NOT A GRAIN OF SAND IN A CLOCKWORK ORANGE
In Hungary and Belgium, Max Verstappen won starting from the middle of the grid (from 10me and 14me rows respectively). But at home, in the orange dunes of Zandvoort, he won his fourth consecutive race (the first of his career) starting from pole position. His tenth hit of the season, however, was no walk in the park.
At first glance, his best time in qualifying is mainly due to a mistake by his rival Charles Leclerc, whose Ferrari was initially superior on this type of winding track:
“In Spa we were dominant, but here it is a bit more complicated and we are all quite close. explained on saturday. We struggled a bit more on tracks that require a lot of downforce. But the RB18 is still a very fast car.”
Indeed, the fact that Max completed a single lap in Q2 on worn tires while being just a tenth of a second behind Carlos Sainz and George Russell suggests that the RB18 was a fast machine (Red Bull, like the other teams, is testing larger mirrors for next season at the request of the FIA, see image below). Like our colleague Mark Hughes from The raceonly an error on his preparation lap (where he raised his foot too much to have a free track) caused him to lower the temperature of his tires and cost him a few tenths.
Despite everything, on Saturday he took pole position, his fourth this year, just ahead of a Leclerc forced into overdrive to stay in the game. The following day in the race he got off to a good start to gradually move away from the Monegasque Ferrari, which has further deteriorated its tires since the introduction of a new flat bottom in France. For once, the threat came from the Mercedes, fast and with a unique strategy: the engineers at Brackley understood, as did their colleagues at Enstone, that the tough combination was going to work well in racing.
THE DIFFICULT BET OF MERCEDES
After the first pitstop salvo (at 18me lap for Verstappen and around 30me passage for the Silver Arrows), the Dutchman therefore held the race lead, but with 12-loop-old means and yet a stop to watch, while Hamilton and Russell rode faster than him on their hard nines and n We wouldn’t have to stop any longer… When he was informed of the lap times of the #63 Mercedes, the leader could not hide his surprise: “It’s pretty fast for tough guys…” at 47me lap, he was just 14 seconds ahead of Hamilton. In theory, at that point, he should have gone back to the pits to change the tyres. He would have started 7 seconds behind the two Mercedes, of course, but equipped with new tires.
Except nothing went according to plan. The activation of the virtual safety car after the immobilization of Yuki Tsunoda’s AlphaTauri has disrupted Mercedes’ plans. Verstappen thus took advantage of the VSC to observe his stop while maintaining command. As a result, the strategists at Brackley had to give up their one stop shop strategy and brought both cars in to be fitted with new intermediate tyres. at 49me In the passage, Hamilton was 15 seconds behind Verstappen and Russell 21. Motivated and using a W13 that was definitely comfortable on twisty tracks (like in Hungary), the seven-time world champion drove half a second faster than the Dutchman: probably Not fast. enough to close the gap in just 16 laps.
It was not counting a new turn. at 55me lap, the stop of Valtteri Bottas’s Alfa Romeo caused the safety car to enter the track two laps later. at 57me step, the direction of the race forced the drivers to go to the pit lane, which made a possible pit stop very interesting… Here are the strategists of Red Bull and Mercedes facing a serious dilemma: continue on the track, but with worn tires, or lose positions but with new tires?
RED BULL, SUPERIOR IN ANY SCENARIO
The Mercedes strategists felt that their only chance of victory was to leave Hamilton on the track with a positional advantage (stopping to put on the softs to overtake a Verstappen who stayed on the track was hypothetical, the W13 was about two tenths slower than the RB18).
For her part, Hannah Schmitz, Red Bull strategist, made the opposite decision: she was better than Verstappen losing a place but having the right tires to attack. On soft shoes and taking advantage of a mistake by Hamilton (he selected the wrong engine on his steering wheel during the restart), the Dutchman immediately overtook the No. 44 Mercedes and raced to his 30th Formula 1 victory.
Did Red Bull benefit from Mercedes’ mistakes? Not only. Because it is likely that Verstappen would have won even without the intervention of the two “safety cars”. He would have returned around 50me lap to put on soft tires and he would have found himself about 5 seconds behind Russell and 7 seconds behind Hamilton, with 22 laps to go. His new tyres, which Pirelli claimed would have covered the distance, would have given him a two-second-a-lap lead over a couple of laps. It will be necessary to see how the overtaking would have taken place… In any case, according to Red Bull’s calculations, the correct RB18 with the number 1 would have won with an advantage of about fifteen seconds (somewhat less according to Mercedes’ estimates).
In short, whatever the scenario, the Red Bull team is a well-oiled machine, especially when it comes to strategy. Even in the Dutch dunes, it didn’t suffer from the grains of sand that often bog down Mercedes and Ferrari machines.
ALPINE: A LOW COST BUT SMART DEVELOPMENT
Caught between two circuits that require little downforce, Zandvoort was not rich in terms of developments. Alpine, one of the few teams that brings news (along with Williams, Alfa Romeo and AlphaTauri), has thus mounted a “new” rear wing on the A522.
Actually, the Dutch spec combines the Hungaröring beam wing (which requires more downforce than Zandvoort) with the main plane used at Spa (which requires more finesse). A simple and economic solution that, combined with a good strategy, allowed Fernando Alonso and Esteban Ocon to score points for the fifth consecutive Grand Prix.
Stone by stone, Enstone is increasing its lead over McLaren in the provisional constructors’ standings, not least thanks to a sustained pace of development despite the budget ceiling.
McLAREN HURS TO REDUCE THE ARRANGEMENT
In Belgium, McLaren had introduced a number of new parts, some of which were intended to improve the overall performance of the MCL36 (and not just on the specific track).
So, like their Ferrari counterparts in Spain, the Woking aerodynamicists lengthened the central “keel” fitted inside the diffuser, as can be seen in the image above (compare yellow arrows).
They also redesigned the front suspension arm fairing to improve airflow and gain some downforce, while also reducing drag.
Schematically, Lando Norris and Daniel Ricciardo’s single-seater suffers from two major weaknesses: excessive aerodynamic resistance compared to the load generated (as we saw in Spa or Baku), and hypersensitivity to high temperatures, which interferes with the use of the tires butts. (as we saw in Miami).
“I don’t think we have a particularly narrow operating range, explains McLaren technical chief James Key. We got the car working on most of the circuits. But we do have some weaknesses that tend to penalize him on certain tracks and help him on others.
“Surprisingly, straight line speed is one of our two weak points. This is not a problem that we had before, so we are trying to find the reason. Also, when track temperatures are high, low-speed cornering is a problem for us.”
“To remedy this, there are short-term fixes and deeper adjustments that we can only do on next year’s car, like revising the geometry of the rear suspension, for example.
If the simulation tools in Woking are outdated (the team still uses Toyota’s wind tunnel in Cologne, which cannot simulate the behavior of F1 cars in the corners), Key admits his team made mistakes on the MCL36 project. .
While the team had been on an upward slope since 2019, they failed to capitalize on the opportunity created by the reintroduction of aerodynamic rules this season, unlike Alpine.
IN THE SAME SERIES
#technical #gallery #Dutch #Red #Bull