New Ferrari F1 technical analysis: Not as much change as expected
Posted By: James Allen  |  01 Feb 2013   |  2:06 pm GMT  |  106 comments

Ferrari launched its car, the F138 in Maranello today. The team made it very clear that it intended to start the season strongly, unlike last year, where it played catch up to the McLaren and Red Bull cars in particular.

In overview, the Ferrari F138, as presented at the launch, is similar in concept to last year’s model and does not show as many detailed changes as the McLaren, released yesterday. The stepped nose has gone, which is eye catching, but not hugely significant. The main work appears to have gone into the rear of the car and there is a clear emphasis on thermal management with the tyres and on improving pit stop speed with some intricate detail changes around the rear wheels.

Technical director Pat Fry said, “This year’s car is more of an evolution than a revolution, based on similar concepts to the F2012 and in all the little areas of performance where we think we can gain something, we have looked for those gains.

“The car has changed in subtle ways, some areas more than others, but in general, the F138 is a development of last year’s car.”

It is slightly surprising, given how important this season will be to Ferrari, that the car does not show more changes. They may be concerned, having seen the McLaren yesterday, that their Woking rivals have changed so many things on what was already the pace setting car at the end of last season.

Ferrari will no doubt have many updates in the pipeline for winter testing this month and the early races. They may have some exciting developments which they don’t want to reveal at the moment.

But from what we have seen in the last 24 hours it looks like they are going to need them to stay with what looks like an improved McLaren.

Last year Ferrari started the season on the back foot. They had problems with correlation problems between their own wind tunnel and the Toyota tunnel, which hurt their development. The only development items that worked were the ones which came from the Toyota tunnel. It was down to Fernando Alonso to do a lot of hard work behind the wheel to grind out results to keep them in the game.

The car was pretty good at looking after its tyres, but lacked downforce in comparison with the McLaren and Red Bull cars.

The F138 in detail
There are not as many obvious fundamental changes in concept as there are with the McLaren; the front suspension is still pull-rod, as it was last year and as the new McLaren has moved to.

At the front they have gone with a non stepped nose and modified pillar design. The treatment is well done; the front wing in launch spec is similar in concept to last year’s. The turning vanes under the nose are retained. McLaren has removed them, interestingly.

The front wing design is similar to last year’s. They did not have any nose “cameras” on the launch car. Last year they moved these cameras to in-between the pillars to get more front aerobalance – no doubt they will be there for track running.

The under-nose is heavily contoured and the slotted turning vane is still there, as last year. This is a component, which was not present on the McLaren yesterday, which had been there last year.

The area around the cockpit and the roll-hoop is similar to last year’s. This whole section of the car, including the side pod and associated turning vanes, is very similar to last year, which is slightly surprising.

There is a secondary air intake once again behind the roll hoop, which could be for the passive double DRS system. This is a difficult thing to get right, as Lotus showed last year. Ferrari had one working at the Brazilian GP at the end of last season and this year’s model looks similar.

The rear of the car: The main area of change
There has clearly been a lot of work done at the rear of the car, aimed at tyre management and faster pit stop times. The rest of the rear has been modified, there are updates to the rear suspension and there are some very interesting detailed changes such as the rear wheel geometry which has changed with a new spoke pattern and detail around the wheel nut – maybe for enhancing thermal management of the tyre and brake cooling system and also to speed up pitstop times.

“We are trying to improve our pit stops still further and we have made some changes in that area,” admitted Fry. “Hopefully we can gain another couple of tenths off our pit stop time. On average, we were consistently the best in this area last year, but you cannot afford to stand still, otherwise you find yourself dropping behind.”

The brake duct scoops have also been developed, especially the rear geometry, which probably ties in with the rim change.

Tyre thermal management was key last year and the really interesting changes around the brake drum areas are only visible with the tyres off so we will need to wait a while for spy shots from testing to see what changes have been made in these areas.

The exhausts presented today are similar to last year’s. The definitive exhausts will only be seen at the final Barcelona test (Feb 28 to March 3).

The exhaust channel geometry looks very similar too, but it would be interesting to see if they have kept the same exhaust pipe diameter for their Coanda system. As a rule, the narrower the pipe the greater the Coanda effect as the exhaust gas is attracted to the surface through the channel and down to the diffuser. But a narrower pipe means a slight loss of engine power, so there’s a decision and a compromise to be made.

This is an area that will undergo extensive change and if Ferrari has had some breakthroughs, they were not wanting to show them today, so they rolled out something similar to last year.

The rear wing has been highly developed and now is very intricate with a new end plate design with trailing edge slots and a revised, smaller DRS actuator pod and revised upper rear wing element flap geometry around the same twin Slot Gap Separator locations, aiding efficiency.

There is no lower beam wing cascade but this has probably just been left off for just the launch.

Overall, it’s a more understated car that the McLaren and they must hope that they have plenty of significant steps in place prior to the first race in Melbourne, if they are to start the season on the same level as the McLaren.

Fry alluded to this in his remarks that the launch car is not representative of where the evolved car is in the wind tunnel at this point, “We cannot hide the fact that, aerodynamically, the launch car is a long way behind where we are in the wind tunnel today,” he said.

“We will have a better idea of what our true performance level is come the third test but I’m not going to be happy until we are clearly quickest.”

All eyes now on the Red Bull, which will launch on Sunday, to see if Adrian Newey and his team has come up with something special, as it did in 2011.

Testing begins next week in Jerez.

[Additional Technical input: Mark Gillan}

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I really don’t care who says what!!!! i am a true FERRARI fan and as such there is no car that will ever come close to performance or looks.


The one thing I find really interesting about the F138 is the space between under the nose and the start of the floor it seems to be the largest opening of all the launched cars so far ( even Saubers today) if you look at the side on comparison between 3 cars – it’s quite significant- might not mean much but just seems they can channel alot more air underneath the front.


The are to scared to try something new. So, they’re going to trail every year. That’s the problema with a “corporation” thinking. Someone is there asking for “results” not trying to create a good enviroment to develop a new car and win.


That is one good looking Formula 1 racing car.


james – i think we might see somw real innovation with tyre changes at pitstops.

instead of a wheel nut we could see an electrically operated collet that at a push of a button releases the wheel and maybe even a mechanism to help push the wheel off the hub. that’s where all the time is lost in pitstops.


I’m glad to see that those horrible stepped noses have gone.


Really like the look of this Ferrari. Haven’t seen a car I liked the look of this much since their F10.


i remember very clearly a 2009 f1 racing Mclaren/ferrari launch issue where Gary Anderson had proclaimed that the Mclaren had loads of detail and that ferrari should be worried.

of course for much of the season the Mclaren was appalling and this was from an experienced f1 designer! so only goes to show that even with experience all of the details & changes are not neccesarily going to bring silverware & that all the figures on the pc’s & windtunnels may look good now but its only when they run in anger that the errors & problems arise.


I cannot possibly match you and Mark Gilian’s knowledge on the matter, however when you say..

“What we are saying here is that McLaren has made a lot of changes and done a lot of detailed development work on a car that was fast – it won the last two races of 2012, remember.”

Wouldn’t a “lot of changes”, some have said revolution not evolution, which departs from the fundamental design of last years car, somewhat nulify or atleast moderate the fact that it “was” a fast car last season?


Now the stepped noses are gone, I kinda miss ’em!


I find it pretty funny that year after year people proclaim a car fast just by what it looks like at launch. Are these observers really that good that they can tell where the .10s will come from? I’m skeptical, especially considering most of the cars are dressed up for the launch with phony parts and won’t even look like that at the first race anyway.


I think that you are perhaps getting ahead of yourself claiming Mclaren has an advantage based solely on the number of changes that are obvious to the eye. If being fast was about looking different to last year’s car, then design would be pretty simple!


Mr Allen,Sir, I am a little bemused at your early

assumption of Ferrari ingle seater.

I value your coments as I consider you as a numero

uno in F1 journalism,however you may or may not agree

that Scuderia Veloce since passing of a truly great

genius in Colin Chapman has been in fore front in

inovation in F1.

I am a great believer in Pat Fry, the guy knows his

chips,and so it does Luca D Montezemolo and board of

Directors, I vividly remember his quote,exhaust are the way to go,though Ferrari had a lot of broblem

with it,I feel he has solved the problem to his satisfaction and may I say he looks a very confindant

man,should it be other wise Pat Fry future in F1 will not look rosy.

Mr Allen please Sir,I noted Ferrari has introduced an

electrical system that was ment for 2014 single seater will you be good enough to find out, is it

there own or some other system.

I thank you and have a good day.


hope this past article from james will help you with the electronics…

nice tricolore livery using black, kinda ducati is doing replacing green with black. Not so great nose though for the f138, macca’s nose is more elegant. but who would care if it is going to win races, not me. I cant wait for the testing.


Fellaz, fellaz…it’s only a launch! The F2012 had pace in th end. Reliability wasn’t an issue. It was just that single lap on quali that killed us every now and again. And if fixing it require a few modifications from last year, then the car should be similar (from the naked eye).



I think you got your initials back to front there Stefano 😉


I can tell that this will be one fast car


Agree,more like a championship winning car,WDC and WCC.


I think the desicion to take an evolutionary path to this years car is good, because look what revolutionary got them last year. Who knows McLaren might suffer because of making too many changes to what was the best car of last year. Because of rules stability the new ferrari and lotus have just evolved a bit. One thing that was wrong with the ferrari last year (according to Gary Anderson) was the DRS. Now that it is banned during qualifying this new rule may favor ferrari. Cant wait for another close fight for the title this year.


I recall Gary Anderson saying that too. Something about the way the car reacted when the DRS was closed back up it would mess with the way the car behaved therefore causing the driver to have to hesitate for a split second before it settled down. The change of that rule will be very interesting as it was RBR’s trump card in qually and they based there downforce set up around it. I think qually will be far far closer this season because of this and maybe the red cars can take some poles.


Probably a good chance Ferrari are hiding any developments. They’re not even bringing Alonso to the first test so probably not even this car is going to be at the winter tests!


According to statements made yesterday by Ferrari engineers and designers. Ferrari will be bringing upgrades at the test as well as for the race in Australia. My guess is several teams will do the same.


Hmm that’s funny. I had the same thoughts, but with the McLaren. No passive DRS c’mon 😉

I could understand from the Pat Fry interview, that the launch car is “aerodynamically halfbaked”. Guess that Ferrari is either hiding something, or they still are a little paranoid concerning correlation of data from the windtunnel. They will probably use the Jerez test to try various aero configurations (hence the absense of Alonso) to make sure the numbers are correct this time.

Your analysis sort of mute the changes to the rear as not significant enough. If it is indeed about tyre management, then lets not count out that a superior advantage in tyremanagement can win races in modern F1 , and widen the scope of tactical options available at races (Ferrari could IMHO have won Canada’s GP and British GP and perhaps even Monaco last year with better tyre management).

Domenicali said at the launch that Ferrari had worked a lot on improving reliability. Reliability and consistency was one of the key area’s in Ferrari’s title challenge last year, and one where McLaren fell short.

Well we won’t know for sure until australia, which makes these launches and the following media scrutiny kind of like watching someone make a 1 week weatherforecast by looking at the sky.

There is however another fascinating aspect of these launches.

The human aspect.

Alonso looked 5 years younger, and looked absolutely determined. According to his tweets he’s preparing for this season like Hell hath no fury. He allegedly has been working in the factory all winter, and is now performing a rigourous physical training programme.

Massa on the other hand looked visibly uncomfortable.

I thought that Montezemolo’s public treatment of Felipe Massa was demeaning to say the least. He IMHO also made a business related mistake in proclaiming China “the second most important market for Ferrari”. He could at least have said “a hugely or equally important market”. It speaks volumes about the mans selfpride (Horsewhisperer anyone?). I think Ol’e Monty would have been an absolute disaster in politics. 😉

There was also visible tension between Perez and Button at the McLaren launch.

Perez comments at the launch about Jenson not being there all winter left me thinking, that perhaps Jenson had been there, just not talking to Perez. McLaren has lost a huge advantage in Hamilton.


I am sure I am wrong, but the reporting about McLaren and Ferrari launch seems originated in the McLaren PR department. So the main innovation in McLaren is copying Ferrari front pull-rod and moving to a design more in line with other cars (sidepods, high nose). This is highly praised as a significant breakthrough. A detailed look at the Ferrari allows to see quite a lot of changes below the nose and in the (very important) rear of the car, but this is reported as not enough.

To me this year’s McLaren car is one of the more conventional looking cars McLaren has created in years. Just remember the surprise and awe when you first saw the cars with the F-duct or the L-shaped sidepods.

Of course the McLaren was very fast last year, but they have changed the design to be more like other cars. Not sure that deserves so much praise, to be honest.

For sure both teams are hiding the most significant changes, for example in the exhausts layout.

Ok, time will tell.


There are a few comments, like this one, from people who do not appear to have read the articles properly and who jump to the wrong conclusion.

Together with Mark Gillan, who was in charge of Williams’ race engineering last season, we have analysed the cars as presented at launch.

What we are saying here is that McLaren has made a lot of changes and done a lot of detailed development work on a car that was fast – it won the last two races of 2012, remember.

While what we are saying about Ferrari is that the car presented today and the concepts on display are quite similar to last year. The main chassis cannot change, it is homologated, but we are saying that clearly Ferrari will have more advanced developments in the wind tunnel and the conclusion is that they are going to need them as the McLaren has definitely been improved.

If this doesn’t suit you, or isn’t what you wanted to hear, then we are sorry. Perhaps you should read less objective analysis on sites elsewhere, which does tell you what you want.

But it is the analysis of one of F1’s most experienced engineers.


Just to clarify, I really appreciate your site and the information it provides to us, fans. That is of course the reason I read it and take the time to comment on it. I do not usually write to say how much I like each of your articles but I do like them! Sometimes I disagree and it is great because I can post a comment to a community mostly respecful and with great knowledge of F1. So please, no need to invite me to leave the site because I disagree with something. I accept that I am most probably wrong 🙂 but an opinion with some reasoning on it, even if wrong, should be appreciated.

Reading my original post, if my joke about McLaren PR department was inappropriated, I sincerely apologize for it.


By looking at it.

All the cars should have improved, that’s why you bring out a new model every year..


Gary anderson echoed the same sentiments …. His analysis of the two cars was pretty much the same as yours . Both he and Gillian cant be wrong


yes they can!


Apologies James if my comment has been misconstrued and I do appreciate Mark Gillian’s input. As a technical whiz he is clearly impressed with the technical detail and can surely see alot more than we can. However just like Geoff Norman above so rightly pointed- just because a car has changed the technical details so much compared to last years model or other cars- it does not necessarily lend itself to being a quicker car or the need for Ferrari or anyone else to “catch up” in development- Im sure others will go down their own technical path which may or may not include these details.

Further as others have rightly suggested the pull rod front suspension and the higher nose set ups were on Ferraris and other teams cars last year. – And we all saw how long it took Ferrari to get that car working.Mclaren have many times built the best and fastest car but suffered severely technical and reliability failures that led to to naught also.

I don’t doubt this is the best site for technical and other insights (rhythms) and spend most of my F1 time on here .Its just the strong inference of the technical assessment may lead to wrong expectations for the racing for those not so familiar with F1.


We will see


Excellent analysis!! Thank you James and Mark!


Sorry to jump in. James, nobody is denying that McLaren and Ferrari has been improved. The question is if they could be better than Red Bull. I don´t think so. Unless Neweys has run out of ideas. Something that is hard to believe. Ferrari at least has Alonso at the wheel. And he can outperfomed the car and get things even or at least close the gap with the Red Bull. I´m afraid neither Button nor Perez are at the same level of Alonso. So I guess McLaren has two problems unless they can show that their car is better than the Red Bull. More developments and improvements may not be enough.


Well said!


I don’t think you’re reading all the comments that you’re receiving. If it’s possible for someone to declare on the basis of what’s been changed that a car is going to be significantly quicker, why can’t all the engineers do so and come up with the same solutions? The point that’s being made (by me and several others) is that you’ve assumed that the innovation on the McLaren is bound to make it faster.


I think what James is trying to say is that McLaren have shown their hand on their launch car while Ferrari are being “discrete” about their developments.


Also saying keys hope Ferrari have some mega updates because the McLaren looks like it will be fast


Have you ever developed a complex product? You can’t just jump in and get it right, there is evolution involved, which is why race cars change. There is no one ideal solution, as the factors to be considered are very complex. Modifying one part or area may cause other things to happen – for example, making the front wing work by looking only at downforce and drag may evolve a great front wing, but what happens after the air leaves the wing? The airstream has to interact with the entire car, including the floor, the rear wing, the inlets for the radiators, the brake ducts, etc. etc. so your ideal front wing probably won’t be ideal as it might cause other areas of the car to function less efficiently. There is no way to just come up with the optimum design. Over time the solutions will certainly converge, which is what we see happening now, as the rules have been static for so long. But to expect engineers to come to a common solution by simple brain power is unrealistic.


I don’t think anyone gives away too much on launch day and I must say this was very much expected from Ferrari. Last year they were blasted for being radical with pull-rod suspension and diff aero and now their being blasted for perceived conservatism !!- certainly no fan of Ferrari but I just can’t believe people’s premature criticism- what happens if it comes out & blows the socks off Mclaren.

It’s one thing for a car to look good but set up and driver adapting is very important at this stage of the season and it all turns to mud if this does not happen in a very different car. I think Ferrari will hit the ground running and be very competitive- with both drivers – will it happen with Mclaren- Im not too sure.

James I know Ferrari will always be compared to Mclaren- but seems to me every detail- you seem to find criticism compared to the Mclaren and neither has turned a wheel yet- dont you think it’s premature-I’ve always been a fan of Mclaren cars -just saying .


To be fair, isn’t the technical input by Mark Gillian, not James


You´re right. McLaren and Ferrari shouldn´t be compare to each other. They need to be compare with Red Bull. They are the team to beat. I hope somebody do that as soon as we have the new RB on Sunday

unF1nnished business

It doesn’t look ‘fast’ like the McLaren and Lotus for some reason…aesthetically it’s underwhelming. It almost looks too simple in design with exception of the back. But I guess we shouldnt judge a book by it’s cover.


Certainly not by it’s pre-production cover 🙂


I hope they have their sums right this year.

It’s biggest achilles heel last year was qualifying. It’s race pace was generally better.

I wonder if most of the work centered around the back is because they feel this was the biggest area for improvement.

I have to take Massa’s improvement in the second half of the season as the level Ferrari were at.

Of all the cars unveiled so far, I think this one will have the most change before Melbourne.

Roll on Sunday



so sure about the seeming lack of change.

Last year the problem was balancing the car properly. One could pile up front downforce, but if the rear couldn’t match it, all kinds of problems occurred, usually resulting in tyre degradation.

Assuming the last years front wing assembly did its job properly (including channeling the air flow to the rear), now they only had to sort out the rear (air skirts, Coanda, wing, temperature). Perhaps they have done just that.

PS this of course doesn’t mean the front of the car can’t be developed further. Just that the rear seems to have been the focus with Ferrari.


Yeah, Fry confirmed that this car is pretty old compared to the one they are currently testing in the wind tunnel. No wonder that Alonso chose to skip the first test. Let Massa & Pedro do the reliability and correlation tests, he’ll wait for the real thing…

Scuderia McLaren

What a beautiful car!

I really liked the McLaren, but this car is truly beautiful. I did think though Ferrari would be a bit more aggressive, a bit like McLaren is being, to catch up a bit in outright pace. However this is a launch car. The testing car and what will be rolled out for Australia will probably be very different.

Nevertheless. Beautiful. Love the rear. The front looks interesting.


Hey Scud, this is as beautiful as last years was ugly



Never felt more repulsed by a Ferrari than I did from last years model. It wasn’t just the requirement of the step, but the whole front treatment. I even liked the 1996 Ferrari, both iterations!!!

Anyway, past is past. Beauty has returned to the Scuderia Ferrari. Lets hope speed follows.

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