Leaving aside whatever benefit they may have accrued from the chopping and changing of rules over the off throttle engine mapping, the Ferrari worked well in Silverstone because of some key updates.
This time last year Fernando Alonso said that despite being a long way behind in the points, he could fight for the world championship.
Alonso was saying this because of the updates Ferrari had made to its 2010 car. They didn’t really show in Valencia and Silverstone because Alonso had problems with safety cars in both races, but he knew his car had been transformed.
And he was proved correct, the championship was in his hands as the start lights went out in Abu Dhabi. But he didn’t get his fairy tale ending.
This year the points gap – Alonso is 92 points behind Vettel – is more or less unbridgeable in ten remaining races, which is why the Spaniard isn’t making any promises. But Ferrari have done it again and revamped his car so he can fight Red Bull.
After qualifying a tenth behind the pole sitter in Silverstone, Alonso said, “I think it is the best qualifying in terms of the gap to pole position of the year. We have been more or less, on average, one second or seven-tenths in the last couple of races, and here in Silverstone, on a circuit that normally is not our preference in terms of lay-out and characteristics, with these high speed corners, being one-tenth off the pole is good news for us. The new parts we brought here are working well and (I’m) pleased with qualifying.”
And the car was faster relative to the Red Bull in the race than it was in qualifying as well as easier on its tyres.
Most obvious and eye catching of the updates was a new rear wing without a central pillar which also had a new mobile DRS activation. Silverstone requires a wing with less DRS effect because there are lots of high speed corners, where you want to shed drag, but still maintain plenty of downforce. It’s not traditionally been a strong Ferrari circuit in confrontation with Red Bull, but they got it just right this year.
In qualifying Alonso’s pace through sector 2 was comparable to the Red Bulls – when DRS activation is allowed. But in the race, when DRS use is not allowed, the Ferraris were half a second faster, showing that they’d pitched the level right on the DRS wing, so it’s effectiveness “or authority” as engineers call it was still high.
Ferrari also had a new rear suspension layout, which wasn’t a silver bullet but did contribute to Alonso feeling the car more to his liking.
There was a modification on the exhaust position, to improve the efficiency of the blown diffuser, notwithstanding the moving target that was the ruling on how much engines were allowed to blow them when the driver lifts off the throttle.
It should also be pointed out that Ferrari was helped by the wet start to the race which meant that drivers were not required to use the hard tyre at any stage in the race. This has been a weakness for the Ferrari. It would have been interesting to see how the updates might have helped their performance on harder tyres, but chances are Alonso would have been under more pressure in the final stage of the race.