Ferrari technical director James Allison has praised the all-round effort at Maranello that led to the launch of the team's new SF15-T contender.
The Scuderia's 2015 car has a long way to go if it is to close the gap on reigning champion Mercedes, but Allison is confident that the work that has gone on over the winter will have made inroads into its rival's undisputed advantage. The power unit, in particular, has come in for close attention, but not at the cost of re-evaluating other areas of the 2014 car, which struggled on multiple fronts.
“All F1 cars [are] trying to do more or less the same thing,” Allison said at the unveiling of the SF15-T, “Those are the things you work on every year and, in particular, compared to last year, where we clearly had an unacceptably large gap in our performance, we've tried to make sure the weaknesses we felt were particularly notable on the '14 car were put right for the '15 car.”
With fans complaining about the look and sound of the 2014 cars, the regulations have at least gone some way to making them more attractive this season, but Allison is perhaps more happy with the way the back of the new Ferrari has been treated, as work in other areas has led to a tighter rear.
“I think all the cars on the grid this year are going to be more appealing around the front because, after a few years of trying, I think we've finally invented a regulation that gets what we wanted from a safety point of view but also doesn't create the rather unappealing features of the last few years,” he reasoned, “I think everyone will look a lot prettier at the front and the 2015 Ferrari is, I think, nice in that regard.
“However, the back of the car is something that I think is noticeably different from the 2014 car, where we have been successful in pulling the bodywork much tighter to all the stuff underneath the skin. That's been done through a lot of work, not just in the wind tunnel, but also in trying to find radiator designs that were fundamentally more efficient so that, for every square centimetre of radiator, we were able to extract more cooling this year than last, [and] we were able to close the car down at the back as a consequence.”
While the sound of the 2015 cars won't differ much to last season, that is of less consequence to Ferrari than the power being produced from its turbo-charged V6 – an area where it noticeably lagged behind both Mercedes and Renault.
“The power unit has, along with the rest of the car, been an area of extremely high effort to improve,” Allison confirmed, “We had a number of issues with last year's engine and power unit as, early on in the season, the power delivery was not particularly sophisticated and it was tough for the drivers to get the type of throttle response that they wanted. It was improved a lot during the season and we take that a step further with the SF15-T.
“A definite weakness of last year's car, however, was that the amount of electrical energy that we were able to recover from the turbo was not really good enough for producing competitive power levels during the race - one of the reasons why Ferrari's qualifying performance was relatively stronger compared to their race performance. That's one of the reasons why we've tried to change the architecture of the engine to make it a better compromise between qualifying and racing.
“And then there's plain simple horsepower... Enormous amounts of work have gone into all aspects of our combustion efficiency, trying to make sure that, in this fuel-limited formula where every team is only allowed to burn the same amount of fuel, every single compression stroke and every single ignition stroke is extracting the maximum amount of horsepower and putting it on the road.”
Allison also welcomed the addition of eleven extra kilogrammes to the minimum weight limit – a figure derived from a ten kilo increase agreed by the teams plus another as a consequence of new 2015 tyres – but admitted that there were some areas of the car that didn't necessarily need attention, or at least warrant taking attention away from more pressing needs.
“Every year, you set out which areas of the car you should put your effort into to try and improve them and these are decisions that need to be taken quite carefully because, when you make the choice of working on one part of the car, because you don't have infinite resources, you are effectively making the choice not to work on another part of the car,” he explained, “So, when you decide what to work on, you have to hit quite carefully the bits you think are going to bring you the maximum amount of return for your effort.
“[Deciding] pushrod [or] pullrod on the front [suspension] has its pros and cons either side. Pullrod is probably harder to get light and stiff, but it's probably easier to get aerodynamic performance from, so it's swings and roundabouts. But it was an area of the car that wasn't felt to be a problem on last year's car and, therefore, not really an area that merited investment of effort this time around.”
The SF15-T will get its first taste of the track when F1 testing gets underway in Spain on Sunday.