NOT A GRAIN OF SAND IN THE SAND OF THE HOUR
In Hungary and Belgium, Max Verstappen won by starting from the middle of the grid (from 10th).e and 14e row respectively). But at home, in the orange dunes of Zandvoort, he won his fourth race in a row (the first of his career) by 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 was due to the mistakes of his rival Charles Leclerc, whose Ferrari was better for this type of winding track:
“In Bishara we were great, but here it is more difficult and we are all very close, he explained on Saturday. We suffer more on songs that require a lot of energy. But the RB18 is still a very fast car.
In fact, the fact that Max completed one lap in Q2 on worn tires just a tenth of a second behind Carlos Sainz and George Russell shows that the RB18 was a fast machine (Red Bull, like the rest of the team, is trying. big mirrors for the season forthcoming at the request of the FIA, see image below). As our colleague Mark Hughes from RaceOnly a mistake in his preparation lap (where he lifted his foot too slightly to have a clear path) caused his tire temperature to drop and cost him a few tenths.
Despite everything, he took the stage on Saturday, his fourth this year, just ahead of Leclerc who was overworked to stay in the game. The next day, in the race, he started well to slowly pull away from the Monegasque Ferrari. Immediately, the threat came instead of Mercedes, quickly and with a one-stop strategy – the engineers at Brackley had understood, like their colleagues at Enstone, that the aggressive combination would work well in the race.
MERCEDES STRONG BET
After the first salvo of the pit (at 18e turn to Verstappen and close to 30e Silver Arrows Road), so the Dutchman took the first place in the race, but with assistants 12 laps old and still a center to watch, with Hamilton and Russell climbing faster than him with their hard nines and n We wouldn’t have to stop again… When informed about the times of Mercedes n° 63, the leader could not hide his surprise: “It’s too fast for tough people…” 47 hourse Lap, he was only 14 seconds ahead of Hamilton. In theory, at that time, he should have returned to the pits to change his tires. He would emerge 7 seconds behind the two Mercedes, of course, but with new tires.
Except nothing went as planned. The activation of the virtual safety car following the discontinuation of Yuki Tsunoda’s AlphaTauri has affected Mercedes’ plans. So Verstappen took advantage of the VSC to watch his suspension while taking command. As a result, Brackley’s planners had to abandon their one-stop strategy and bring in two cars to give them new intermediate tyres. In 49e to pass, Hamilton was 15 seconds behind Verstappen and Russell 21. Motivated by using a W13 that was actually stable on winding roads (such as Hungary), the seven-time World Champion drove the second half faster than the Dutchman: probably not by speed. enough to close the gap in just 16 laps.
It was not counting the new twist. In 55e Lap, the stoppage of Valtteri Bottas’ Alfa Romeo caused the safety car to enter the track two laps later. 57 hourse pass, the management of the race forced the drivers to take the pit lane, which made the pitstop very interesting … Here is the strategy of Red Bull and Mercedes are facing a big problem: stay on the track, but with worn tires, or lose. chance but wear new tires?
RED BULL, SUPERIOR ANY OCCASION
The Mercedes tacticians felt that their only chance of victory was to leave Hamilton on the track with a position advantage (stopping the line to pass Verstappen who remained on the track was imaginary, the W13 being about two tenths slower than the RB18).
For his part, Hannah Schmitz, Red Bull’s strategist, made a different choice: it was better than Verstappen to lose a place but to have the right tires to attack. Wearing soft shoes and capitalizing on Hamilton’s mistake (he selected the wrong engine at his wheel during the restart), the Dutchman immediately overtook the No. 44 Mercedes and raced to his thirtieth Formula 1 win.
Did Red Bull benefit from Mercedes’ mistakes? Not only. Because there is a possibility that Verstappen would have won even without the intervention of two “safety cars”. He would come back around 50e Lap wearing soft tires and he would find himself about 5 seconds from Russell and 7 from Hamilton, 22 laps from the end. His new tires, which Pirelli says would go the distance, would give him a two-second lap advantage for several loops. It remains to be seen how the pass would have played out… In any case, according to Red Bull’s calculations, the number 1 RB18 would have won with a lead of about fifteen seconds (slightly less according to Mercedes’ estimates) .
In short, either way, the Red Bull team is a well-oiled machine, especially when it comes to strategy. Even in the Dutch dunes, it did not suffer from the sand particles that often clog Mercedes and Ferrari machines.
ALPINE: CHEAP BUT INTELLIGENT DEVELOPMENT
Stuck between two circuits requiring low power, Zandvoort was not rich in terms of development. Alpine, one of the few teams to bring new features (along with Williams, Alfa Romeo and AlphaTauri), has therefore installed a “new” rear wing on the A522.
In reality, the Dutch specification combines the beam wing of the Hungaröring (which needs more power than the Zandvoort) and the main plane used in the Spa (which needs more refinement). A simple and economical solution which, together with a good strategy, allowed Fernando Alonso and Esteban Ocon to score points for the fifth Grand Prix in a row.
Stone by stone, Enstone is increasing its lead over McLaren in the provisional constructors’ standings, mainly due to the continued pace of development despite the limited budget.
McLaren FEELS TO REDUCE DRAG
In Belgium, McLaren had introduced a number of new parts, some of which were intended to improve the MCL36’s overall (and not just track-specific) performance.
So, just like their Ferrari colleagues in Spain, the aerodynamicists in Woking lengthened the central “keel” placed inside the diffuser, as seen in the picture above (compare the yellow arrows).
They also redesigned the front suspension arms, to improve airflow and gain less downforce, while reducing drag.
Systematically, the single seat of Lando Norris and Daniel Ricciardo suffers from two main weaknesses: excessive drag compared to the load produced (as we saw in Spa or Baku), and a high sensitivity to high temperatures, which complicates the absorption of the rear tires. (as we saw in Miami).
“I don’t think we have a narrow operating range, explains McLaren technical boss James Key. We can work the car on many circuits. But we have a small weakness that tends to punish it on some tracks and help it on others.
“Surprisingly, straight line speed is one of our two weak points. This is not a problem we had before, so we are trying to find the cause. Also, when track temperatures are high, cornering at low speed it’s a problem for us.”
“To fix this, there are short-term solutions, and extensive modifications, which we can only do on next year’s car – like adjusting 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 that his team made mistakes on the MCL36 project.
While the team was on the upswing since 2019, it failed to capitalize on the opportunity created by resetting the aero rules this season, unlike Alpine.
IN THAT SERIES