Ferrari manufacturing break-though could give an edge over Mercedes

In just four days the latest Ferrari will grace the public for the first time and with it an expected livery change incorporating a matte finish and a darker red not seen since the early nineties.

TJ13 were one of the first to voice the rumour that Ferrari are looking toward a Red Bull style finish to their car, although it is pure speculation whether the decision is that of aesthetics or performance. Many have argued that the Red Bull style matte paint finish provides an aero benefit, similar to dimples on a golf ball benefiting the way air passes over the surface.

We also learnt from sources within Maranello that Ferrari think a manufacturing break-through could give the team an edge over their rivals in the development war of the coming season.

Recently at the mandatory crash test in the CSI laboratories of Bollate, present was the technical delegate of the FIA Jo Bauer. Not a normal thing for the sports governing body to do and the reasons for their attendance became clear later on.

Ferrari has employed a new method of construction using a process similar to 3D printing. 3D printing is not new in F1, in fact, most teams use the technique to rapid prototype new performance parts for their cars at 1 to 1 scale and for the smaller scale wind tunnel models. Although there are some exceptions, most of these 3D printed parts are not structural or raced.

This new type of 3D printing actually uses a material with similar properties to carbon fibre, enabling Ferrari to make actual parts for their car at a speed unprecedented in F1 car manufacturing. It is rumoured to be up to ten times faster than the normal process of making moulds, laying sheets of carbon fibre and then heating by use of an autoclave oven.

From the moment the piece is designed on the Cad Cam computer, it is directly moulded with these new generation materials. The significance of such a breakthrough is obvious, in this era of limited testing, the teams with such processes can rapidly alter aero parts ‘on the fly’, and send directly to the track during a race weekend. It is said that soon the process might even be used on site, in the pit garage during a weekend.

The process isn’t new to Mercedes, Red Bull or indeed Renault. The difference is that Ferrari has appeared to actually make it work on a practical level, hence the requirement of the FIA technical delegate to be present during the crash test.

Parts of the chassis were manufactured in this new material, so the FIA were keen to ensure that the test performed normally and without incident.