Engineers have always based their impressions and evaluations on data alone and that’s something that Scuderia Ferrari’s Chief Designer, Nick Tombazis is well aware of. And when it comes to data, the Prancing Horse team acquired a lot of it over the twelve days of testing and its analysis leaves no room for illusion or false expectation.
“Compared to a year ago, the situation is very clear,” commented Tombazis. “It’s not hard to make a comparison, because back then we were in a really difficult situation, so making a better start this year was pretty much a given. We know that for various reasons, our development over the latter part of last season stalled and, because our rivals continued their development to a certain extent, the gap between us grew, especially after the summer break. A gap which we had closed down to three tenths, thus became around eight in Brazil. This year, we have a well defined development plan and we are reasonably sure that the new components tested on track have produced positive results. The Melbourne package worked as we had hoped, with no particular unexpected problems, but it’s still difficult to say where we are compared to our competitors, so it’s better not to speculate. It’s hardly surprising, but I think that apart from ourselves, the most competitive would appear to be Red Bull, McLaren, Lotus and Mercedes, even if how the hierarchy stands between us is still uncertain. We hope to be able to fight at the front, but no one can be excluded: there are 19 races in the championship with half of them coming after the summer and, as we saw last year, even if a team does not start the season being on the pace, it can fight back and win. Everyone goes through a cycle and stages and therefore it will be a case of constant development throughout the year.”
Tombazis reckons the two key areas will be tyre useage and the development of the exhaust system. “With the exhaust exits we can reckon on updates during the season and while the differences might not be visible, they could offer a significant margin for improvement. Of course, we won’t be the only ones working on this area, the others will too. Bit by bit, as the regulations stay the same for longer, the room for invention decreases, but with the exhausts there is still much that can be done. Furthermore, as great improvements in simulation tools come along, this produces better correlation of data and of the methodology of the various configurations that are tested. This means that testing new parts and comparing developments over a race weekend will become more complicated, whereas during testing, this can be done more calmly and extensively. We need to find a way to do this without compromising other tasks such as set-up work and analysing the behaviour of the tyres. And when it comes to the tyres, keeping an eye on degradation will be very important, as being quick over a single lap will not be enough.”
Tombazis ended his analysis of the challenges that lie ahead with a word on the organization of his department. “We have a very competent group of people and a clear technical structure with Simone Resta concentrating on the 2013 car, while Fabio Montecchi oversees the 2014 project and we should also not forget that work on updating our wind tunnel should be finished by the end of the year. Finally, for 2014 we can also count on the invaluable support of Rory Byrne, who has so much experience that it would be foolish not to involve him. Rory has never left the company, even if he no longer works full time, so he can spend more time with his family, but he also has a key role in the development of the new Ferrari supercar LaFerrari. He has always been an important reference point for me, as he was my first boss when I was at Benetton and I owe him a great deal.