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Ferrari's chief designer, Nikolas Tombazis, has sent out a clear warning to his team's rivals, the F2012 will continue evolving until the very last round of the season as the Maranello outfit seeks to dominate.
Not that long ago, many were writing off the Italian team's hopes this season, wondering when focus would switch to the 2013 model. However, spirited drives from Fernando Alonso and the flat-out determination of the team sees Ferrari challenging for both titles.
Previously, traction was in short supply on the F2012, but as was clearly seen in Montreal, a circuit that should not have suited the early-season package, progress has been made in this area. "It's all down to a huge amount of work, from a large number of people, with particular emphasis on aerodynamics, design and production," Tombazis told the team's website. "It's been intense over the past few months resulting in a big improvement in car performance. We have worked with determination to deal with all the negative points we picked up right from the first test in the winter."
One of the most obvious changes to the F2012 in Canada was a return to an exhaust configuration that resembled the one seen on the car when it was first launched in February. "The exhaust layout in Montreal was a cousin of the one we tested in Jerez at the launch," said Tombazis. "The former one was more complicated and created various problems for us which meant it did not contribute much in terms of lap time or making the driver feel it was a benefit. We therefore abandoned it, while addressing other weaknesses on the car, until we reached the first major change which came in time for the Spanish Grand Prix. That had a different, central exhaust configuration, at a point when we had effectively reviewed the entire car, from its front wing, the diffuser, the rear wing and turning vanes and brake ducts, producing what was in aero terms effectively a new car. However, we kept working on the exhausts to develop a more robust and simple system, but it still related to the original one and that is what we introduced in Canada."
From a car with which Alonso and Felipe Massa struggled to get into Q3 to one that now seems capable of challenging for the front row of the grid and the top step of the podium has been dramatic, but Tombazis still wants more. "At the moment, we are reasonably satisfied with the point we are at now, given where we started from, however, we cannot be totally happy, as we are not in a position to dominate races, or indeed to win all of them, which is always one's objective. We have very strong competitors who are also continuing to develop their cars and we feel this technology race will continue to the end of the season. Our work is continuing at the same intensity and, our plan is to introduce developments at every race, starting with Valencia: this weekend we will be experimenting with the front wing and the floor, while having further evolutions of the exhausts. We already have other updates in the pipeline for subsequent races and I believe this will continue right through to the very last race."
Looking ahead to this weekend's race in Valencia, Tombazis admits that while top speed is not a priority it remains a weak point for the team and one on which it continues to work to improve. "Top speed in F1 is now more complicated than in the past, because of the DRS system, as it has changed the optimum level of drag for a car for any given circuit. Therefore it's not just a case of producing a wing that generates a bit less downforce and drag to deliver higher speeds. We have had to work on the DRS itself and the drag generated by the rest of the car body. We have made improvements in this area, but not yet quite enough to close the gap completely to the best in the field in this area.
"Rightly or wrongly there is an expectation that, as Ferrari, we must be winning every race and always be competitive," he adds. "At the start of the season we were in an uncompetitive situation, which was a big shock for me personally and for my colleagues. It has been a hard few months, but we put our heads down and tackled the problem calmly and I think the last few races have been a morale boost for all of us: it has made us believe we can get the job done."
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