How can Ferrari pull away from the opposition?

Felipe Massa, Bahrain GP 2007

Felipe Massa, Bahrain GP 2007 

 © The Cahier Archive

Ferrari dominated last week's Barcelona testing during which Felipe Massa was quoted, saying that the development of the F2007 was "at least half a second faster than before". This is bad news for the opposition and there have been suggestions that when practice begins in Spain later this week we may see Ferrari as much as a second ahead of everyone. And this has been achieved even with Ferrari having redesigned the floor of its cars to withstand the FIA's flexibility tests.

The opposition has been working on a variety of new aerodynamic devices, notably Honda's "Dumbo" nose wings and McLaren's new "bi-plane" front wing. These may make a difference but no-one seems very confident that they can keep up with Ferrari.

The question being asked is how Ferrari has managed to pull off such an improvement, which is huge in modern F1 terms. The answer, however, seems to be that the team started the year with a package that was deliberately not as efficient as it could be - because the team wanted to see how the new tyres behaved.

When the F2007 was launched Ferrari was very careful to make sure that there were few photographs of the rear of the car. This may have been because the team did not want expert eyes to figure out that the rear end was not really changed from last year. The only remarks made were that the rear suspension was similar to that of the 248 and that there was still development ongoing.

"This year the tyres were not known to us until very late in the process as Bridgestone had a new specification of tyre to supply the whole field and did not want to give any team an advantage by letting them know the specification any earlier," said chief designer Nick Tombazis at the time. "We had to leave a bit more margin in some areas of the F2007's adjustability in order to be able to adapt to that."

After three races the tyres are now much better understood and with the evolution in the rear suspension the designers have been able to alter the rear of the car with a reshaped engine cover, a revision of the cooling system and therefore smaller sidepods.

Thus, it may be that Ferrari's impressive leap forward is because the team was not starting from where its rivals thought it was.

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