeded in creating a PR disaster that will distract from its on-track efforts

Formula 1
Jul 30, 2021
The ‘screaming’ F1 engine future that may not be out of reach Prime

The ‘screaming’ F1 engine future that may not be out of reach

OPINION: It wasn't just the Verstappen/Hamilton clash that had the Red Bull and Mercedes bosses at loggerheads at Silverstone, with the nature of Formula 1's 2025 engines also subject for disagreement. But hopes to have loud, emotive engines that are also environmentally friendly don't have to be opposed.

Formula 1
Jul 29, 2021
How Lotus uncovered, then squandered its last ‘unfair advantage’ Prime

How Lotus uncovered, then squandered its last ‘unfair advantage’

Cast in the mould of its founder Colin Chapman, Lotus was powerful and daring but flawed – as it proved through further soaring peaks and painful troughs into the 1980s. DAMIEN SMITH examines a game-changing era

Formula 1
Jul 27, 2021