The world 2021 keep giving real battle at the top, with the two contenders who do not spare themselves race after race, giving show on every track, even those where the races are hardly exciting like Le Castellet. For the third consecutive race is RedBull to go out winner from the battle with Mercedes and this time, more than in others, the credit goes to a choral work of the team led by Horner, who without having an advantage of performance particularly marked for some factors that we are going to analyze, it imposes itself by making the right strategic choices and demonstrating a lucidity overall team much higher than that of rivals.
The unannounced Ferrari disaster
Before talking about the first, however, we would like to say a few words about Ferrari disaster. From the analyzes made directly by us after free practice on Friday and Saturday nothing bodes well from the data in our possession such a debacle sensational. The only doubt was the performance on the mix medium, generally little loved by SF21, but the beautiful qualification of Sainz on that tire it seemed to have dispelled that too. All the indicators they seemed to show a work of the Maranello team extremely aimed at the race pace, with the good qualification how natural consequence of this, given the selectivity of the route in terms of tires also on dry ride. But all these indications have drawn us deceived leading us to conclusions optimistic on the performance of the red which then were totally disregarded. Our personal consolation is that listening to the interview of Mattia Binotto before departure, an expected performance was perceived exactly online with what appeared also to the writer, since the Team Principal Ferrari spoke of “at least confirming the starting positions”, also expecting a “Leclerc eager to comeback“. In our opinion, the words spoken a little by the whole team need to console the Ferrari fans much less after the race, where the problem was clearly and unequivocally identified in the tire management, but giving the impression of don’t understand yet what generates the problem and what is the solution for him. Considering that the compounds with which it runs are the same since 2019 (moreover by unanimous vote of the same teams) it is difficult to understand a position that groping like this in the dark about this topic so important for performance.
The verification with the long runs on Friday
To clarify our ideas further, we have taken up the race pace simulations Friday and we have compared the times made by the pilots in the short long runs of the second free with the first 10 laps of the second stint of each pilot during the race, believing it could be a reliable reference to compare the pace by putting together a bit of everything between worsened track conditions, long runs probably not done with a full tank of fuel etc. For the sake of brevity, we report only the results of the Ferrari drivers compared to the first two classified, Verstappen is Hamilton, but we also got very similar feedback with most of the other riders.
There surprise is that it is as a trend, but even more clearly as average, the results say that Hamilton and Verstappen in the race they had an average pace similar than shown on Friday in the long run, approx 3 tenths of a difference for Hamilton he is alone a few cents for Verstappen, both faster in the race than in free practice. Surprisingly, the results are consistent for both Ferrari fans with Sainz and Leclerc over 1 and a half seconds per lap slower in the race than in free practice long runs. If it is true that the comparison is certainly a little pedestrian and includes many variables, it cannot fail to strike how the result obtained is actually consistent to express a disaster in the race that has arrived not expected. As said directly by Binotto and repeated by Leclerc, the problem concerns tire wear and in particular the inability to manage temperatures, with an amount of energy transmitted to the tires evidently wrong both in terms of numbers and modalities. To tell the truth it was already a little abnormal that after qualifying Leclerc complained about a great one understeer on a track that puts the front tires, considering that generally to protect the axle in crisis one tries to unbalance the car on that same axle. For example Lewis Hamilton a Barcelona he chose an openly understeer setting, partly sacrificing speed in qualifying, in order to protect the rear wheels in the race. However, there are many factors, even from a mechanical point of view, so it is difficult to venture hypotheses. Sure though, the problem of Ferrari lurks in some fundamental variable of project not fully understood by the team, because yesterday’s pace was practically lower than all other stables, apart from just Haas, and in a Formula 1 where the tires are becoming more and more the performance barometer, you need to find quickly the generating cause of the problem so as not to start over next season with completely different cars and tires.
Pino Allievi’s coffee # 27 | F1: France 2021, Ferrari at peak
Red Bull win or Mercedes defeat
In his “café” Pino Allievi rightly asked himself whether the result of the French Grand Prix was more a Verstappen victory or a defeat of Mercedes. If you try to answer totally objectively, it turns out that it is impossible to deny both theses. There rain crash before the race cleared the track of the rubber deposited during the previous sessions, and this was initially a great advantage for Mercedes, since the two black arrows ran with a level of higher downforce to RedBulls.
And if we look at the graph that defines the trend in the race of the first 4 we see that initially the Lewis step was, albeit slightly, higher to that of Verstappen and the British had managed to dig a gap of over 3 seconds from the Dutchman before the pit stop. The strategies chosen by the wall six times world champion but, this time, they left much to be desired, with often illogical choices, dictated by a lack of clarity that we have very rarely seen at Wolff’s team. Although the ideal moment of the pit was not before the 20-22nd lap, James Vowels decides to call Valtteri Bottas to the pits first on lap 16. Verstappen is forced to defend yourself from the Finn’s undercut attempt and stops on the next lap. At this point Hamilton announces that the tires still have a bit of margin and it is difficult to understand why he too was immediately recalled. In fact Hamilton makes his stop to defend himself from an undercut caused by his own team, and, what is even more sensational, ending up being overtaken. If here Mercedes loses the race, from now on RedBull and Verstappen win it. It was not easy, once in mind, to decide to do one second stop and try to give back to Mercedes as soon as possible in Spain this year and Hungary in 2019. But the reading of the team and the driver are perfect. Once he realizes that the pace imposed by Hamilton behind him is too high, Verstappen pushes even more, even opening a small gap on Hamilton and then making the second stop and starting the triumphant ride, setting the pace between approach is tire consumption in a manner perfect, as only top-level pilots can do. The track then went re-gumming during the race, bringing Verstappen back to ideal conditions when he needed it most. However, it is quite a risk to leave the first position, but faced and managed splendidly by a rider who is deservedly leading the standings at the moment. Not that Hamilton did a lower race than Verstappen, but with performance so close between pilots is cars they make the difference the episodes and the correct choices, this time all in favor of RedBull.
The great fracture returns
Looking at the overall graph, you can see how on a track with long and fast corners the fracture between the top teams and the rest of the group is immense. Among all the pursuers emerges loudly McLaren, which makes the update package and finds an excellent Norris and a good Ricciardo. The young Englishman’s ability to operate his MCL35M and the respective ones tires she is really incisive, just look at how Norris’ pace was growing at the end. This figure in particular should worry the technicians of Maranello not a little if the goal is the third place in the constructors.
The race of Vettel, started with hard rubber and last to stop, and excellent races in Gasly and of Fernando Alonso. The obvious ones instead arches made up of the lines of the Ferrari drivers, whose tire performance, as mentioned abundantly, has always lasted very few laps then collapse peak with step differences from the rest of the group measurable in seconds and no more in tenths.
Here comes the double Austrian (and the rain?)
This beautiful 2021 world championship continues with a double appointment theoretically in favor of RedBull, but to date the forecasts promise wet track. If this is the case, it is too early to say, but the certainties that this championship offers for now are in exceptional talent of the two title contenders, a battle of other times, to be enjoyed Grand Prix after Grand Prix.