Allison explains Ferrari's improvement
Ferrari technical director James Allison says his team's improvements relative to Mercedes this year are split evenly between power unit and chassis - not just down to an increase in BHP.
After the first race in Australia, it appears as though Ferrari has moved ahead of Williams in the fight behind Mercedes and is one of the few teams to make a relative gain to the world champions. A similar improvement for the Ferrari-powered Sauber suggests the power unit has made a big step, but Allison insists the step in performance is split evenly between both chassis and power unit.
"In pure lap time terms, the gains are almost equal - chassis and power unit," he said. "On the chassis, as normal, the lion's share of the gains are aerodynamic, because that has the most authority to put lap time on the car.
"On the chassis side it's 80/20 aero versus some quite useful gains that are made in the cooling efficiency of the car that are then translated into aero by allowing you to run tighter at the back. So [the improvements are] across the board."
Allison praised the improvements made by Ferrari's engine department and highlighted the difficulty in closing the gap in power to Mercedes.
"Last year's car started full-time aero development in November and there was quite a big change to the aero regs last year, and you can't do much starting in November. This year's car had a more traditional birth and as a result we found a lot more performance. On the engine side, the vigour with which the motoristi guys attacked the problem from realising we were off the pace last year, the vigour with which they attacked it in the off-season has really been a splendid thing.
"We've got good performance there and they have done that by showing a lot of engineering skill, but also a huge amount of courage. Engine stuff is extremely long lead time and if you make a mistake on it, you pay for it forever. Normally, compared to a chassis person, engine people are by necessity more conservative, but they were extremely courageous, and we are benefitting from both their skill and their courage."
Asked about the extent to which Ferrari had closed the gap to Mercedes in power, Allison said: "It's a bit early to be confident about that. The way you judge it is ever so blurry and the first time you get a fair go at that - to see how much downforce you have got and how much power you have - is in qualifying, because that's the first time you can be certain that the other person is on the same fuel and trying as hard as you are. Then the way you try to separate the downforce from the power is the shape that the car accelerates as it's slightly different depending on whether it is a power gain or a downforce gain, but it's ever so vulnerable to things like wind that put quite a big error band on the number.
"So it's only when a few races are underway that the real picture emerges. For what it's worth, from the Melbourne analysis, it looks to us as though we have made a good step forward but that the loss we have relative to Mercedes is split equally between the chassis and the power unit."
Allison thinks the gap Ferrari had to Melbourne in the race - 34.5 seconds - was not a fair assessment of the competitiveness of the two cars.
"The delta that we saw in Melbourne was probably a little unkind to us. I think we should have been a little bit ahead of Williams in qualifying and then driven up the road 15 or 20 seconds more than we did. It would be nice to have a clean qualifying here and see what we can do."