Once again the qualifying session reserves surprises in this Formula 1 2021. On a track where Red Bull And Verstappen were given for favorites from the front row two Mercedes, with Hamilton superb and a great one Bottas to cover his back to his partner. The two black arrows will be the unique grid cars starting with medium rubber, mind behind them the two Red Bulls will start with red rubber. There was much speculation already during the session on how Red Bull has changed at the last moment there strategy, but in reality something was not clear from the start, as Verstappen had made a second lap with a medium tire in Q2, although he did not need it. The thing left more than a doubt, since that should have been the tires to be fitted at the start, so the impression is that the Red Bull strategy was already decided in advance.
Red Bull not at its best – It is not the first time this has happened this year (a striking example was the Saturday in Baku) but the Milton Keynes team did not show up at their best for the Hungarian appointment. Something in the work at the factory it didn’t work properly and the RB16B it arrived on the track without returning the desired sensations. Added to this were the high and low power tests made by Honda who have removed certain references to the engineers and, to find a final balance, the car trim has been modified in a manner heavy several times during free practice and in view of qualifying. In the end, however, the result was that the potential of the car remained far away from being expressed. As mentioned, this is not the first time this has happened, but in the fight with an almost always perfect team like Mercedes, these problems weigh heavily. Unlike Red Bull, Brackley’s team showed up on the track already in place, making adjustments without ever upsetting the set-up, turning immediately with a regime of power discreet to find the perfect balance in race configuration and has traveled many kilometers to perfect every detail. A simple fact testifying to this is that Lewis Hamilton traveled in the third free practice session 86.5 kilometers against the 56.3 of Verstappen, 30 kilometers more for the seven-time world champion therefore, in an attempt to bring as much data as possible to the team and to find the ideal balance in both qualifying and race terms. A Mercedes at the moment perfect that with the front row puts a serious mortgage on the weekend.
Before talking about the race, however, let’s go and see the comparison between Lewis Hamilton’s lap and Max Verstappen’s, to better understand the differences seen on the track.
Already in the first sector Hamilton shows better grip by Verstappen, even if the two cars are equivalent in terms of top speed. Mercedes seems to have unlocked some horses plus in its Power Unit, given the set-up more load of Red Bull but with a speed in extension no longer lower than in other occasions. It is therefore confirmed that at Brackley reliability is not feared even with high temperatures. The central sector is the section where the difference between the two cars is greater. The W12 number 44, more aerodynamically charged and driven by a Lewis Hamilton in great shape, find important detections a curve 5 it’s at curve 9. We see in detail in the lower part of the image how in the section of turns 4 and 5 Verstappen faces turn 4 with 5 km / h more speed but is forced to brake more both at 4, and especially at 5, where the Dutchman holds the brake pedal pressed much longer than Hamilton, leaving an abundant tenth to the British. The same thing happens shortly after, in the section from 8 to 11, where at turn 9 Verstappen still remains on the brake longer than Hamilton and leaves a good 8 km / h to the rival. At turn 11 then Max is slightly faster in distance, but having to stay on the brake for longer here too, he then leaves the speed in the extension in favor of Hamilton who also gains over 1 tenth in this section. In the last sector, however, performance does are equivalent, with Verstappen more aggressive in the reach and braking, but Hamilton faster in mileage of curve.
Red Bull unbalanced towards the rear – Red Bull’s choice of download aerodynamics although the track requires a high load it seems dictated by one need to balance the car. One seems to emerge from the impressions of the free sessions natural tendency to understeer from the RB16B. The corrections made in the first few sessions they weren’t enough to find a balanced car and Newey’s team was forced to unload the rear wing to bring back the pressure center in a more forward position and therefore have a car more neutral driving. If normally this would be a handicap in terms of race pace, the scorching temperatures of the weekend leave some glimmer of hope for Verstappen and his teammates, since too much energy to the tires could generate a temperature and therefore a deep blistering difficult to control. On the other hand, of course, the drivers will be forced to control driving to avoid it slipping and the generation of high surface temperatures of the tread, but only in the race we will understand which approach will be truly successful.
Red disappointment – Behind the top 4 does not place surprisingly none of the Ferraris, but the Alpha Tauri of the always excellent Pierre Gasly. Leclerc And Sainz they had started the qualifying well, but the increasing wind brings out a certain one aerodynamic instability of the SF21, whose balance, found with the work of the last few weeks, is evidently a lot fragile. Sainz ends up on the wall despite no particularly obvious errors, and perhaps also puts the barrier against the barrier hopes for the podium of the team, as the Spaniard himself seemed to have his foot in this week that extra tenth which in Q3 would have made a huge difference. Leclerc finds a nice lap on the last attempt, but is beaten by himself 13 thousandths by Gasly and just 7 by Norris, with a McLaren he promised anti-ferrari updates that have arrived and apparently they work. We compared the speed readings of the three to see if there are any noteworthy points on the track.
L’equilibrium reigns supreme among the 3 both in terms of timing and speed. However, a couple of interesting ideas emerge. First of all Norris in two faster corners of the circuit (4 and 11) is in always at least 5 km / h faster than pursuers. In these traits a marriage between courage of the pilot e feeling of grip of the car, and these readings are a sign of how far the young Englishman is driving in symbiosis with his McLaren this season. Leclerc does not seem to suffer particularly straight, with good speeds both in the main straight and in the stretches before turn 4 and turn 12. On the other hand you can see how on Gasly’s Alpha Tauri for this weekend it seems that a high downforce profile unlike almost all past appointments. On the flying lap, however, the differences that emerge between these three cars were minimum, but in race pace there Ferrari appeared superior. Everything will therefore depend on the departure and from strategy to see if Leclerc will be able to find space to exploit his speed or not.
And right from the departure it will also depend on the race Verstappen. The Dutchman from third place will rely on soft tires as mentioned. If he gets through at least one of the two Mercedes the race could change prospect. With the soft compound Verstappen will have to stop first of Hamilton and Bottas and whoever is ahead of him will have to anticipate your pit stop to hedge against a potential undercut, thus losing the advantage of the medium tire. However, everything will depend on the tire management, on a Sunday that lies ahead even hotter of the sessions held so far and therefore a real one circle of hell.