Formula 1 closes its first part of the 2021 season with a race from crazy early stages and with the surprise victory of Esteban Ocon and of Alpine. On what happened at the first departure, there is little to add to what has already been said, except to reiterate theunacceptable of the fact that 2 out of 20 riders (10% of the grid), despite being overprofessional, make mistakes so coarse at the first corner with a track humid but certainly not soaked in water. To pay the costs were clearly Leclerc, Norris, Ricciardo and Perez but especially Max Verstappen who ran the entire Grand Prix without the right half of the car limiting the damage as he could, but losing the lead of the world championship. A bad chapter on which Formula 1 itself should reflect. Everyone clearly has the right to be wrong, but the tendency to very severe penalties for any procedural infringement or for even doubtful situations, it cannot be reversed in the face of errors of this magnitude. That said, the Budapest race nevertheless offered some interesting food for thought.
Mercedes and Hamilton make more mistakes than in the past, but they have improved the package – The Brackley team weekend had been perfect until the second departure. The curious image of Hamilton alone on the grid will remain in the history of Formula 1 and his pit stop to pass on dry tires made on the first lap instead of before the start was a strategy error in a season where between team and driver we count more mistakes than in all past seasons. Just think of the mistake in France that allowed Verstappen to win, Hamilton’s mistake in Baku with brake magic that made him finish off the points, Hamilton’s mistake in Imola, saved by the red flag, as well as at Silverstone and yesterday the team’s mistake deprived Hamilton of a victory that would probably have been very easy. From all this it must be said that the seven-time world champion however, he is saved in practically every situation bringing home heavy points race after race that allow him to lead the world championship again today. The return to the top of the world championship for the British and his team they inspire fear to the competition, especially given what was shown during the Hungarian weekend. The W12 seems to have solved more than one problem. The sum of downforce maximum and of straight speed seen on Saturday indicate a power unit it has found more than a few horses and that at the same time it seems do not fear reliability. The stability of the W12, which occurred in Hungary perfect from the very first meters shows a package Mercedes does not seem to have anymore no gap from RedBull. However, it is difficult to assess the potential of the Austrian team over the past two weekends, but some difficulties seem to have emerged, especially at the Hungaroring. The Milton Keynes team pursued an optimal set-up for all sessions, without finding the key to unlocking their performance and remedying a significant gap on the flying lap, of which we will not have references, however, in the race. There need to unload the rear wing, obviously reluctantly done, seems to indicate a problem with aerodynamic balance under maximum load conditions, which can lead to more than a headache for Adrian Newey. THE Power Unit changes Finally, due to accidents, they rightly worry Marko and his team, which remains anyway in full battle for the world championship, but that will need to be done all perfect to get back to the top of the standings.
A huge gap again between the top team and the midfield – A particular aspect that emerged this weekend is that the gap between the midfield and the top teams (Mercedes and RedBull) seems to be there dilated. In the first part of the season we in fact noticed a gap between those who emerged from the central group (usually Ferrari or McLaren) and the two important but not so exaggerated, so much so that we also saw 2 Ferrari pole positions with Leclerc. The gap in the race has always been considerable, but on the Hungaroring the two leading teams (or at least Mercedes) seemed even more than usual of another planet. Let’s start with the qualification. We took the gaps between the first of the top teams and the first of the pursuers and converted them into a percentage of the time for all the first 11 rounds.
It is easy to see how up to Silverstone the gap was on average between 0.4% and 1% of the lap time (apart from Leclerc’s two poles and Norris’ great lap in Austria), while in this qualifying the value jumped over 1.4%. A feeling that has been experienced since free practice, and that has also manifested itself in the race, with Hamilton who, despite being last on a track like the Hungaroring, did not take home the victory only thanks to the fantastic defense of Fernando Alonso. We know that Mercedes and RedBull are normally in another category for everyone, but this weekend it seemed like they had even more than usual. It is also easy to see from the graph of the relative gaps in the race.
The upward slope of the Hamilton line whenever he is free to step is simply impressive, and only the overtaking difficulties on the Budapest track kept the Englishman from win comfortably despite being last on the sixth lap. From this graph you can also see other interesting things, such as the solitary competition of the leading duo, with a Or with that he had to really sweat the victory having Vettel in the mirrors for all the laps, Gasly showing a much better pace than Tsunoda both with free track in front and the step of the Ferrari of Sainz.
Ferrari disappointed for the day – And we would like to focus on the SF21 race number 55. The harsh words of Mattia Binotto against the thoughtless move by Stroll that knocked out Leclerc are justified. But Ferrari had one in Spanish potentially winning card. Yet Sainz finished fourth on the track, on the podium, perhaps, if Vettel’s disqualification is confirmed. Hiding behind the fact that Sainz started fifteenth is misleading: after the chaos at the start, the starting positions have lost their importance. A flashy (and unsanctioned) unsafe release by Tsunoda then blocked Sainz behind the Japanese and behind Latifi for more than half of the first stint. Overtaking in those conditions was particularly difficult and it’s hard to blame the car or driver for being stuck so much behind the two slower cars. Spaniard is very good indeed, a ask the team to lengthen the stint leaving aside possible undercut attempts that risked compromising the race even more. Once free Sainz showed a good pace with what was left of the medium tire and the pit stop called by the team as soon as Hamilton overtook Tsunoda to cover the position was perfect. Everything hinted at a ride by Sainz and Hamilton towards the first two, so much so that even Mercedes informed the British that “the victory was probably being played with Sainz”. The Ferrari problem, however, arises from here on. Sainz’s pace with hard rubber has practically never been significantly faster than that of the leading duo, on the contrary it barely equaled, although Alpine and Aston Martin are not normally irresistible cars. And so in a race without a Mercedes and two RedBulls, on a potentially favorable track, the red does not even go on the podium (if not after the race). The impression of a Sainz completely in defense from mid-stint onwards it is confirmed in the words of the Spaniard who stated that he had to do a huge amount of “fuel saving“In the final phase. This was already seen live and can be seen even more from the data. We took two laps with similar times, in two moments in which Sainz was free at the start and at the end of the race (lap 25 and lap 65) and we checked the engine revs of the Spaniard.
It is easy to see how the yellow line (that of lap 65) generally has peaks much lower along the entire tour apart in a few points, as well as some areas of evident “lift and coast“Of the Spanish. This only partially explains the lack of pace of the second stint, while it almost totally justifies the final collapse. Looking at this and thinking back to the words of the Team Principal Ferrari before the race, which he spoke of pouring rain forecast for much of the race, it is very likely to imagine that Ferrari was trying to drain the tank to lighten the car in view of the lower consumption on a wet track, but that having then raced the entire Grand Prix on a dry track put the team’s plans in crisis. At this point the question is whether the car has been discharged too much or is there some kind of problem in this regard. The answer we give ourselves is twofold. On the one hand, the SF21 proves to have one hypersensitivity to a number of internal and external factors, such as the wind on Saturday, the compound, the temperature and the weight of the car. Obviously all cars are affected by these parameters, but the SF21 seems to suffer more than the others, which is why technicians sometimes look for more extreme solutions, as probably in this case with the weight of the fuel. On the other hand, the consumption theme, where every so often Ferrari still struggles to be on par with the competition. Be clear, everyone they lightened the car in view of the wet race and everyone had some problems with the fuel, since, once the race was over, the only one who did not stop his car immediately on the track was Hamilton. Also on this the difference of the W12 with the rest of the group is merciless with Hamilton who quietly pushed like crazy for all the laps without any problem. To conclude on Ferrari it is clear that with last year’s project as a basis this cannot be expected miracles, but it is inevitable to note how every now and then some congenital defect prevent you from seizing important opportunities. The important thing for Maranello is certainly keep working as was done in the first part of the season.
Now the summer break, until the return to the track in Spa-Franchorchamps, where we will find out if and how much world struggle will still be on and what will be the values in the fields for the second, very intense, part of the season. But before closing we believe there is room to go on vacation underlining a little big emotion: that of George Russell who during the race tells the team via radio to “don’t worry a sacrifice his race to help that of Latifi ”, third at that moment and then shed tears of joy for the points finally won with Williams. It’s nice to see that in the often cold world of numbers and speed that is motorsport and especially Formula 1 there is still room for one team spirit And an emotion so sincere.