The German Grand Prix at Hockenheim will be remembered for the team orders row which blew up after Ferrari ordered Felipe Massa to let Fernando Alonso through, but it was also notable as a confirmation that Ferrari has made great progress with its car after a period in the first third of the season where it fell behind in development.
Unlike Red Bull and McLaren, Ferrari has been obliged to copy both of the key technical innovations of the 2010 season; the F Duct rear wing and the blown diffuser. McLaren invented the former and Red Bull the latter so both have had half the work to do compared to Ferrari in overall incorporation of new tech.
Ferrari worked first on the F Duct and got bogged down with it, then the blown diffuser was introduced later. The signs were clear in Montreal that Ferrari had taken a step forward and then in Valencia they introduced the blown diffuser. In Silverstone the step in performance was confirmed with Alonso being barely a tenth off the Red Bulls through practice and the early part of qualifying, but at Hockenheim it all came together and Fernando Alonso qualified on the front row, with Massa just behind. In the race, Ferrari had better race pace than Red Bull, indicating that they are contenders for the second half of the season.
Ferrari updates get them in the game
Hockenheim was the third outing of the blown diffuser introduced in Valencia and detailed changes to the exhausts and floor optimised the solution together with a refinement of the F-duct system. Ferrari have modified the side channels of their diffuser. This one now sports a wider and diagonal opening compared to the standard perpendicular one seen in Valencia when the solution was introduced the first time.
Ferrari also had a step on the front wing, which improved the overall downforce and stablity of the car, leading both drivers to talk of greatly improved grip and driveability. Another big step from Ferrari is due at the Belgian Grand Prix at the end of August, where heavily revised back end aerodynamics will be brought out.
Mercedes rear wing
Mercedes, for its home race brought an array of small developments, the main one being to the rear wing main profile, now featuring two big slits in its central section, to increase the efficiency of this element producing a slightly increased downforce load. The main feature is a double large opening, placed in the middle section of the main profile, mimicking the effect of an additional flap. This solution helps in terms of increasing the downforce load generated by the wing. Mercedes do not have the full active F Duct system operated by the drivers, as used by its rivals, they have a more passive system. It was useful in Germany, although the car is still short of the pace of its rivals and will be even more useful in Hungary.
McLaren blown diffuser
McLaren ran the blown diffuser all weekend in Germany, although their deficit to Ferrari and Red Bull in qualifying and at the end of the race indicates that there is still work to be done to optimise it. In Silverstone they removed it after Friday practice because it was overheating components in the rear suspension and the on-off nature of the exhaust gas pressure, combined with the bumps in the Silverstone track was causing instability.
In Germany they introduced modifications to reduce the overheating problems and now the exhaust pipes are in a more external position , sporting a diagonal cut instead of the perpendicular one adopted previously. This is still a work in progress and McLaren now need to add the next step in performance to stay with the Red Bulls and Ferraris.