Although he didn’t name Ferrari outright, Ron Dennis from McLaren stated that he was confident there were cars whose performance would be affected in the near future after some technical rule interpretations were clarified.
The rumour is that Ferrari has a mechanism that allows the front of the floor to drop at high speed. This creates an aerodynamic ‘stall’ which improves straight line speed. However, this may not show up down the long straights – with this sort of technology, the cars can run with more wing whilst achieving the same sort of straight line speed as before. This means the car will have better cornering capabilities with less being taken out of the tyres.
The rule concerned allows for the floor to absorb some motion because it takes a lot of punishment from the curbs on the race track. If the floor was too rigid, the chassis would suffer. However, if the floor actually moves, it is deemed an illegal moveable aerodynamic device. Ferrari’s eagle-eyed rivals have spotted that Ferrari have an unusually complex arrangement on the floor of the car and this is what has sparked off the controversy.
The FIA placed a lot of emphasis on examining race-car floors whilst at Melbourne, and close scrutiny fell on the Ferrari. It is believed that at this stage, the Ferrari team has been given the benefit of the doubt as the current FIA test on car floors only involves checking the upward force.
Last year, there was a similar argument with flexing wings and teams were told by the FIA in private to change the suspect areas of their cars for future races. This process is normally started when one team informally complains or presents informal evidence to the FIA about other teams possibly contravening Formula 1 rules.
A spokesperson for Ferrari has brushed off claims that the Ferrari may not be legal. “It’s part of the game any time Ferrari is quickest,” the spokesperson explained. “It’s not the first time that there have been questions about legality. If someone has a complaint, there is always the FIA.”
Only time will tell if the cause of Ferrari’s extraordinary pace is down to an illegal aerodynamic device.