Mercedes in front, Red Bull chasing. A week after the Styrian GP, things seem to have changed at the Red Bull Ring. The world champion team tried to react to a defeat that was taken as a real blow to Brackley. Lewis Hamilton wanted to go to the simulator, although this type of work does not thrill the seven-time world champion, a sign that there was something important to evaluate on the W12.
There are those who argue that this season the correlation between the wind tunnel, simulation and track is not perfect and the evolution of the black arrow, perhaps, is more complicated than they expected in the Stella team.
In the morning free practice Lewis rode with a lighter aerodynamic configuration with the main profile used in Baku and with the support of the single-pylon, while in the afternoon the hepta-champion realigned himself to the more traditional choices made by Valtteri Bottas.
Although without any apparent changes, Mercedes finished on Friday in front of Red Bull, restoring the values we were most used to in previous years.
Yet observing the black arrow in action at Spielberg a difference has been noticed: the technicians have tried to increase the angle of the Rake setting finding, perhaps, some downforce values greater than those usually seen.
Let me be clear, nothing comparable with the inclination that the Red Bull RB16B allows itself, but an evident change of philosophy in the development of the single-seater that can open up interesting scenarios.
FP2 telemetry Austrian GP: Hamilton VS Verstappen
Photo by: Matteo Bobbi
FP2 telemetry GP of Styria: Hamilton VS Verstappen
Photo by: Matteo Bobbi
Comparing the telemetry of Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen over the two weekends, a macro data emerges: Mercedes benefited from the softer tires of a compound and from cooler weather conditions to improve its performance by 1 ”273 per lap, that is to say about double the growth of Red Bull, which with the red C5 tires (the softest in the Pirelli range) reached 0 ”672.
The graphs of the fastest lap show a significant improvement of the Mercedes both in the fast, where the gap from Max’s RB16B has been significantly reduced: at turn 4 there was a 7 km / h difference from Verstappen, while today the gap has been reduced less than half (3 km / h).
But things have also changed in the more driven sections where a clear supremacy of the W12 emerges in the fast transients where the fork from Red Bull has opened compared to the Styrian GP.
The second race at Spileberg, therefore, does not look like a copy GP, although it is right to make the tare to the performance of Verstappen who admitted to having suffered more than expected with the soft tires, a tire that will serve to conquer the pole, but not to qualify in Q2: you can pass the trap with the averages to start with the yellow at the start and then move on to the hard, carefully avoiding the reds.
In the race simulations Bottas was the most consistent followed by Verstappen, while Hamilton impressed in the flying lap, less so in the long run (he made a straight at turn 4 after a front lockout).
The game seems more open, but Lewis is sure that Red Bull has kept something aside that will be exploited when the time is right. If he’s right we’ll find out tomorrow …