Race after race, the qualifying sessions don’t stop being exciting, between the duel for the summit and the run-up of midfield. On a track like the Red Bull Ring, with only 10 curves and the tour in just over a minute makes the difference thousandths, and the session seen on the track met expectations (except for pole position).
Red Bull car to beat
Impresses the Red Bull that with Verstappen find a nice and relatively simple one pole position. The Dutchman has a perfect feeling with his car and his times are a continuous improvement during sessions. There Honda power unit expresses a power level to which at the moment Mercedes manages to resist barely, especially for the length of hybrid delivery, which starts from low revs, but does not stop up to high speeds, without practically ever having to resort to clipping at the end of the straight. The Mercedes configuration was strongly optimized during the sessions, and the power curve shown in qualifying by the cars of Bottas and Hamilton was only at the end similar to that of Verstappen, but the coexistence of a man on the RB16B power level and a car body which evidently manages to generate a high level of downforce without significantly affecting the resistance to running I’m a deadly weapon in the hands of a talent like Verstappen.
In the direct comparison of the data from Hamilton and those of Verstappen it is immediately evident as in the upper part of the speed graph all surveys are in favor of the Dutch, with Hamilton finding a speed significantly in his favor only at curve 7, the stretch that perhaps best suits the W12. The round of the seven-time world champion however, it is not irresistible, with a good but not exceptional performance even in the driven sector, where it recovers to the championship leader only 28 thousandths, and where above all, also analyzing the traces of accelerator and brake, let’s see a style less effective compared, for example, to the lap done in free thirds (probably Lewis’ best lap of the whole day from the driving point of view). We note in fact how the English curve 6, 7 and 9 circles of do not turn up completely the foot off the accelerator and of delay and minimize time on the brake, but without finding cleanliness and perfection that normally characterize it, so much so that out of turn 9 it is also noticeable his mistake, with the rear that obviously breaks down and the rider is forced, for a fraction of a second, to take your foot off the gas. For its part, we see that Verstappen uses it a lot shortshifting in acceleration and is slightly more conservative in the third sector, anticipating the braking of turn 6 e touching the brake pedal even when cornering 7 to set the ideal line, which we haven’t seen any other rider do. Note that Verstappen trim to the runner-up (Bottas) 194 thousandths, which in the top 10 is the second largest gap in Q3 between a driver and the direct pursuer (the first is between Gasly and Leclerc 236 thousandths, the average of the others is about 60 thousandths).
Ferrari with a lot of load, concentrated on experimenting for the race
The performance of the Ferraris was not exciting, but for all the sessions we had the distinct feeling of a team committed to try something different compared to recent races to fully understand the problem with the tires, revealed in a disruptive way in the last Grand Prix in France. What the numbers tell, and what confirmed the pilots and Laurent Mekies after qualifying, is that, in an attempt to improve tire management in the race pace, the SF21 went on track with a trim with lots of downforce, thus renouncing to cover the gaps in the power unit on the long straights, but with the hope of recovering with interests what was sacrificed in qualifying in terms of race pace and tire management. To remove any doubts we have therefore calculated the aerodynamic load index for the cars of Verstappen, Hamilton, Leclerc, Norris and Gasly to get a rough idea of what differences have been seen. Once again we specify that the load index is fully reliable with the same power, so the result we get by applying it to different cars becomes a mere indication and not a certainty.
But the indication that the calculation gives us is anyway very clear and says that Leclerc’s car went on track with a theoretical load level comparable to that of Mercedes of Hamilton (generally the car with the most load on the track), with just over 1% more load than Red Bull, 1.4% more than Gasly’s Alpha Tauri and even 2.8% more than Norris’s McLaren. As mentioned, it is only an indicative reference, but removes any doubt on the choices made by Ferrari for this weekend. Going then to the specifics of the Leclerc lap data, we easily notice what has been detected so far.
In comparison with the McLaren of a super Lando Norris, immediately jump to the eyes the huge differences in speed on the straight, with a + 7, + 9 and +9 for Norris in the three main straights of the track. According to our calculations the final 3 tenths of posting derive all from the 3 main straights and from the extension between Turn 7 and Turn 9. Leclerc then it runs very well curve 6, 8 km / h faster than Norris and with measurements on the level of Hamilton and Verstappen (202 km / h). Even with Leclerc we can see very well what we had noticed yesterday with Carlos Sainz, namely one particular driving style in the driven section, with the accelerator that is never fully released, but comes used simultaneously to the modulation of the brake pedal to ensure reactivity, motility and above all for handle the rear of the car, probably indicating a slightly more oversteer car in an attempt to keep the front tires well protected for the race.
Also in the comparison with Gasly’s Alpha Tauri we notice completely analogous aspects to what has just been described, plus a Gasly flaw at turn 9, not particularly evident from the video, but which is explained by the French driver who, completely on the curb, lift your foot off the gas for a moment not to risk going beyond the limits of the pita, and leave a few cents on the asphalt. Like the McLaren, the Alpha Tauri is much faster than the Ferrari in every draw, although, compared to Gasly, Leclerc recovers a significant amount of cornering time, in percentage terms higher than that seen with Norris. It should also be remembered that Leclerc’s time was set at the first attempt because the Monegasque only had one set of new tires available, and the track improved slightly during Q3, so the cornering feedback could potentially be better.
The race: unknown weather and Ferrari curiosities
What has been analyzed so far arouses the curiosity about the race pace of the red. The choice of prefer the race pace without compromises, also trying to face the race with a high level of downforce, emerged from the data and confirmed by the men of Maranello, also due to the doubtful rain. So it is natural to wait with interest what results and what impressions the two SF21 will obtain in competition. Front Red Bull has a potential benefit remarkable, but the Mercedes load could help the Brackley team once again in terms of race pace, and a lot will depend on how long it will take Perez and Bottas to recover to return to the shelter of the two captains. The first of the two who will arrive will be able to do one notable strategic difference in favor of your team. However, it remains the weather unknown, which is expressed with both the chance of rain, but also with the eventual drop in temperatures, which would upset the balance and many of the aspects concerning the tires.