Ferrari explains F1 US GP speed drop, denies engine ruling claims

Ferrari says its lack of straightline speed over the United States Grand Prix weekend was down to a setup experiment, rather than anything to do with its Formula 1 engine

Ferrari explains F1 US GP speed drop, denies engine ruling claims

The team claimed that it ran its SF90 cars at higher downforce levels at Austin than it has done previously in 2019.

As Ferrari is upset that rival outfits were linking its drop in top speed to a technical directive issued by the FIA outlawing engine fuel flow tricks, it is not hiding away from the fact that its performance characteristic was different at Austin.

But instead of this being the result of any change in the power of its engine - with Ferrari clear that it altered "nothing" on its power unit - it says that what was new was the downforce approach.

All season, Ferrari has run with lower wing settings compared to its rivals to boost its speed on the straights, but this has been at the expense of cornering - where rivals Mercedes and Red Bull have had the edge.

Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto has revealed that for the Austin race, Ferrari elected to run with more downforce to see how that affected its overall pace against its main rivals.

Asked by Autosport to explain why GPS traces showed Ferrari's straightline speed performance was not as strong as recent races, Binotto said: "It is true that we were not gaining on the straights as much as the past races, but we matched our competitors in cornering - at least in qualifying.

"The trade off between grip limit and power limit has been moved this weekend, as a test on our side, to try to match their cornering. I think that it is as simple as that.

"We were still competitive in qualifying, but there was something in the race to understand and we need to understand what is best for the next races in terms of trade off."

One other aspect that needs to be taken into account when analysing Ferrari's straightline speed performance over the Austin weekend was that Charles Leclerc was running a Spec 2 engine.

Following an oil leak that stopped Leclerc in FP3, Ferrari elected to switch him back to the less powerful Spec 2 power unit that had been used from the Spanish to the Hungarian races.

Regarding suggestions the performance of Ferrari's powerunit was down by quite a lot, Binotto said: "It was not down by quite a lot.

"It was slightly down, which is what we were expecting between the upgrade of engines. That was a power unit 2 and not the third we introduced in Monza."

Ferrari's rivals had been quick to show that its straightline speed advantage was not as great at Austin as it had been previously.

One source suggested that a 0.7-0.8 second advantage over the opposition at previous tracks had been trimmed back to 0.5 seconds last weekend.

The rowing back of Ferrari's edge was something that world champion Lewis Hamilton confirmed when asked by Autosport after the race if he was surprised how much it had faded.

"On the performance side, no I'm not surprised," he said. "You saw that advantage they had through the season and even last year they had a huge amount of power.

"But this year, out of nowhere, they had a ton of power. Really just at will, whenever they wanted, they seemed to have more.

"This weekend, I don't know how their speed traces with ours, but it's definitely not how it used to be. It was seven tenths we were losing on the straights before."

But on Sunday night Binotto made a point of expressing how disappointed he was that rival teams had suggested the technical directive was linked to a change in his team's performance profile.

He clearly stated that what the FIA had published made absolutely no difference to his team, and that the outfit had actually spent little time evaluating the details of the technical directive.

"Honestly we will look through the technical directive," he said. "We have not done it this weekend in detail, we have seen it.

"I think it is number 35 of the season. It is a normal process where teams ask for clarification from the FIA and the FIA replying.

"Did it have an impact on the qualifying? I don't know anything. I am not able to answer you."

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Series Formula 1
Teams Ferrari
Author Jonathan Noble
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