Ferrari's pre-season preparations are well underway, with all three of the scheduled group tests having been simulated ahead of Saturday's unveiling of the F14-T.
That was the claim of the Scuderia's engineering director Pat Fry, who admitted that the introduction of a new technical rule book for 2014 had brought perhaps the biggest change to F1 in his long career.
“I guess I've been around long enough that I saw the end of the [previous] turbo era and F1 moving into the normally aspirated engines,” he reflected as the covers came off Ferrari's latest challenger in Maranello, “Although that was a reasonable change, it was nothing to compare to the power unit regulation changes we have this year. Certainly, on the power unit, it is the biggest change we have had in recent history.
“The aero rules, while a reasonable change, are not as dramatic, I would say, but, if you combine the two, there are enough challenges for all of us, on the chassis side, the aero side, getting the car to the weight limit while optimising the power unit. The design team, all through the company, has been challenged and we'll see in Melbourne where we are.”
While the Scuderia may not yet have simulated the Australian Grand Prix, Fry revealed that both drivers – Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen – have spent sufficient time in the simulator at Maranello to have worked on preparations for the three pre-season tests in Spain and Bahrain.
“Work in simulation, and in the simulator, has been ongoing for at least two years for this year's car project,” Fry revealed, “Obviously, we're looking at everything we do, from aerodynamic performance, aerodynamic characteristics, but also, with the change to the new power unit, there's a huge amount of learning we can do there too.
“Initially, we're setting the basics, what all the design targets should be and the various trades, but, more recently, we've got the race drivers in the simulator working through all the different power unit strategies - how to best use the engine, the ERS, the fuel trading. I think that they found that very useful in preparing for the tests and we've already worked through Bahrain and Jerez.
“There will also be a lot more use that you can get from that, preparing for each event. Personally, with the rules being so new, getting prepared for each race at the start [of the season], I think we will see the drivers firstly getting used to the track, but doing more than car set-up work, working on how best to optimise strategies both for qualifying and the race. Maybe, once we've learned towards the end of the year, it'll become less important but, at the moment, it adds huge value to their preparation for the race weekend.”
Among the question marks for 2014 is how F1 will adapt to its newly-reduced fuel limit, which has come down from 140 kilos to just 100, with no alteration to race distances. Fry refused to deny that there would be times when fuel efficiency would be a key concern, but insisted that not every race would be affected.
“Strategy-wise, there will be some races where we run flat-out with no restrictions, such as Monaco, and there will be others where there will be a reasonably significant amount of fuel-saving to be had,” he conceded, “When we go to Melbourne, we've got the best and the worst of both worlds – it's a high consumption circuit and I'm sure we've got to get used to learning the strategies, both the best strategy for saving fuel, but also, strategically, where you want to go quick, where you want to go slow - you can change the pace of your car by a second depending on what fuel or energy you want to use on any particular lap.
“Studying a race and trying to predict what other people are doing becomes a step more complicated than in the recent past.”