Finally the wait was over and we were able to admire the first laps on the renewed Zandvoort track of the Formula 1 cars. The track amazed where it promised to amaze and beyond. Curve 3 gave away many interpretations different, with the roadway having such a particular section, as described in the detailed analysis of the route. The last corner, the 14, with the superelevation, to be tackled in full, gave the riders emotions and adrenaline. But there are many other points on the track that are proving challenging and that can make a difference. In particular one, curve 7, has already done a noticeable difference among the pilots, placing the first real ones challenges of courage. We will see in detail with the data shortly. Meanwhile the Ferrari it closes by surprise in the first two places of the ranking. The performance of the reds appeared very convincing on the dry ride, with a car that overall looks like more oriented towards qualification than at the race pace. This time that preference is understandable, given that overtaking on the Dutch track still remains an unknown and therefore the starting position could have a specific weight very high on the final result. Overall the SF21 performed extremely well, giving the impression that, once again, when the mechanical trim it is perhaps more important than the aerodynamic one, in Maranello it emerges a true excellence In this compound. The Zandvoort track is in fact an extremely complex challenge due to the mechanical tuning of the car. On the one hand, banked curves require a real one dedicated package, on the other hand, the cars must perform even in stretches with almost zero slope and in any case have a neutral behavior along the various sections of the track. All this without forgetting that the suspensive stiffness necessary to manage the large vertical load of the curve above elevated must in any case be averaged with the elasticity necessary to face i bumpy curbs or particular sections such as curve 3, whose progressive slope has led many cars even to touch the asphalt with the front wing. A real puzzle, on which in Maranello they seem to have prepared themselves properly. It is precisely the mechanical set-up aimed at maximizing performance with the light car explains the greater fatigue made by Sainz and Leclerc with a full tank of fuel, even if the progress of the race pace simulation was not negative, but very far from those of Bottas and Verstappen. The excellent performance on the single lap of the two reds is however a great starting point, but the engineers of the red still have no margin for error, as it is likely to be expected big steps forward by everyone with post-session work given the totally new track for everyone.
It must be said that they are certainly missing from the top the most important references, given Verstappen’s not perfect lap with the soft tire not at its best and Hamilton’s forced stop due to Power Unit problems. Overall, however, some characteristics were still able to distinguish and for this we have compared the lap of Leclerc with that of Max Verstappen. Verstappen’s choice of data comes mainly from the fact that Valtteri Bottas’ data showed a W12 with a power level already higher than its competitors, as Mercedes is now used to doing on Fridays. We had noticed at least from Silverstone the higher level of power brought to the track by Mercedes as early as Friday and perhaps it is not entirely a coincidence the reliability problem that occurred on Hamilton’s car. Leclerc’s comparison with the Dutch driver therefore becomes more interesting than in the corners and in the technical traits however it remains a reference.
Already in the first sector the performance of Leclerc and Ferrari is excellent, with the fastest Monegasque at the Tarzan curve (1) and up to the entrance of the very complicated curve 3. A series of interesting ideas can be seen at curve 3.
Leclerc arrives with more speed at turn 2 than Verstappen and delays braking as much as possible for the entry of turn 3. The Dutchman has however a wider line and more aggressive, as if to put the wheels over the limits in order to exploit as much as possible the most inclined part of the track and thus manages to carry more speed throughout the entire curve. The exit in traction is initially in favor of Verstappen, given the difficulty of Leclerc to keep the rear still once he is back with his foot on the gas, (you can see well in the accelerator graph) but as soon as the Monegasque manages to restore solidity to the rear and unload to the ground all the power, the SF21 shows his gifts precisely traction, one of the real strengths of the red.
Once you have tackled the fast stretch of curves 4-5-6 in full, here you come to curve 7 and here the data are in general mind blowing for these Formula 1. Although you arrive from a long stretch in full at about 280 km / h and the stretch is downhill the pilots approach this corner practically with only a partialization of the accelerator. From the data we see Verstappen raising 85% of the gas without even touching the brake while Leclerc raises only 22% of the accelerator by touching the brake pedal minimally (remember that the brake data transmitted by the federation is Boolean and not continuous). The performance of the cars particularly surprised us and we went back to review the onboards of that stretch of track as we were incredulous of the data we were on the screen.
With a minimum speed of 259 km / h, curve 7 of Zandvoort adds to those curves like Pouhon on the Spa circuit or like Casanova-Savelli in Mugello, where those who have grip (and courage) keeps his foot down, while the others throttle or brake. Seeing Verstappen in that stretch 10 km / h slower than Leclerc gives the measure of how the Dutchman is was not yet at its best and probably had a load of gasoline superior to Ferrari, but at the same time confirms the impression of a Ferrari that transmits a lot of confidence and a lot of trust to its pilots. In fact, from the data we have analyzed, only the other Ferrari of Sainz and the McLaren of Norris they faced this stretch of track with performances similar to those of Leclerc. McLaren, however, remained totally eclipsed in the first day of free practice, and we will have to wait, as usual this year, to see the third free practice to understand the concrete level of the car from Woking, which is probably not far from the red. There Alpine instead he brought to the track today a Power Unit that already discharged a high level of power, with Ocon hitting a top speed of 312 km / h in his lap and always had speed in extension above average, to then get lost in some critical points such as turn 8, where it has even been over 15 km / h slower than Leclerc.
The Zandvoort track however is showing that on this track the pilot can make a significant difference. The Ferrari duo proves to be among the best, if not perhaps the best in terms of the drivers’ sheer ability, and the team has done a great basic job, especially mechanically, in approaching this weekend. To secure the position of third force or even something better it is necessary for the red to progress further in order to contain the probable return of competition. Due to the high specific weight that the driver has on this track, however, it is difficult to understand the favorite for the weekend in the world struggle, given the total absence of references of Lewis Hamilton, between the broken ECU during the first test session and the shutdown due to the Power Unit in the second. Mercedes seems to have great potential, and continues to give the impression that it has adapted its approach to race weekends by accommodating the new characteristics of the car. In fact, it has gone from a W12 constantly to the maximum possible downforce, to assets more downloads and with more importance to the Power Unit, especially after the leap in engine performance seen at Silverstone. If this is Lewis Hamilton’s secret to beating his rival host away from home, we have to wait for qualification. In the meantime, you can only enjoy the spectacle of the guide on this type of track.