Formula 1 2021 manages to do amuse even on a circuit like the Paul Ricard. Qualifying was a good session, not as hard-fought as others, but still with many ideas. He came out on pole Max Verstappen, throwing a message very strong in key world. The return to permanent tracks, especially on a circuit where the main limitation is the use of tires, had to favor widely Mercedes but at the end of the session the first row obtained by Hamilton tastes like one half victory of the day for the seven-time world champion, and this says a lot about how the values on the field are changing. In fact, one of the things that struck the most was the simplicity with which Verstappen found the best performance by trimming 2 tenths and a half in Hamilton, 4 in Bottas is half a second to teammate Perez, called tomorrow to a super start in order to help the leader of the standings.
The new Power Unit and the exhaust trim are the keys to the pole
As always, we compared the data of Hamilton and Verstappen in their best lap to understand what happened on the track in detail.
This time at the bottom of the image we have placed a graph that represents the progression of the gap along the lap, with the line that if in the lower half represents the advantage of Hamilton, otherwise that of Verstappen. It can be seen very well that much of Verstappen’s advantage is being built in the two long straights with the purple line that gradually points upwards more and more. The first and the last sector are fought but the difference that RedBull makes in all the draws weighs heavily on the final time. Thus emerges, unequivocally, the combination of two factors concomitants. On the one hand, the new one Honda Power Unit seems to have a level of power remarkable, especially in the hybrid part and in the relative management of it. Before turn 8 it is quite clear the clipping Mercedes, totally absent on the RedBull, so even in short stretches the extra thrust of the hybrid at high speed translates into kilometers per hour of speed before braking. The choice of Honda in terms of delivery as regards RedBull therefore seems to be do not overdo the advance, but to use the hybrid in constant manner up to high revs. To this must be added an aerodynamic set-up certainly more exhausted than the RB16B number 33, which opens the gap in the speed gap. above 280 km / h. From our calculations we found a aerodynamic load index equal to 0.92% lower for RedBull. Obviously this is not an absolute figure given that the calculation is completely reliable only with the same power, but certainly Verstappen will show up on the track with a lower overall level of load than his rival Hamilton. The sum of the two things (power supplement and exhaust trim), however, turned out to be one deadly combination, unapproachable for Hamilton and the W12.
Is it right to unload aerodynamics from a racing perspective? Verstappen and the nightmare Spain
Generally an aerodynamically more loaded setup tends to aprotate the tires more, limiting the sliding of the car on the asphalt and therefore limiting the tread temperatures and possible wear. The trend of all teams in Le Castellet, however, it was that of download aerodynamics as the sessions passed, indicating a package of simulations that had given a little to everyone overestimated results as regards the optimal load to take to the track. It must be said that the balance found by RedBull it seems optimal, since the Austrian cars found the best performance with soft rubber, so close to management that almost everyone discarded it for tomorrow’s race. For sure Verstappen will have to avoid at all costs to experience a Grand Prix like the one seen in Spain, with Hamilton with a lot more grip on the race pace thanks to a more protective towards tires. The difference, however, is that in Barcelona the tires that were in crisis were the rear ones, while at Paul Ricard the front ones were the most stressed and the situation seems more in favor of RedBull compared to what we saw at Montmelò. If he wants to take home a victory (which would be very heavy in the standings) Verstappen will have to lead an exceptional race on his profile. rubber management because the absence of load could be felt especially at the end of the first stint.
A super Sainz leader of a good Ferrari
Behind the top, as expected, the gap with the group is much more marked than in the last few races. It emerges, as better than the others a fantastic Carlos Sainz. Once again, when the limiting issue is about tires, the Spaniard takes out his capacity and signed a perfect session, always ahead of the competition, lapping until the last attempt half a second faster than Leclerc. The Monegasque found himself in difficulty due to the large understeer of the SF21, with a set-up very concentrated on race pace and little for qualifying, and after several attempts at “overdrive” (or exaggerate with driving to compensate for the shortcomings of the car) found right on the last lap a good performance, stopping at 1 tenth and a half from Sainz. In the midst of the Ferrari drivers there is an excellent one Pierre Gasly, author once again of a superlative performance with a combative Alpha Tauri that will try to keep up with the Ferrari duo in the race.
We compared Sainz’s lap with Leclerc’s (top) and Gasly’s (bottom) to find differences and peculiarities.
Starting with the confrontation between teammates, as mentioned, in the last lap of Q3 Leclerc finally finds the key to the problem of his SF21 and goes to find a time very similar to that of your teammate. The whole difference is in the first two sectors, particularly in the first half of the lap, with the Spaniard not particularly as fast as pure numbers, but extremely effective as a driving technique, with for example an approach to the first s of curves 1-2 with a trajectory which allows him to come back a lot first on the gas although the minimum speed is the same. Also to curve 6 Sainz manages to return soon on the accelerator and gain precious meters, as well as at the chicane in the middle of the Mistral straight where the speed difference of only 1 km / h, but the subsequent acceleration is all to the advantage of the SF21 number 55. In the last sector the SF21 finds good absolute speeds, demonstrating, as seen in the previous sessions, a set-up that protects the tires correctly, which should help a lot in terms of race pace. Leclerc in the final sector was getting very close to his teammate, but then a perfect approach at the change of direction of curve 14 he gave back to Sainz about half a tenth which allowed him to close deservedly fifth.
In comparison with Gasly instead the situation is more pulled. The advantage for Sainz still arises fromdriving effectiveness in the first sector and fromcorner exit 8, but it is evident as in acceleration the white line of the Honda engine tends to be highest than the red one of the SF21. The new Honda Power Unit, as we had seen for Verstappen, it pushes well and in qualification find the ideal situation to express themselves, given the additional grip provided by the new tires. In the latter sector Sainz tends to be faster at all minimum speeds, especially at 14, but the stages of traction of Alpha Tauri are “burning”And Gasly cancels any disadvantage, stopping at only 28 thousandths from Ferrari. In race optics however the data seem to indicate a more promising Ferrari compared to the Alpha Tauri, and above all a Sainz that seems to have found a perfect balance of speed is tire management.
How much talent in Formula 1
After today’s day it must be said that it is difficult to say what they are the best pilots in a Formula 1 that is showing so much talent from the point of view of guide as it has not been seen for years. We have already remarked this several times, but even on a track that is not exciting like the Paul Ricard, the driving skills of Verstappen, of Hamilton (in difficulty until the last, but who found the first row), di Sainz, of Gasly. Tomorrow’s race has all the elements to be great interest. The tires will continue to be the key factor of the weekend and for this reason it is likely that the first 4 will quickly stretch over the rest of the group, with the battle between Verstappen and Hamilton all to follow, and behind Sainz who will try to keep Gasly and Leclerc at bay, in turn committed not to recover the McLaren, close but also today not excellent as a package. There departure could then play an important role, with the addition ofunknown weather that could still revolutionize the cards on the table.