Breaking down Ferrari’s big upgrade: Worth 0.4 seconds?

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Facing an arguably critical moment in its storied history, Ferrari has taken the first big step on updating a Formula 1 car this season. Fernando Alonso has been testing it today, although that testing did include his having an off-track excursion that cost the team a couple of hours. The changes involve the rear bodywork and the exhaust exit.

From there, I’ll just hand it over to the BBC:

The new Ferrari design makes the rear bodywork, in front of and between the rear wheels, much more tightly waisted than before.

It moves the exhaust exits further into the centre of the car, abandoning at least for now Ferrari’s attempts to gain an aerodynamic benefit from blowing them at the area where the rear wheels meet the floor in an attempt to ‘seal’ the diffuser and increase downforce.

But the design has the benefit of having less bodywork obstructing the critical ‘coke-bottle’ area at the rear, where the bodywork sweeps inwards towards the back of the car.

BBC analyst Gary Anderson reckons it could give Ferrari an extra 0.4 seconds per lap, and he’s pretty positive about it. He calls it nothing exciting, but … well, does Ferrari need exciting right now or just a solid improvement? Or perhaps the team really needed to roll the dice, try something aggressive and if that didn’t work, then really take a full look at what it is doing, who’s in charge and who should be.

For what little it is worth, Fernando finished the day third fastest:

Position Driver Team Time 
 1.  Sebastian Vettel       Red Bull-Renault        1m21.267s
 2.  Romain Grosjean        Lotus-Renault           1m21.334s   + 0.067s
 3.  Fernando Alonso        Ferrari                 1m21.363s   + 0.096s
 4.  Daniel Ricciardo       Toro Rosso-Ferrari      1m22.143s   + 0.876s
 5.  Sergio Perez           Sauber-Ferrari          1m22.229s   + 0.962s
 6.  Paul di Resta          Force India-Mercedes    1m23.071s   + 1.804s
 7.  Heikki Kovalainen      Caterham-Renault        1m23.169s   + 1.902s
 8.  Oliver Turvey          McLaren-Mercedes        1m23.221s   + 1.954s
 9.  Nico Rosberg           Mercedes                1m24.017s   + 2.750s
10.  Timo Glock             Marussia-Cosworth       1m24.310s   + 3.043s
11.  Pastor Maldonado       Williams-Renault        1m31.769s  + 10.502s
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