Having focused on performance over reliability when creating their 2022 power unit, Ferrari’s request to the FIA to fix the latter has been “without resounding success”.
Ferrari suffered a double DNF at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix but while Carlos Sainz parked his F1-75 at the side of the track with a hydraulics issue, for Charles Leclerc it was engine-related.
Not only was it the second engine issue he had suffered in three races, but both retirements came as he was leading the grand prix, Spain and then Baku.
The Monégasque driver has gone from a 34-point lead in the Drivers’ standings after the Australian GP to a 21-point deficit after Azerbaijan.
There is more misery to come as the Ferrari team-mates are on the cusp of engine penalties, as too are the Scuderia’s customers, Haas and Alfa Romeo.
Both of those teams lost one car on Sunday, Kevin Magnussen’s failure said to be the turbo-charger and the MGU-H although Ferrari say Zhou Guanyu’s DNF was not related to their parts.
Auto Motor und Sport journalist Michael Schmidt says there is no light at the end of this tunnel, at least not in the very near future.
He wrote: “Because the technology for the combustion engine was frozen at the end of February and the hybrid system has to be homologated at the end of September, it was obvious for Ferrari to first look at the power and performance development.
“They wanted to take care of the reliability later if necessary. The regulations allow for corrections to be made if you can prove to the FIA it’s all about ensuring reliability.
“What is far more worrying is they must now launch a new unit without knowing what caused the recent vulnerabilities and how to respond to them.
“Ferrari had previously requested a reliability repair from the FIA – without resounding success.”
Time is also a problem for Ferrari.
“Modifications to the engine are also long-term projects,” Schmidt continued. “Even if you think you have a solution today, it won’t be built into the engine tomorrow. First, test bench runs must validate the modification. Then new parts have to be built.”
Team boss Mattia Binotto is not pointing fingers, although he is a worried man.
“Reliability is a construction site,” he said. “You don’t win races without it.
“I don’t want to blame our technicians. They did an excellent job with the drivetrain if you look back at where we came from. What we did last year with the hybrid system and in the winter made huge leaps in performance with the engine and it looks like we are paying the price now.
“For us, it’s not primarily about bringing a new drive unit. We also have to be clear about how we will deal with it in the short term. Should we shorten the service life of the parts or change the application parameters?”
The only upside for Ferrari in all this is their engine is believed to be the most powerful on the grid.
Schmidt added: “The unanimous opinion is the Ferrari engine has the most power in the field. Four kilowatts more than Honda, eight more than Mercedes, 12 more than Renault.
“Much more important, however, is the lead in drivability. Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff recommends listening to the individual engines during the acceleration phase. None revs up as gently as the Ferrari. This means a much more advantageous gear ratio can also be used.”
But, he conceded, they have a “major disadvantage – they are not bulletproof. The higher the mileage, the greater the concern.”
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