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More Questions Than Answers over Ferrari's Testing Performances

BAHRAIN, BAHRAIN - FEBRUARY 20:  Fernando Alonso of Spain and Ferrari drives during day two of Formula One Winter Testing at the Bahrain International Circuit on February 20, 2014 in Bahrain, Bahrain.  (Photo by Ker Robertson/Getty Images)
Ker Robertson/Getty Images
Neil JamesFeatured Columnist IIINovember 20, 2016

Formula One preseason testing has reached its halfway mark. Six days have been completed and only six remain before the first race weekend of the year in Australia.

Renault's many woes have dominated the headlines, while Mercedes-powered cars have been claiming more positive plaudits.

But what about Ferrari?

The apparent progress of F1's longest-serving and most famous constructor is usually one of the main talking points of any preseason. But in 2014 they seem to have slipped under the radar.

What's really happening behind those red privacy screens?


Quick Technical Run-Through

The Ferrari design is somewhat unusual.

The nose, which has been likened to a porpoise or vacuum cleaner, slopes down dramatically to a wide front cross-section.

Only Mercedes went with a similar solution.

This sort of design brings benefits in the form of greater front downforce levels, but has a negative impact on the airflow under the car. This, in theory, reduces the amount of downforce generated at the rear.

But the sidepod design may make up for this. The cooling inlets and pods themselves are noticeably smaller than those of the Mercedes- and Renault-powered cars.

Not only does this help in sweeping good, clean air back to the diffuser, it also suggests the Ferrari powertrain has a lower cooling requirement than the Mercedes or Renault.

It's a bold and confident choice, and if it works it will pay dividends.

But perhaps they've gone too conservative elsewhere. The front wing in particular is rather basic when you look at the more elaborate designs of their rivals.

And overall, compared to the McLaren, for example, the current F14T looks unrefined and simple.

The brakes work...
The brakes work...Ker Robertson/Getty Images


Testing Review

Like the Mercedes-powered teams, Ferrari have put plenty of laps on the board. Over the four days at Jerez they did 251, and in just two days at Bahrain their total is 161.

The team have been more focused on longer stints and aerodynamic testing. Though no attention has been paid to one-off glory runs, the F14T has always been close to the top of time sheets.

But there's always someone quicker and figures from Jerez suggest Ferrari weren't pushing as hard as some others.

According to Grandprix247, (h/t to AMUS) the Ferrari was 18 kilometres an hour slower than the Mercedes-powered Williams at each of the circuit's two speed traps.

Sandbagging, or just slower?


Deliberate Misdirection

It's impossible to say, and that seems to be a recurring theme with Ferrari this winter.

We can look at McLaren and say they look strong. The same can be said for Mercedes. Williams look better than they did, while Red Bull are struggling.

But Ferrari? Very hard to say.

More than any other team, the Italians appear to be operating in a quiet and mysterious fashion. The messages being put out on Twitter and in statements on their website talk of their programme and of understanding the car, but are neither positive or negative.

And when their drivers appear in press conferences, they don't say a lot either.

The shroud of mystery seems intentional and a departure from the bullish comments usually bandied around at this time of the year.

Educated guessing and gut feeling suggests Ferrari are a bit behind Mercedes and McLaren in terms of absolute performance.

But maybe that's just what they want us to think.

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