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How Ferrari's new gearbox casing helped boost its F1 aero

Formula 1's 2021 season presented unprecedented challenges to teams, as the impact of the coronavirus pandemic meant they could not produce all-new cars.

Charles Leclerc, Ferrari SF21

Giorgio Piola's F1 technical analysis

Giorgio Piola is the preeminent Formula 1 technical journalist. Born in Genoa, Italy, Giorgio has covered the F1 World Championship since 1969, producing thousands of illustrations that have been reproduced in the world’s most prestigious motor racing publications.

The strict homologation rules put a limit of the scope of changes anyone could make from their 2020 challengers, plus there was the added complication of new floor rules aimed to reduce downforce.

For a team like Ferrari, the restrictions were far from ideal, as it had battled through last year with a car that it knew was too draggy.

That left it with a tough choice about what, amid F1's token system of changes, it could alter to give it the biggest benefit from any changes.

In the end, Ferrari felt that spending its tokens on the design of its gearbox casing would give the most bang for its bucks, as the changes had both mechanical and aerodynamic implications that helped to address issues and add performance.

From an aerodynamic point of view, the shape of the gearbox casing has been altered in order to improve its relationship with the floor.

This is an area which Ferrari continues to remaster, having reintroduced panels to create a roof over the tunnels beside and beneath the gearbox casing and crash structure last season.

 

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

The roof panels help to keep the flow moving into the coke bottle region once in the tunnel, rather than allowing it the option to seep out and disturb the surrounding flow structures.

The more tightly packaged keel section of the gearbox casing provides more space for the air to flow into the channels in the coke bottle region too, something that the team likely considered a factor given the narrower floors for 2021.

Raising the central portion of the casing has also resulted in the internals being raised by approximately 30mm, positioning weight a little higher. Measures have also likely been taken to improve torsional rigidity which was understood to be an issue with the SF1000.

Having spent its tokens at the rear of the car, Ferrari had to think laterally when it came to another issue.

In a normal year it would have likely designed and raced an all-new nose solution. However, due to the token and homologation system it had to work around the constraints of its current design and come up with an arrangement that's more closely aligned with what the rest of the grid have.

Thus, the thumb-tip crash structure has been integrated into the nose design in a slightly different way, moulding the front wing mounting pylons and the associated entry ports to reduce its size.

Carlos Sainz Jr., Ferrari SF21, Fernando Alonso, Alpine A521

Carlos Sainz Jr., Ferrari SF21, Fernando Alonso, Alpine A521

Photo by: Andy Hone / Motorsport Images

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