Ground Effect returns to F1 (it’s illegal by the way, except if Ferrari do it)

Ferrari went testing in Barcelona today. And lapped two and a half seconds faster than anyone else, including McLaren. Now, that isn’t a normal difference: they’ve added something new to the car.

Ground Effect.

Autosport reports that the new nosecone they used today has two slots in it that transfer air from a high pressure area between the front wing up to the low pressure area just behind the front of the nosecone and in front of the driver. This means they are in effect creating more suction between the car and the road, creating more grip. Further, this air is then channelled over the rear wing to provide more downforce. In addition, it stabilises the flow of air into the engine air intake to help with engine power.

You have to hand it to Ferrari, this is quite clever. But is it legal? Well, not for McLaren, or Williams. But as we know, Ferrari are seen to get special treatment. Or is that over, now that Max’s little secret is out? Or maybe Ferrari were actually restrained by Max, and they are taking advantage of his current weakness to launch this controversial new design.

But why was Ground Effect made illegal? Well, if you significantly increase the suction the car has in corners, imagine what will happen if it suddenly loses it. Nosecones fall off or self-destruct all the time: from  collisions with other cars as happened to Lewis Hamilton in Bahrain, or even from just hitting a kerb as happened to David Coulthard earlier in the season.

Of course, if we want more overtaking, then we really do need some changes, and some have been planned for 2009. Slicks are coming, and downforce is going. Well, not all of it, but a lot anyway. So this new Ferrari Ground Effect system will tilt the playing field again.

Damon Hill said fat slicks and good mechanical grip would do the trick, and that cars had too much downforce these days for any overtaking to take place. Well, if Ferrari stay 2.7 seconds per lap ahead of the competition, just when life was getting interesting with more than ten cars being separated by less than 1 second at the last race, then we can forget about overtaking.

Never mind overtaking, we can forget about racing, as it will just be Ferrari, and we can forget about a Championship, as it will be a foregone conclusion, with Ferrari winning every race.

Who wants to watch that? That’s what happened a couple of years ago when TV figures for F1 plummeted when Ferraris were winning everything, and Schumacher’s contract forbade his team mate from beating him. Heck, that year even I gave up watching F1 on TV for the first time since my father died, the only day I  had missed in the previous twenty years. That season I missed about 12 races! Looks like I’ll be doing something similar this year…


2 comments on “Ground Effect returns to F1 (it’s illegal by the way, except if Ferrari do it)

  1. I hadn’t read the technical details of the wing. That’s priceless. With the dumbing down of the sport in regards to the regulations, are we going to see the return of attempts to circumvent the rules? We’ll be getting six wheelers and turbine cars again.

    Very curious to see if they get to run this at the race. I can’t see it happening. But then I couldn’t see all the Michelin runners parking it at Indy, or Ferrari not being severely punished for fixing the Austrian Grand Prix, so apparently I do a have a bit of a blind spot.

    Time was I would never miss a race. I’ve never unintentionally missed a race. (Though it did take me some 16 years to finally see the 1990 French Grand Prix.) In the last 4 years I have intentionally missed quite a few.

  2. Well, I think even Max would spot the six wheelers!

    I think you mean “fixing the Australian GP” over the floor affair last year, but equally you could be talking about various Schumacher wins eg the illegal team ordes that forced Eddie Irvine to let him past most clearly at the Japanese GP.

    While its very nice to have a sexy marque such as Ferrari in the races, they have clearly benefitted from a benign (for Ferrari) regulatory environment for many years…

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