(Reuters) – Ferrari have cracked the code to set the pace in the new era of Formula One regulations but fans can expect the struggling Mercedes team to eventually find the right setup to compete this season, F1’s Technical Consultant Rob Smedley told Reuters.
Ferrari, who have not won a title in over a decade, lead both the drivers and constructors standings after impressing in the first two races of the season.
But Mercedes, winners of the last eight constructors titles, are busy playing catch-up due to aerodynamics issues with their cars, with team boss Toto Wolff describing their travails as going through an “exercise in humility”.
“Mercedes would be the first to admit that they haven’t got it right. Ferrari have done a really good job in moving up and being right there with Red Bull,” Smedley said in an interview.
“But I would expect that to change now more than any other year as people find big chunks of performance in lots of different areas.
“The development phase of the car is at such an immature stage, the cars will change significantly from the first race to the final race… There’s going to be a very, very strong development curve on those cars.”
Smedley, a former Ferrari race engineer, said it was brilliant for Formula One to have the Italian team, the “most iconic of all brands”, fighting at the front again.
With Haas and Alpine also performing better than their midfield rivals so far, Smedley added that the large scale regulation change had given teams an opportunity to cause an “upset in the world order”.
“It was always going to be the case that some would get it right and some would get it wrong,” he added.
“I think that’s the beauty, that’s certainly what Formula One were hoping for in making the big regulatory changes, that you do change the world order.
“But you not only change it, you can then see some evolution throughout the season.”
AERODYNAMIC DESIGN OVERHAUL
The new era has already delivered exhilarating battles on track and Smedley said the overhaul in design was born out of a survey that revealed fans wanted to see closer racing and more “wheel-to-wheel action”.
“If you think about all the iconic moments in Formula One over the years, it’s always had two-three drivers going head-to-head in these really classic battles on the track and racing at 200 mph close to each other,” Smedley said.
“The resolution came about from understanding why the cars didn’t follow closely to each other… Individual teams who were very focused on their car’s performance inadvertently created a detrimental performance for following cars.”
With the old regulations, Smedley explained a car was losing approximately 50% of its aerodynamic performance when it got to within half a second of a rival, leading to the redesign of its principal architecture.
Amazon Web Services (AWS) enabled them to run more simulations and exponentially reduce the development time from nearly a decade to just 18 months to arrive at a finished product and get the new era up and running this year.
“What would have happened (without AWS) is we would have shoe-horned in significantly less design and development into the period,” he added.
“We would have ended up therefore with a regulation set that was probably much more open to interpretation.
“Which is what was happening in the past, allowing teams to go off in many different directions and lose the high level objectives the sport’s rights holders were trying to set.”
(Reporting by Rohith Nair in Bengaluru; editing by Pritha Sarkar)