Some unfinished business
Suzuka 2014
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Inside the Ferrari engine department
Scuderia Ferrari
Inside the Ferrari engine department
Posted By: James Allen  |  02 Jun 2011   |  7:35 am GMT  |  52 comments

I’m on a visit to Maranello for a few days organised by Shell and last night had the chance to go into the Gestione Sportiva, where we spoke with Matteo Binotto, who is in charge of the engine department.


I was last there about eight or nine years ago and it has shrunk a bit in the interim with the engine restrictions in place there is no need for as many people – or engines – as in the Schumacher days.

Roughly half of the space is dedicated to building the race engines for the Scuderia as well as for Sauber and Toro Rosso, their customers. each driver gets eight engines so that’s three lots of 16 engines that need to be built.

And the other half is devoted to developments. Again with the engine restriction rules there isn’t much that they can do on the development side as the engines are frozen, but they can work on some areas, including work on fuel and lubricants. You can really see how this has saved money compared to the old days. Combine that with no testing and that’s a massive chunk of budget saved.

There was a technician working on a block in the development department, fine tuning a piston ring and doing so with the intensity of a watch maker. The guy was so into his job, it was great to see.

The eight engines allocated to a driver have to last a whole season. Ferrari tend to like to get one through its life early on so that they can take it back to Maranello and take it apart to analyse wear and assess reliability issues. Small changes are allowed during the season on the grounds of reliability if the cause is genuine. They are about to do that to one engine which has been to six races already.

There is a small FIA seal on the engine, which is fitted when an engine makes its first appearance at the track and this seal cannot be broken or the engine becomes ineligible. It’s quite tight now with 19 races to make eight engines last. They do three races each plus three Friday practice days.

Nothing can be changed internally and not even water pumps or oil pumps. They can only work on things like injector rails, clutches.

Everything was very open, although when I asked Binotto, who was once Schumacher’s track engineer, how Ferrari are doing on power loss – in other words how much power does an engine lose between its first race and the end of its third, he would only say, “We were always the best on that and we are still the best,”

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52 Comments
  1. Arpit says:

    Nice story ,very informative .

  2. K-F1 says:

    “We were always the best on that and we are still the best,”

    That’s still very open! LOL… Their engines are pretty good.

  3. Born 1950 says:

    Where does the seal go, James, and what nature does it take? I’m trying to imagine where a ‘small FIA seal’ could be fitted that would stop the heads being separated from the block and prevent access to the crank.

    1. James Allen says:

      It’s a couple of centimetres long on front if engine to the sides

      1. Michael T says:

        So it isn’t a small FIA branded aquatic mammal with a beach ball balanced on its nose!

  4. John says:

    Have any teams used more engines than they would have liked to at this stage of the season? I’ve not heard of any myself.

  5. Le Gazman says:

    Do teams still analyze the sound from each other’s engines as they did in the pre-rev-limited days?

    1. James Allen says:

      Yes and it’s very sophisticated now. They use on board TV footage too

    2. Andy C says:

      Any pointer as to what they obtain by the sound?

      1. James Allen says:

        More than power, they can tell a lot apparently about timing, ignition, talked to Jean Jacques His about it

      2. Jo Torrent says:

        does the timing of ignition change with RPMs

  6. Just A Bloke (Martin) says:

    I like the idea of hammering an engine early in the season so that you can strip it down for analysis. Good thinking.

    M

    1. nando says:

      How are you going to sell a reliability issue when the engine has just gone through six race weekends?

  7. Super Fan says:

    Is the bloke in that picture Chris Dyer?

    1. Jo Torrent says:

      no

  8. Tom in adelaide says:

    I once saw a documentary on the ferrari road car factory. Fantastic stuff, the passion of the employees was amazing. Although i’m not a ferrari F1 fan, i can’t help but admire the beautiful things they create.

    1. Richard says:

      Saw that too, especially liked the garden in the factory.

      I remember once seeing something on the McLaren factory as well where they had taken the effort to ensure that things had to look good as well as functional; even air-conditioning electirical wires.

      There has to be said about teams that have a passion about there work and work philosophy, Williams’s “we race them at the air-port” springs to mind.

      Very much something I can’t imagine the likes of Ford/Volkswagen have.

    2. Jo Torrent says:

      I saw it. I am a Ferrari fan but the documentary was too artificial in my view describing everything as a perfection.

      You can’t help but be impressed by any automotive factory. I visited a BMW factory near Munchen once and it was very very impressive as well. The difference with the Ferrari one is that the latter is more alive, very sunny inside plus the plants which makes look very alive, very welcoming.

      The BMW one is much bigger and maybe can’t afford such investment on such a big area as well. On the other hand, Germans don’t need a shiny place to perform.

  9. Craig says:

    Hi James,

    My comment is not about this article however I was wondering if you can help me find a cinema in the northwest that is going to show the Senna film tomorrow? So far I have only found a cinema in ‘Cheshire Oaks’ (Near chester). I find it hard to believe that nowhere in greater manchester is showing it…

    Cheers,
    Craig

      1. Craig says:

        Thanks Paul!

    1. Michael T says:

      It is the same in Belfast, only a small independent cinema is showing it… and the first showing isn’t until 17 June!

    2. Born 1950 says:

      I suggest waiting for the DVD. Most of the library footage in the film will be quite old and not too good quality, so the viewing experience off a DVD on to a good flatscreen TV will probably be as good, if not better, than the cinema experience — although I accept that watching it with an audience of enthusiasts probably adds an extra element of excitement.

  10. Martin says:

    Hi James,

    Did you get an idea what oil and fuel Torro Rosso and Sauber run? Is it Shell or something else?

    Did you ask any questions of the Ferrari staff as to what they look for in fuel? Did it match what Shell told you?

    Are there any changes in requirements from last year due to KERS and DRS. My sense is that there might be some benefit with DRS to trade off peak power slightly to have more torque (and from that power) at 17000 rpm.

    Cheers,

    Martin

    1. James Allen says:

      Yes they use the same fuels as are developed with the Ferrari engine people

    2. Jo Torrent says:

      Fuel is less of an issue than lubricants. An F1 car can perfectly run with everyday’s fuel with a little loss in power. The lubricants are much more sensitive I guess.

      Sauber were using Ferrari engines while sponsored by Petronas. Did they use Shell lubricants at the time ?

      1. Martin says:

        Hi Jo,

        Based on James’ earlier article on 13 May, from when he visited a Shell lab in the UK, it would appear that there are still big power gains to be made ~20 kW, depending on fuel type and that there were several other characteristics, such as combustion temperature and density that were important as well.

        The exhaust blown diffuser is another complicating factor here as it adds to the requirements of the combustion process.

        cheers,

        Martin

  11. ikkida says:

    Hi James,
    Two questions for you, one inline with the article and one personal.
    1) “We were always the best on that and we are still the best,” – Does this mean they have rivals’ data/numbers to evaluate themselves?
    2) What were your feelings/observations on entering the “Gestione Sportiva” post JeanTodt/Brawn/Byrne/Gilles days?

    1. Jo Torrent says:

      sight mistake the head of engine department during that era was Paolo Martinelli. Gilles replaced him in 2006 when the former moved to an executive role within FIAT.

      1. ikkida says:

        Thanks for pointing it out.

    2. Martin says:

      The teams use various measures, including acoustic analysis of the rate of change in engine revs to assess the engine characteristics of different cars. This also gives a clue as to why the teams have a reasonable idea of fuel loads of other cars in practice.

  12. F1 dingo says:

    James

    Apologies for this as it is a little ‘off-topic’ but I’m interested in this years claims that the ‘tyres will fall off a cliff’.

    We’ve all heard this statement at every race thus far and although tyres obviously drop off and are slower than fresh tyres I haven’t witnessed them falling off a cliff per se.

    What do teams mean by this term? Is it a case of the tyres being 2-3 seconds a lap off the pace, 5-6 seconds, 10-15 seconds off or literally they’re so shot that it would be the equivalent of having a slow puncture – ie the cars would be cruising around to the pits due to the lack of grip?

    It’s commonly mentioned but has it happened in any of the races thus far this season? Are teams overplaying this term?

    It would be interesting to know what the teams definition of the statement is….

    1. Heartworm says:

      I believe it is in the region of 2-3 seconds a lap from what has been said,

    2. Andy C says:

      The BBC have commented on the term. My understanding is the falling off the cliff relates to the wear rate of the tyre. Eventually you get down past the useable tyre (i.e the bit they intend you to use).

      So you’ve literally used up the designed life of the tyre, so either you continue on suboptimal rubber (whatever is left and presumably not designed to be raced on), or pit.

      I think the dropoff mentioned was severe and you’d imagine you’d eventually get down to puncture territory.

  13. Adam Taylor says:

    interesting piece, but do you know what happens when the cars have an accident? take massa’s run in with lewis on sunday, if there was any damage to the engine would they be allowed to rebuild it to get it back into the engine quota or rebuild it just for use on the friday practise sessions? cheers

    1. Mark m says:

      Once an engine is finished that’s it. New engine please until the allocation is up then penalties come onto play. Until the end of the season when a fresh engine can be used with out penalty. This is my understanding of the rule please correct me if I am wrong.

  14. zombie says:

    Is Luca Marmorini no longer the head of Scuderia’s engine development program ?

    1. James Allen says:

      Yes he’s the TD on engine side, Binotto’s boss

  15. jonrob says:

    James, whatever became of your visit to McLaren, the year before last? I never saw the result.

    1. James Allen says:

      Yes, we did 2 vids. They were on site and are now under JA videos

  16. Phillip says:

    It seems like a day of questions for James!

    I have one of my own, of course.

    Do you hear any whispers that Ferrari uses its Corse Clienti program to carry out development work on odd bits and pieces? For instance, KERS work on a 2009?

    I can’t imagine much performance related data could be gathered, but perhaps some reliability work or even some baseline aero proof of concept work?

    Thanks for taking the time.

    1. James Allen says:

      I will ask but they would need a 2011 ECU I would have thought.

      1. Phillip says:

        Right, I guess I was thinking about background stuff like temperature tolerance for new battery packs, or new battery pack locations. These, non-performance related, issues seem to be the things that Red Bull struggles with.

        Thanks again, I especially love the background stories. There is so little of that around.

        In fact, a little focus on the truckies and pictures of the transporters would be wonderful. My little kids love F1, but they are always trying to catch a glimpse of the trucks!

      2. Jo Torrent says:

        they don’t use the same tyres for Corse Clienti plus the cars used are 2 years old plus it’s easy to know if there are proper drivers participating in those days

  17. F1a says:

    Super duper, oh ‘we are so good in engines’. Grrrreat. Just the odd 2 seconds a lap off RB then. I’m sure that piston ring will make all the difference.

    1. Tom says:

      I think you will find the whole field is floundering somewhat…as such a clear genius, perhaps you could enlighten us all as to precisely how the teams should catch up.

  18. Franko says:

    Mr Allen. I was also fortunate enough to go
    from one end to an other at Maranello and the
    memories keeps on, keeping on.
    Its not hard to fall in love with Ferrari
    is it not Mr Allen.

  19. David Mulhall says:

    So jealous James… Would give anything to walk through the Ferrari (or Williams) factory. Did you get a sence of the morale at Ferrari at the moment?

  20. Martin(sq) says:

    No mention of 1.6l 4cyl. turbo’s ?
    GOOD !
    I am not a great fan of Bernie ( I had a arument with him years ago ), but you have got to respect him for knowing what makes F1 popular.
    He says the new engines won’t do, and here is why. F1 must in first place to appeal to car nuts and racing fans (who then bring others), if it does not, they, the sponsors and the money will fade away.
    What does your typical fan aspire to ? Decent sports car, starting with BMW, Jaguar, and heading for Ferrari 458. What do they all have in common ? 5 litre V8′s !
    Are these cars likely to switch to 1.6l 4 cyl. turbos ? NO, no one would buy them !

    The notion of F1 reducing fuel consumption (and saving the planet..oh.. yea ?), is utter nonsense. F1 ‘carbon footprint’ is far, far bigger then the fuel used by the racing cars.
    Just consider the new sets of wings for each car at each race and the worldwide transport of thousends of tons of stuff and people.

    There is a very simple way to save HUGE anmounts, just swith to 5 litre engines (V8′s, V10s, or V12′s) and set the rev limit to 9000.
    This will give ~750bhp as now, the engines can be based on normal production ones, and many manufacturers would be happy to give them away FREE.
    Very little development costs, just 2 engines per car per year, job done, everyone happy !

    In any case I hope Luca di Montemezolo will veto the “Formula Ford turbo” nonsense.
    Regards
    “Martin”
    one time F3 driver

    1. Ram says:

      5 litre engines (V8’s, V10s, or V12’s) and setting the rev limit to 9000. Well it will not be a F1 engine. It can’t make the torque as the normal V8′s. Even the Turbo engine will not fit in to F1 world. The RPM is the key for F1 engine power.

  21. Ram says:

    Why F150 Ittalia can’t make the same amount of downforce as the Red Bull car. With an newer tyre than Vettal why couldn’t Alonso pass him in Monoco. Shumi and Webber did it. I think the f150′s body pannels create too much drag than any Red Bull, Meclaren, and even Renult.

    In monoco pit stop photos Rear of Redbull shows two channels for directing air in to the Rear wing and in to the diffucer. and the handling of the car is far better than any one else.

    Ferrari is not focusing their attention to that section rather than developing new airo parts.

  22. Bru72 says:

    cool article, nice one James. I’m a life long Ferrari fan. I imagine they’ve breathed a sigh of relief regarding the abandonment of in line 4 engines. I think the V6 a much nicer sounding, more exotic and more relevant option.

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