Ferrari: “The engine has made a large step forward”

2021 F1 season

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Ferrari have given the strongest indication yet how much progress they have made addressing their biggest weakness ahead of the 2021 F1 season.

The team slumped to sixth place in the championship last year. The SF1000 was at a clear disadvantage on the straights, as were the cars of customer teams Alfa Romeo and Haas, pointing to a performance deficit in Ferrari’s power unit.

Ferrari reached a private settlement with the FIA on the eve of last season following close scrutiny of the engine design it used in 2019. It prompted speculation the team’s compliance with the rules had been in doubt, but neither they nor the FIA disclosed the terms of the settlement.

The team has produced a new power unit for 2021. Sporting director Laurent Mekies said it performed well on their dynamometer before testing began, and pre-season running in Bahrain indicated it is performing as expected.

“The engine is better, there is no doubt,” he said. “We don’t need to come to the track to know it, in the way that we have dynos, we know that the engine has made a large step forward.

“Is it enough? It depends how much the other guys progress in the meantime. We have no way to estimate that apart from our own experience in developing [power units]. So I think it will take a race or two to estimate where everybody is at.”

Mekies said the team won’t jump to conclusions about how competitive they might be on the basis of their testing performance.

“We are in the phase where we are making sure that we have on the track what we are supposed to have. We try not to get distracted by what’s around us.

“We need to make sure that what was at the factory is delivered. This is true for the engine, it is true for the aero, it is true for the car suspension [et cetera].”

Speaking on the third day of the test, Mekies said there had been “no outstanding issues” which had interrupted their running. “Which doesn’t mean that there is not a number of steps that will need to be done in all areas,” he added.

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Author information

Dieter Rencken
Dieter Rencken has held full FIA Formula 1 media accreditation since 2000, during which period he has reported from over 300 grands prix, plus...
Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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27 comments on “Ferrari: “The engine has made a large step forward””

  1. Testing analysis from the reliable Mark Hughes on Sky F1 is interesting for a number of reasons- not least Ferrari’s apparent improvement. See the ‘Adjusted fastest times from F1 Testing’ section within the following:

  2. Man, they had better deliver on a race winning car, because the Tifosi and Italian media are gonna level them if they don’t after hyping this engine upgrade up so much.

    I’d personally have opted for a bit more humility. Better to be overperforming, than overpromising and underperforming.

    1. “The engine is better, there is no doubt. We know that the engine has made a large step forward. Is it enough? It depends how much the other guys progress in the meantime. We have no way to estimate that”

      If you call that “hyping this engine upgrade so much” that they need to win a race now, you’re not being honest.

  3. So… does this mean the secret FIA/Ferrari fuel flow agreement was just for one year?

    1. @jimmi-cynic I have no source and I’ve forgotten who it was (something tells me it was Hakkinen, but no idea why he would know) but someone in the know did tweet that the penalty was a reduction in fuel flow for all ferrari engines for 2020.

      1. @minnis
        That was Mika Salo talking with Kristian Sohlberg via twitch.

        1. @tifoso1989 @keithcollantine ah, I got the wrong Mika!! Thanks for the correction, didn’t realise he retracted the claim though.

          1. Would have been most uncharacteristic of MH

      2. @minnis it was Salo who made those remarks, but I believe he did preface those remarks with a caveat that he was repeating what he was being told by somebody else in the paddock.

        That caveat isn’t often mentioned, but it is important because Salo, from what I have seen, did not have any direct involvement in the FIA’s investigation or the panel that came to an agreement with Ferrari. Unless somebody happened to pass on a copy of the reports or the decision itself to Salo, any information Salo is repeating would be second hand at best.

        In that context, although Salo is relatively well connected with the governing body through his work as a steward, the fact that Salo has no direct connection to the investigation does raise questions about the accuracy of his comments and how reliable the person repeating those claims back to him was.

        1. Good point, Anon.

          But on the internet we try not to let facts get in the way of a good rumour. ;-)

        2. @anon, are you sure he added the caveat that he called a friend?

          Anyway, had he used the 50/50 or ‘ask the audience’ he would have come to the same conclusion.

  4. It doesn’t take much to be better than last year. 5th or 4th would be still bad for them 3rd should be their target.

  5. Judging by their top speeds on day 3 of testing (Ferrari: 2nd, Alfa: 3rd, Haas: 5th) and looking at the speeds on the other straights during their various runs (including long runs), I believe Ferrari do have made a considerable step in terms of power output.
    I didn’t notice any (negative) difference in terms of straight line speed between them and the other engine manufacturers.
    Looks promising so far, even if the maximum for the works team should be P3 in the WCC.

  6. I’d be worried right now..that so called “large” step forward certainly didnt seem that large in testing.

    I mean, the guys on The Race podcast yesterday made a good point, if everything is correlating to the data, to quote Scott Mitchell “Is that it?”. Gary Anderson believe that their engine concept has been maxed out..and that could very well be it.

    1. The guys on The Race podcast and website can be and are often biased. They like the controversy as it’s what keeps their audience interested. Their “data” is what is publicly available and it’s mostly lap times. They don’t know fuel load, engine modes, etc. They come up with some nebulous numbers that are highly subjective to what they ‘feel’ the fuel load was based on their perception of what looks nimble and quick around a track. It’s easy to call Mercedes the world champion for 2021 in hindsight and Red Bull their biggest threat based on last year data and performance.

      Their analysis and predictions are just opinion pieces, so I’d take everything they “predict” with a pinch of salt. Let’s not forget those are the same guys calling the Ferrari a world champion in 2018.

      Do I think Ferrari will be winning races in 2021? No. Do I think they will be constantly running in 11th and 13th this year? No. I think that the grid will be so competitive from 4th all the way to 15th that on some weekends Ferrari could be fighting for podiums and on other barely making it into the top 10. But that’s all it is – an opinion.

      1. Well, there are those who have suggested Ferrari did have a car that was probably quick enough to compete for the title, but failed to make the most of it (though how much blame you want to apply to Vettel and how much to poor decisions by the team is up to you).

        There were suggestions in the press that some in the team thought Vettel could and indeed should have won, and that Alonso, if still there, would have done so or at least kept the pressure up until the end. Of course, you can say that the team may be more reluctant to criticise itself and made a fair number of mistakes itself, but it does paint a picture that suggests that Ferrari itself thinks 2018 was a missed opportunity.

    2. @jaymenon10
      I found their statements regarding Ferrari on yesterday’s podcast quite confusing. They didn’t clarify based on which parameter or observation they think there hasn’t been enough progress made by Ferrari.
      The engine ran quite smoothly (one issue on day 1) and had competitive top speeds, so I don’t see anything wrong there.
      I also wonder why Gary Anderson thinks Ferrari have hit the limits with their PU-concept. Based on what? That just seems nothing more than an asumption to me. Is there any data to back up his theory?

      If you set RB and Mercedes as the target, then yes, Ferrari haven’t made enough progress (PU & chassis combined), but everybody knew that this wasn’t gonna happen over night, also considering they were llimited to what they could change to their chassis.
      Their PU may not be the most powerful, but they certainly have made enough progress to fight regularily for decent points and a couple of podiums as well.

      1. It might be based on the indication that AVL has been commissioned by Ferrari to look at a Mercedes style split turbocharger, which could be seen as a sign Ferrari are hedging their bets on their future engine design.

        1. Or perhaps they’re using an already established partner in the face of AVL to do their comparative analysis and R&D in this field. Of course they would wanna explore every option available to extract the best out of an engine they will be stuck with for the next 4 years. Unless Ferrari told Gary Anderson, or the wider media, they’ve hit a wall with their PU architecture, then it’s just speculative talk with the intent to create drama. That’s not journalism, it’s yellow press.

  7. I’d be surprised if Ferrari wasn’t at least “competitive” this year as I’m pretty sure last year could and should be written off as an anomaly.
    The timing of their agreement on the PU seemed to be pretty late and they’d have had almost no change to make any massive chassis changes to offset the huge loss of power they had to accept.
    Since then they’ve had a whole year to address chassis/drag issues and a whole year to recover some performance from the PU.
    Will it be enough to win? I doubt it but I’d expect them to be fighting somewhere between 2nd and 4th.

    1. The timing of their agreement on the PU seemed to be pretty late

      @dbradock, we don’t really know that.
      It was widely believed that the timing of the announcement was deliberately late to create as little press as possible. The deal though could have been made much much earlier.

      1. @coldfly quite true but given their disaster of a 2020 PU & mismatched chassis, I’d have to believe they missed. Development window by a fair bit.

        1. @dbradock, you are probably right. Even if they agreed this at Austin 2019, it could have been pretty late to offset the impacts on chassis side.

  8. “Private settlement” extended?
    As in the tech boffins have found another magic power boost?
    I draw the attention of a few of the above commenters to the real fact.
    Ferrari were using an illegal fuel flow boost to increase power.
    That they went unpunished is still a massive stain on the FIA’s integrity in my opinion.
    FIA’s solution to add another fuel flow sensor was just the ticket that stopped that power boost loophole.
    Witness Ferrari’s abysmal performance without that boost.

    1. I’m slightly more cynical I suppose. It is probably very much the same as the previous ‘solution’, just tweaked so the lawyer can say the wording of the last FIA agreement is no longer appropriate/applicable on this new solution.

      Some resemblance to DAS. It is just the explanation of the interpretation of the rules of the boundaries of the solution that determines if it is legal or not. Sounds like there is plenty of leverage for slithery lawyers to come up with a correct wording :-)

  9. I hope Ferrari does well this year, but then I also hope McLaren and Alpine can do well, and it is likely only one of them will be top 3, or none depending on Aston martins form. I hope the top 6 teams can all fight for podiums.

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