Targeting more performance and reliability
Going into the fourth round of the Formula 1 World Championship, Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro heads both the Constructors' and Drivers' classifications, which can be cause for satisfaction, given that yet again in Malaysia, on a track
with very different characteristics to those of the previous two races, it was clear that the F10 is a very competitive package. However, this was not exploited to the full because, along with some other teams, the Scuderia made a strategic mistake in qualifying. The team also feels it has understood some of the reliability problems which affected Alonso's car in Sepang, notably, with the gearbox, which was down to a reliability issue with one of its components.
However, a puff of smoke from Fernando Alonso
's car on the penultimate lap of the Malaysian Grand Prix signalled an engine failure on the Spaniard's F10. Following on from engine problems in the opening round in Bahrain, should alarm bells be sounding at Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro? Not according to Luca Marmorini, the team's head of Engine and Electronics Department. "We have carried out an in-depth study into what happened and the two problems are not related to one another. In Sepang, Fernando's engine suffered a structural failure, of a type we had never seen during the winter. We believe there was a role played by the unusual way in which the driver had to use the engine during the race, because of the gear selection problems he experienced right from the start. Additionally, there is no connection with the problem the Sauber team experienced on the engine front at the last race, which we believe was down to an issue with electronic sensors. Each car has eight engines it can use per driver over the season and we plan our useage strategy around this. As a precaution, we opted not to use the Bahrain race engines in Australia, but they will be used in China, having concluded that they are fit for purpose, despite what happened at the Sakhir circuit.
Looking at the overall showing from the opening trio of races from an engine performance perspective, Marmorini is satisfied. "I'm happy because I think the Ferrari package is quick, even if it could always be quicker of course. Having said that, our pace in the race can give cause for satisfaction on the engine and car side, even if we still have much work to do on the engine front, getting even more out of it, working within the restrictions of the current regulations."
Regulations demand that engine development is frozen in terms of producing more power, with no physical changes allowed to the majority of components. However, the engine department is not sitting idle. "Our work therefore centres on the previously mentioned consumption and reliability of course," reveals Marmorini. Furthermore, we also work in conjunction with the chassis side, to look at improving the installation of the engine and its ancilliaries, so as to allow other areas of the package -- aerodynamics for example -- to be developed to produce more performance as the season progresses."
With the ban on refuelling, reducing fuel consumption has been one of the main themes occupying the minds of the engine specialists. "Unfortunately, I would say that so far, it is impossible to have a clear picture of how this side of the package is working, as there has not been a single race weekend not affected by the weather," explains Marmorini. "In wet conditions, fuel consumption is a bit harder to control and becomes a less important factor. It's fair to say we have done a good job so far, based on work carried out last winter, but we continue to work on this aspect of engine behaviour to improve still further. Once we have a race weekend that is completely dry, we will get a clearer picture of where we stand."
The fourth round of the championship takes place in Shanghai, a circuit that is not particularly hard on engines: "I would describe it as medium load," confirms Marmorini. "It features a very long straight, but nothing that causes any particular concern for the power unit and also, the ambient temperature is not usually very high, which makes life easier on the engine front." The lower temperatures will also have an effect on tyres: Bridgestone is supplying the same two types, Hard and Soft, as were used in Malaysia and Australia, but they will now be performing in much lower temperatures and on a track surface with different characteristics. In keeping with Ferrari's policy of pushing forward car development at every round of the championship, the cars will feature a few new aerodynamic updates in Shanghai.
The Shanghai International Circuit may now have been eclipsed in terms of glamour and spectacle by the newest circuits of Singapore and Abu Dhabi, but the venue for all six Chinese Grands Prix held to date is still by the far the biggest motor sport facility in the world. The Scuderia won the inaugural 2004 event, courtesy of Rubens Barrichello
, while Michael Schumacher
and Kimi Raikkonen
took the top spot in 2006 and 2007 respectively. As for our current driver line-up, Fernando Alonso
, won here for Renault in 2005, while Felipe Massa has twice been on the podium, with a second place in 2008 and a third in 2007.
China is a very important market for Ferrari. In fact, the week after the race sees the Beijing Motor Show get underway and the Maranello marque will take the opportunity to launch its latest road car, the 599 GTO.