Ferrari SF-23: medium-downforce rear wing and aeromechanical interaction under analysis | 2023 Japan GP

Red Bull aims to restore hierarchies, making it clear to Ferrari that the Singapore episode won’t repeat in the remaining rounds of the 2023 racing campaign. Undoubtedly, the Maranello team delivered their best between Monza and Marina Bay, and despite retaining some confidence, Suzuka doesn’t bring the recent optimism within the sports management.

In the past week, there has been a lot of talk about the update related to technical directive TD039. Some believe that the RB19’s dismal performance in the Asian city-state is largely due to this reason. This theory was immediately dismissed by Christian Horner, labeling those who find it valid as deluded. In this conjectural context, let’s consider a quick reflection.

In the 2022 season, Ferrari F1-75, after Spa-Francorchamps, the red car showed clear performance limitations. The altered ride heights essentially crushed all hopes for the red team. At the time, Team Principal Mattia Binotto argued that the dismal performance in the second half of the season had nothing to do with the FIA’s measures, echoing what the “Spice Boy,” referring to the Austrian cars, said a few days ago.

As always, the ultimate judge remains the track. In our view, speculations about the hypothetical scenario can be cleared once the Milton Keynes cars hit the track for FP1. If not, we will be happy to stand corrected. Especially because a more competitive championship with a downsized Red Bull would be significantly more exciting.

Japanese GP 2023/Ferrari SF-23 vs. Red Bull RB19: Rear Load Equivalent to 2022

As expected, both Ferrari and Red Bull have chosen to follow the direction taken last year. The engineers led by Adrian Newey propose a medium/medium-high load wing, featuring a gurney flap on the trailing edge. This specification was previously seen in Azerbaijan, with a main plane already used during this championship. In this case, they do not seem to adopt the Alpine/Mercedes solution with the junction between the endplate and the second flap, typically associated with high load setups.

Red Bull will retest the floor introduced in Singapore but later discarded. The modifications fall under micro-aerodynamics, affecting the lateral area of the floor. Here, you’ll find a “curl” designed to generate local overpressure to separate the flow adjacent to the side pods from the “dirtier” flow traveling parallel to the car from the front tire.

Regarding the historic Italian team, they opt for the “classic mono-pillar wing” introduced at the beginning of the season, which is generally higher loaded than the average of other teams. It’s worth noting that while the RB19 dominates in terms of aerodynamic efficiency, the SF-23 ranks second in this particular category. That’s why the red car can still enjoy this advantage over Mercedes and McLaren, albeit to a lesser extent.

Ground clearance and overall setup are also key themes. In Suzuka, it will be interesting to see the choices made by the engineers. The first sector comprises fast, sweeping corners that generate significant load transfers. The stability of the aerodynamic platform is thus put to the test, and adjustments to the anti-roll bars are likely to be rather stiff.

On the other hand, there are several points on the Japanese track where traction is crucial, such as in the second sector at the hairpin or in the third sector at the exit of the final chicane, which includes relatively high curbs. Overall, we expect a highly competitive Red Bull, although as mentioned earlier, some doubts still linger.

Compared to their rivals, the two RB19s plan to adopt slightly lower ride heights in Suzuka, as has been the case throughout the year. If such an adjustment is not possible due to the TD039 update, the aerodynamic balance with different measurements from the reference plane (asphalt) will necessarily have to be met. This aspect could, as in Singapore, create some headaches.

The SF-23 will also need to prove itself in this regard. While it’s true that the last two races have been above the seasonal average, none of these tracks featured long, high-speed corners. Considering that, on average, the ride height of the cars will be higher in Japan, the competitive doubts for Ferrari on high-speed corners remain.

Aero-mechanical iteration is crucial in this case. That’s why, as anticipated in our customary technical preview of the Japanese Grand Prix, the Italian cars should feature an updated floor specification, capable of better managing the vortex structure that flows through the red car’s floor. The goal is clear: maximize the equation between vertical thrust and drag.Ferrari SF-23

Source: Alessandro Arcari and Niccoló Arnerich for FUnoanalisitecnica

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