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Ferrari 312T4 Aerodynamics


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#1 blueprint2002

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Posted 19 June 2020 - 11:24

Ferrari 312T4 Aerodynamics

Ancient history now, but I have always been intrigued by the remarkable success of the Ferrari 312T4 in 1979: three wins apiece to Scheckter and Villeneuve, and a host of good placings, ending in first and second in the Driver’s Championship.

After the Lotus 78 and 79 demonstrations in the previous two years, everyone, including Ferrari, had to use ground-effect aerodynamics in 1979. And as is well known, the Ferrari flat-12 was about as unsuitable for this as it was possible to be; in contrast to the Ford DFV V8 and the Renault turbo V6 which adapted easily to the new architecture.

Here’s what DSJ had to say in Motor Sport, after Villeneuve had won the South African GP:

“…..such air as does get under the car has to squeeze its way past the flat 12-cylinder engine in narrow ducts that have as much resemblance to a venturi as a football boot! When you look “through” a Lotus 79 air-flow begins to make sense. When you try and look “through” the T4 Ferrari you become confused. What the new Ferrari does have is an immensely smooth upper body…..and any aerodynamic advantage would seem to come from the air-flow over the T4 rather than under it. As regards overall shape, the T4 doesn’t have one. It is a shapeless racing machine…..and looks like a very effective lawn mower. It is clearly a very effective racing machine”.

Others have also ventured the opinion that the over-body airflow was what created the downforce; in which case, why did the 312T5 fail so miserably in 1980? Just a couple of fifth/sixth places for the same pair of drivers, in a car that was, visually at least, a developed T4.

So to get back to the real question: How did the T4 succeed in generating enough downforce to defeat the apparently superior (in this respect) opposition, given the power and reliability of the flat-12 engine, and the abilities of the drivers? The T3 before it had been unable to do this, though it was honourably defeated, unlike the sad T5. It does seem to come down to the aerodynamics, but I have never seen an explanation that even bordered on the adequate. Has anyone else?



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#2 Risil

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Posted 19 June 2020 - 11:49

Before I get run over by the experts, I have one additional, broader question: how big was the competitive advantage given by the Lotus 79's aerodynamics, really? It won a lot of races in 1978 but at the start of the following year it was outclassed by Ligier as well as Ferrari, and troubled by the likes of Tyrrell before the Williams FW08 blew everyone into the weeds midseason.

 

As DSJ says in that quote, the shape of the car gave an object lesson in ground effects and they were definitely the source of its competitive advantage. But perhaps you had to wait until about 1980 for the advances in underfloor aero to make basically every other design concept obsolete. 



#3 Henri Greuter

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Posted 19 June 2020 - 13:28

Ferrari 312T4 Aerodynamics

Ancient history now, but I have always been intrigued by the remarkable success of the Ferrari 312T4 in 1979: three wins apiece to Scheckter and Villeneuve, and a host of good placings, ending in first and second in the Driver’s Championship.

After the Lotus 78 and 79 demonstrations in the previous two years, everyone, including Ferrari, had to use ground-effect aerodynamics in 1979. And as is well known, the Ferrari flat-12 was about as unsuitable for this as it was possible to be; in contrast to the Ford DFV V8 and the Renault turbo V6 which adapted easily to the new architecture.

Here’s what DSJ had to say in Motor Sport, after Villeneuve had won the South African GP:

“…..such air as does get under the car has to squeeze its way past the flat 12-cylinder engine in narrow ducts that have as much resemblance to a venturi as a football boot! When you look “through” a Lotus 79 air-flow begins to make sense. When you try and look “through” the T4 Ferrari you become confused. What the new Ferrari does have is an immensely smooth upper body…..and any aerodynamic advantage would seem to come from the air-flow over the T4 rather than under it. As regards overall shape, the T4 doesn’t have one. It is a shapeless racing machine…..and looks like a very effective lawn mower. It is clearly a very effective racing machine”.

Others have also ventured the opinion that the over-body airflow was what created the downforce; in which case, why did the 312T5 fail so miserably in 1980? Just a couple of fifth/sixth places for the same pair of drivers, in a car that was, visually at least, a developed T4.

So to get back to the real question: How did the T4 succeed in generating enough downforce to defeat the apparently superior (in this respect) opposition, given the power and reliability of the flat-12 engine, and the abilities of the drivers? The T3 before it had been unable to do this, though it was honourably defeated, unlike the sad T5. It does seem to come down to the aerodynamics, but I have never seen an explanation that even bordered on the adequate. Has anyone else?

I have built the Tamiya 1:12 Ferrari 312T4 (gone by now).

 

Perhaps the upperbody aero was the main deal on the car, but is surely did had tunnels on the underside, though not very wide due to the wide flat-12. But I think they were substantial enough to contribute enough to the downforce level of the car to make it still competitve that season.

Though I will be the first one to acknowledge that the 312T4 most likely owed its titles to the unreliability of the Ligier and the difficulties the Ligiet team got after Monaco as well as the fact that the Williams FW07 was a late arrival in the season and not reliable in the first half of the season and finally to the overall unreliability during the entire season of the Renault RS10.



#4 PayasYouRace

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Posted 20 June 2020 - 16:50

I guess the short answer is, it had good enough aero to have enough of an advantage when it was needed.

 

 

Before I get run over by the experts, I have one additional, broader question: how big was the competitive advantage given by the Lotus 79's aerodynamics, really? It won a lot of races in 1978 but at the start of the following year it was outclassed by Ligier as well as Ferrari, and troubled by the likes of Tyrrell before the Williams FW08 blew everyone into the weeds midseason.

 

That's an important factor. Lotus were steadily improving their ground effect techniques but when none of their opposition had it, they didn't need it to be perfect. As you say, going into 1979 they had already fallen behind and the 80 was too ambitious and not following the right idea.

 

 

I have built the Tamiya 1:12 Ferrari 312T4 (gone by now).

 

Perhaps the upperbody aero was the main deal on the car, but is surely did had tunnels on the underside, though not very wide due to the wide flat-12. But I think they were substantial enough to contribute enough to the downforce level of the car to make it still competitve that season.

Though I will be the first one to acknowledge that the 312T4 most likely owed its titles to the unreliability of the Ligier and the difficulties the Ligiet team got after Monaco as well as the fact that the Williams FW07 was a late arrival in the season and not reliable in the first half of the season and finally to the overall unreliability during the entire season of the Renault RS10.

 

As Henri points out, the three main competitors to the 312T4 all had issues. For Ligier is was the JS11 not being stiff enough. For Renault it was not being able to finish, and once Williams got their FW07 sorted it wouldn't be beaten for years.

 

I found a photo of the underside of the Tamiya model (Which I can't embed).

 

 

The engine does get in the way of the sidepod tunnels, but it's not the end of the world. As long as the tunnel continue to have a divergence along their length, they'll still be doing their job. They made up for being narrower around the engine by being taller, and you can see that in the way the sidepods rise at the trailing edge, ahead of the rear wheels.

 

It wasn't ideal, but I think it's actually a fair job done in terms of recovering the inherent disadvantages of the Flat-12 in a ground effect design. Bearing in mind that in those early days all the other ground effect cars had purely two dimensional tunnels.

 

image.jpg

 

 

The 80 had some three dimensional shape to it, but that was apparently as much to get round the rear wheels as much as anything else.

 

For example, nobody thought to add a third dimension to their tunnel profile to boost the downforce levels at that time, such as like this.

 

09-02-16-Windtunnel-8.jpg

 

 

Anyway, I think that the disadvantage of the Flat-12, while real, is often exaggerated for 1979. Ground effect was still new and not that well understood and F1 was also very close, so it didn't take much to put yourself in a winning position. How good was its bodywork? Well, it's a very unique shape but it's generally quite clean. It clearly provides good clean airflow to the rear wing, which can then work effectively in conjunction with the underfloor.

 

It's also why it's fair to say that there wasn't that much wrong with the T5, but it was just getting left behind in an intensely competitive field. Villeneuve fought for the lead in Brazil in 1980, so the car wasn't without potential. But with such a new idea, the potential to go wrong was there and was demonstrated very well by Lotus. Stand still (the 79) and you go backwards. Misunderstand your development (the 80) and you also go backwards.



#5 Henri Greuter

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Posted 20 June 2020 - 20:02

 

SNIP

 

 

It's also why it's fair to say that there wasn't that much wrong with the T5, but it was just getting left behind in an intensely competitive field. Villeneuve fought for the lead in Brazil in 1980, so the car wasn't without potential. But with such a new idea, the potential to go wrong was there and was demonstrated very well by Lotus. Stand still (the 79) and you go backwards. Misunderstand your development (the 80) and you also go backwards.

What I think to have been the case for the 312T5.

 

Like you wrote, A lot about ground effects had to be discovered and understood during 1979 by many teams. But with most of these teams using Vee type engines, (Be it 6, 8 or 12) all of them had the opportunity to work with wider tunnels and effectively with more potential to optimize that whatever Ferrari could do with the Flat-12. Amd a lot of this potential becoming untapped during the 1980 season while Ferrari had nowhere near the potential  let to gain much.

But there is of course also another factor involved for Ferrar and I have no idea how much of a factor it was and how it affected any work on the T5.

 

Ferrari had started work on developing their F1 turbo engine and a lot of work was done on that in 1980. How much of a distraction for work on the 312T5 this was?


Edited by Henri Greuter, 20 June 2020 - 20:03.


#6 PayasYouRace

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Posted 21 June 2020 - 08:23

I'd imagine that there was a lot of focus on the 126C development, as even without ground effect the days of the NA Flat-12 were numbered with the arrival of the turbos. Everything points to right place at the right time for the T4, and being left behind for the T5.



#7 Henri Greuter

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Posted 21 June 2020 - 09:45

I'd imagine that there was a lot of focus on the 126C development, as even without ground effect the days of the NA Flat-12 were numbered with the arrival of the turbos. Everything points to right place at the right time for the T4, and being left behind for the T5.

I think there are two factors left unmentioned for the T4 that may have been factor as well.

First: I think there is a decent chance that if measured for all '79 cars, it will be noted that the 312T4 had the lowest Center point of Gravity (CG) of all cars and this compensating to some extend for the lack of downforce levels compared with the other cars.

Second: Ferrari and Renault were the only teams using Michelin tires that year (as well as in '78 BTW) Back in '78 the Michelins had failed massively on several occasion as well as being superior on some other events. In '79 however the performance of Michelin tires was way more consistant all season long. And with Michelin having to make tires for only two teams, they could kind of optimize their tires to suit `only` two cars instead of being suitable for way more teams.

I must admit that I don't know enough about the tire development of that time but Goodyear was at that time stil using crossply tires while Michelin had introduced radial tires. The latter were to be an improvement over the older types but I have no clue as of hum much this was a factor in the beter performance of Michelin tires that year compared with the year before.

 

In 1980 for the other hand, Ferrari complained loud and often about the Michelins. By then the focus of tire development with Michelin had shifted more to that of the needs of the Renault Turbo. Pit stops for fresh tires during the races were quite common for Ferrari in 1980.

 

Anyway, '79 was a bit weird year. Ligier, Renault and Williams all had cars that in general could be better than the Ferrari T4 on most F1 venues that year. Probably the only events in wich the Ferrari was the car was to beat are likely the two street races: Long Beach and Monaco. But in other events, the T4 was second best behind either of the three opponents and at worst 4th behind them all. But in all those events it had one major trump card left to minimize the damage: its reliability.

I think it could become an interesting project to work out the stats to find out how often JS11s, RS10's and/or FW07's retired in races, leaving point scoring positions for the T4's to pick up. If I have some spare time left I might just do that .....

 

 

But I wholeheartedly agree with your conclusion on the future of the Flat-12: It was kind of doomed due to the arrival of two new trends within F1: Ground effects and turbocharging. Both of them had the potental to kill off any future left for the Flat-12.

Alfa Romeo very much proved such potential of ground effects alone with dropping their own Flat-12 and going to a V12 instead.

If that made any sense is another point. Out on top of my head, and something I should do the maths for to prove it, but I believe there is a decent chance that Ferrari scored more points with their outdated Flat-12 between 1979-1983 (and that in only 1979 and 1980) than all teams that used Alfa V12s in those 5 seasons combined!


Edited by Henri Greuter, 21 June 2020 - 09:47.


#8 blueprint2002

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Posted 25 June 2020 - 12:34

Thanks all who have contributed your views, which do seem to have accurately analysed the season's results. Was hoping for a few more contributions, but your thoughtful replies are more than sufficient.  



#9 Charlieman

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Posted 28 June 2020 - 09:59

Perhaps the upperbody aero was the main deal on the car, but is surely did had tunnels on the underside, though not very wide due to the wide flat-12. But I think they were substantial enough to contribute enough to the downforce level of the car to make it still competitve that season.

Anatomy and Development of the Formula One Racing Car by Sal Incandela has a detailed description of the T4, including a cutaway drawing and a revealing photo of the chassis with the sidepod bodywork removed. There is a significant intrusion into the venturi exit area but on the positive side, Ferrari were one of the first to appreciate the importance of an aerodynamic engine undertray.

 

Clean upper body airflow had been demonstrated several years previously with Derek Gardner's Tyrrells. Forghieri's team took it a step further with the 312T4 and clearly did a good job. It all worked well thanks to tyres, good luck and good driving.

 

As Henri and PayasYouRace imply, Ferrari realised that the concept had reached its limits and that the Cosworth cars were going to have even more downforce in the future, wisely investing time on the 126C. I'm unsurprised that the T5 was a relative failure but I'm sure that Ferrari must have been disappointed with the T3.



#10 Henri Greuter

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Posted 28 June 2020 - 16:15

Anatomy and Development of the Formula One Racing Car by Sal Incandela has a detailed description of the T4, including a cutaway drawing and a revealing photo of the chassis with the sidepod bodywork removed. There is a significant intrusion into the venturi exit area but on the positive side, Ferrari were one of the first to appreciate the importance of an aerodynamic engine undertray.

 

Clean upper body airflow had been demonstrated several years previously with Derek Gardner's Tyrrells. Forghieri's team took it a step further with the 312T4 and clearly did a good job. It all worked well thanks to tyres, good luck and good driving.

 

As Henri and PayasYouRace imply, Ferrari realised that the concept had reached its limits and that the Cosworth cars were going to have even more downforce in the future, wisely investing time on the 126C. I'm unsurprised that the T5 was a relative failure but I'm sure that Ferrari must have been disappointed with the T3.

I don't think Ferrari was one of the first to appreciate the aerodynamic undertray. That honor goes toe the teams that had at least something of a semy ground effects car in '78 already: Wolf, Arrows and Shadow. In 1979 everyone else who had not done anything had just missed the boat entirely.

 

The failure of the 312T3, I think it had something to do with Michelin tires not being consistent all season long to make Ferrari competitive all season long. I also think that the inexperience of Gilles Villeneuve may have cost a few point scores here and there over the season.

 

Interestingly, in a chapter of Heinz Prullër's Grand Prix Story 1981  (about San Marino) . Gilles looked back onto the cars he had driven for Ferrari and stated that the T2 had been the worst of them all, that the T3 had been the best one, the T4 was not so good while the T5 was better.

 

Just for what is is worth....



#11 ProjectFour

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Posted 29 June 2020 - 13:04

Ferrari delayed the adoption of skirts until 1979 as they had contested whether the Lotus skirts were legal in 1978. When reality dawned in 1979 they copied the Lotus system of mini-skirts in a ceramic resin and a system of springs to keep them in contact with the ground. This system didn't work particularity well on bumpy track's and even on smooth tracks, like silverstone, the mini-skirts inclined slightly and air leaked causing stability problems. As Ferrari started later in the skirt development the top teams (Williams and Liger) had out developed them with sliding skirts. Ferrari also had issues with wind tunnel testing and believed that the British wind tunnels were better than their wind tunnel (a 1:1 Pininfarina wind tunnel), but after 1:5 model testing in five wind tunnels they ended up with 5 different results. However, the T4 was conceived in a wind tunnel and based on research by a young engineer called 'Gian Franco Poncini', Poncini designed a large overhanging front wing and long side pods all based on his calculations. It was discussed whether the flat-12 allowed the air to release and the back due to its width compared to the Ford Cosworth, but this didn't seems to be the case and there was no real technical reason found to explain this.

 

For 1980 and the T5, this was basically the same car as 1979 and only partially revised. The main issue again was the mini-skirts which were worse than 1979 and the cause of this was partly due to the lightness of the car's upper area (part of the update from the T4 to the T5) and the glass resin side pods also were no longer stiff enough. The other issues were the Michelin tyres which had been developed to withstand great downforce but which the Ferrari T5 was not developing meaning that it couldn't generate enough core temperature into the tyres and instead the surface overheated and the construction of the T5 was old school design of a tubular spaceframe design covered with stressed aluminum panels and lacked any torsional stiffness.

 

As Ferrari were now developing their first turbo engine, most of the engineering resources were assigned to this project, rather than fixing the T5. At this time Ferrari also were developing the first semi-automatic gearbox, but this project was also dropped in favor of developing the turbo engine.

 

To answer your question I think that the T4 had the engine power and enough downforce to get the job done (just) in 1979, as Liger had a fast car but failed to use it and Williams were catching up with their FW07. But by 1980 everyone had out developed Ferrari, their sliding skirts were an issues, there weren't generating enough downforce to get the new tyres working, the car had no torsional stiffness and they didn't have the resources to develop both the T5 and the turbo engine. Personally I also think that the Flat-12 was a big problem and they did'n't understand or have the tools to work out what was going on with the air under the car.



#12 Greg Locock

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Posted 30 June 2020 - 00:33

" but after 1:5 model testing in five wind tunnels they ended up with 5 different results"  also a problem with full size tunnels. So when you read the marketing blurb announcing some great numbers, you should add "when tested in this tunnel and this test procedure".

 

Two companies using the same windtunnel testing the same test item will get different figures. As an example some procedures seal the grill. Other procedures tape the panel gaps. and so on.