The ‘Power Unit gate’ weighs 70% of the Ferrari gap – analysis

A recent analysis made by funoanalisitecnica.com shows that the Power Unit gate weighs 70% of the Ferrari gap:

After the first six races, taking advantage of the little time that separates us from the Belgian GP, it is time to sum up the first part of the 2020 Formula One season. Except surprises the title is already decided, with Hamilton that will equal Michael Schumacher with seventh drivers’ title and with Mercedes taking the seventh consecutive triumph. But we focus this analysis on the team that is most disappointing and, alas, it is the much loved Ferrari . An analysis that, as you will read later, is not intended to be a defense of the Maranello team.

We have already heard many times this year is and how it has heavily influenced the “Power Unit gate”: 2020 for Ferrari was supposed to be a year of transition but the engineers were still “convinced” that they had given birth to a more competitive car than the SF90 . Year of transition because the goal was 2021, when there was to be a regulatory change. With the horses gone after the secret agreement with the federation, the SF1000 did not prove to be up to par and, times in hand, it is easy and not risky to say that it is slower than the SF90 . In addition, the Covid-19 pandemic has postponed the new regulation to 2022. Ferrari has experienced this situation in a dramatic way, given that it will be very hard to find competitiveness in 2020 and especially in 2021 if the many horses lost during the winter are not recovered. These factors have upset the plans. Therefore we have to work very hard to try to collect as much as possible in 2020 and especially in 2021. It would be a lie and a lack of objectivity believe that the team from Maranello can fight for something important in the next season, but surely we can expect a reaction.

We have already talked about the change in aerodynamic philosophy. By focusing only on the numbers, we will be able to understand and answer a question: is this SF1000 better than the SF90?

First, let’s calculate the mileage gap that Ferrari SF1000 has remedied against the Mercedes W11 in these first five qualifying of the season, excluding the GP of Styria which took place on a wet track. The figures are emblematic, as the gap has gone from 0.023 s a kilometer to 0.26 s . Calculating that the average of the tracks in this Formula 1 world championship is 5 km, we can say that the gap has gone from just over 1 tenth per lap to 1.29 seconds . This highlights a marked step backwards for this car compared to the SF90, which also adds to the improvements made by Mercedes in terms of the car and power unit.

If we look in detail at the gap remedied in the individual tracks we see that the SF1000 suffers a lot in the high-downforce tracks such as Budapest and Barcelona, while it showed a slightly better performance in Austria and in the double English trip. This has a technical explanation and is caused by the compromise structures that are chosen where a lot of downforce is needed . Lacking power from the engine you are forced to unload the wings. This allows you to minimize the time lost on the straights but it is not suitable to be performing in the driven sections.

The data on the worsening of the distance in kilometers with respect to Mercedes is found on all Ferrari engines, including Haas and Alfa Romeo. The American team worsened by 0.17 s per kilometer (on Mercedes) while, the Swiss team, took a step back by 2 tenths per kilometer (also on Mercedes).

Let’s go back to the engine issue, underlining how interesting it is to understand how much the “ Power Unit gate ” affects this data. In the 2019 season, in qualifying configuration, Ferrari had an advantage over Mercedes on some occasions of up to 20 HP. With the secret deal that the team from Maranello has signed with the federation, there are 60 horses lost by the Italian team. Mercedes from 2019 to 2020 did not have a substantial increase in maximum power. It might seem so because the others lost a little with the technical directives of the FIA while, the German team managed to keep the power of its engine unaltered, working massively on the turbocharger group to improve performance at high altitude.

All these data lead us to say that the difference in performance between the Mercedes power unit and the Ferrari one is estimated at around 40 hp . How much do these lost horses weigh in terms of mileage gap on a single lap.

Let’s take as given the 60 hp lost by the Scuderia Maranello which, on a single lap (a 5-kilometer track), equals about 9 tenths per lap (calculating that 10 hp equals 0.15 s on an average circuit of 5 km). We can see that the gap of only the engine with respect to Mercedes is quantified in 0.9 s per lap out of a total of 1.29 s. As a percentage, this means that 70% of the gap that the SF1000 has in relation to the Mercedes is due to the lack of engine power . The remainder is “caused” to the car (chassis aerodynamics, mechanics, etc.).

The SF1000 equipped with the 2019 power unit would be much closer to Mercedes , fighting with Red Bull as a second force given that , in these first qualifying of the season , the Milton Keynes team remedied a kilometer gap of 19 cents per kilometer. Ferrari , having a hypothetical gap of 0.08 s per kilometer, would be less than 4 tenths behind Mercedes. A gap that could be even less since the engineers have never used the optimal setup on the car, often forced to use compromise solutions.

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