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Exhausts still a key battleground - Ferrari
Ferrari chief designer Nikolas Tombazis expects exhaust technology to remain a key area in gaining performance this year.
Ever since restrictions were imposed on exhaust-blown diffusers at the start of the 2012 season, teams have focused on the rear of the car to try to gain performance back. This year all teams have come up with a solution that makes use of the Coanda effect to direct exhaust gases towards the diffuser in order to improve its performance.
With the regulations regarding exhausts remaining unchanged this year some teams have played down the area's importance, but Tombazis believes there is still a lot of lap time to be found.
"With the exhaust exits we can reckon on updates during the season and while the differences might not be visible, they could offer a significant margin for improvement," he said. "Of course, we won't be the only ones working on this area, the others will too. Bit by bit, as the regulations stay the same for longer, the room for invention decreases, but with the exhausts there is still much that can be done. Furthermore, as great improvements in simulation tools come along, this produces better correlation of data and of the methodology of the various configurations that are tested.
"This means that testing new parts and comparing developments over a race weekend will become more complicated, whereas during testing, this can be done more calmly and extensively. We need to find a way to do this without compromising other tasks such as set-up work and analysing the behaviour of the tyres. And when it comes to the tyres, keeping an eye on degradation will be very important, as being quick over a single lap will not be enough."
The exhaust was one of the areas Ferrari struggled with at the start of 2012, but Tombazis said there had been no such issues this year
"Compared to a year ago, the situation is very clear," he added. "It's not hard to make a comparison, because back then we were in a really difficult situation, so making a better start this year was pretty much a given. We know that for various reasons, our development over the latter part of last season stalled and, because our rivals continued their development to a certain extent, the gap between us grew, especially after the summer break. A gap which we had closed down to three tenths, thus became around eight in Brazil.
"This year, we have a well defined development plan and we are reasonably sure that the new components tested on track have produced positive results. The Melbourne package worked as we had hoped, with no particular unexpected problems, but it's still difficult to say where we are compared to our competitors, so it's better not to speculate. It's hardly surprising, but I think that apart from ourselves, the most competitive would appear to be Red Bull, McLaren, Lotus and Mercedes, even if how the hierarchy stands between us is still uncertain.
"We hope to be able to fight at the front, but no one can be excluded: there are 19 races in the championship with half of them coming after the summer and, as we saw last year, even if a team does not start the season being on the pace, it can fight back and win. Everyone goes through a cycle and stages and therefore it will be a case of constant development throughout the year."