The technical gallery of the Dutch GP (Red Bull)

The technical gallery of the Dutch GP (Red Bull)
F1, F1 Technique, Technique, F1 2022, Red Bull, Ferrari, Verstappen, Mercedes, Leclerc, Hamilton, Alpine

NOT A GRAIN OF SAND IN A CLOCKWORK ORANGE

In Hungary and Belgium, Max Verstappen won by starting from the middle of the grid (since the 10e and 14e rows respectively). But at home, in the orange dunes of Zandvoort, he won his fourth race in a row (a first in his career) by starting from pole position. His tenth success of the season, however, was not a walk in the park.

At first glance, his best time in qualifying is mainly due to an error by his rival Charles Leclerc, whose Ferrari was in principle superior on this type of winding track:

“At Spa we were dominant, but here it’s a bit more complicated and we’re all quite close, he explained on Saturday. We suffer a little more on the tracks that require a lot of downforce. But the RB18 is still a very fast car.”

In fact, the fact that Max completed a single lap in Q2 on worn tires while being only a tenth of a second behind Carlos Sainz and George Russell suggests that the RB18 was indeed a fast machine (Red Bull, like the other teams, is testing larger mirrors for next season at the request of the FIA, see image below). As our colleague Mark Hughes from The Raceonly an error in his preparation lap (where he lifted his foot a little too much to have a clear track) caused the temperature of his tires to drop and cost him a few tenths.

Despite everything, he took pole on Saturday, the fourth this year, just ahead of a Leclerc forced to overdrive to stay in the game. The next day, in the race, he got off to a good start to gradually pull away from the Ferrari of the Monegasque, who has been degrading his tires even more since then. the introduction of a new flat bottom in France. For once, the threat came instead from the Mercedes, fast and on a one-stop strategy ‒ the engineers at Brackley having understood, like their colleagues at Enstone, that the hard mix was going to work well in racing.

F1, F1 Technique, Technique, F1 2022, Red Bull, Ferrari, Verstappen, Mercedes, Leclerc, Hamilton, Alpine

MERCEDES’S HARD BET

After the first pitstop salvo (at 18e turn for Verstappen and around the 30e passage for the Silver Arrows), the Dutchman therefore occupied the lead of the race, but with mediums 12 loops old and still a stop to observe, while Hamilton and Russell rode faster than him with their hard nines and n We wouldn’t have to stop anymore… When he was informed of the lap times of Mercedes n° 63, the leader could not hide his surprise: “It’s pretty fast for tough guys…” At 47e lap, he was only 14 seconds ahead of Hamilton. In theory, at that time, he should have returned to the pits to change his tyres. He would have emerged 7 seconds behind the two Mercedes, of course, but fitted with fresh tyres.

Except that nothing went as planned. The activation of the virtual safety car following the immobilization of Yuki Tsunoda’s AlphaTauri has upended Mercedes’ plans. Verstappen thus took advantage of the VSC to observe his stop while keeping command. As a result, Brackley’s strategists had to give up their one-stop strategy and brought in the two cars to equip them with new intermediate tyres. At 49e passage, Hamilton was 15 seconds behind Verstappen and Russell 21 behind. Motivated and using a W13 that was definitely at ease on winding tracks (like in Hungary), the seven-time World Champion drove half a second faster than the Dutchman: probably not fast enough to close the gap in just 16 laps.

It was without counting a new twist. At 55e lap, the stoppage of the Alfa Romeo of Valtteri Bottas caused the safety car to enter the track two laps later. At 57e passage, the race management forced the drivers to take the pit lane, which made a possible pitstop very interesting… Here are the Red Bull and Mercedes strategists faced with a serious dilemma: stay on the track, but with tires worn, or losing positions but wearing new tyres?

F1, F1 Technique, Technique, F1 2022, Red Bull, Ferrari, Verstappen, Mercedes, Leclerc, Hamilton, Alpine

RED BULL, SUPERIOR WHATEVER THE SCENARIO

The Mercedes tacticians felt that their only chance of victory was to leave Hamilton on the track with a positional advantage (stopping to put on softs to pass a Verstappen who remained on the track was hypothetical, the W13 being roughly two tenths slower than the RB18).

For her part, Hannah Schmitz, Red Bull’s strategist, made the opposite choice: it was better than Verstappen losing a place but having the right tires to attack. Wearing soft shoes and taking advantage of an error by Hamilton (who selected on his steering wheel a bad engine world during the restart), the Dutchman immediately overtook the Mercedes n° 44 and sped towards his thirtieth victory in Formula 1.

Did Red Bull profit from Mercedes’ mistakes? Not only. Because it is likely that Verstappen would have won even without the intervention of the two “safety cars”. He would have returned around the 50e lap to put on soft tires and would have found himself about 5 seconds from Russell and 7 from Hamilton, 22 laps from the finish. His fresh tyres, which Pirelli says would have gone the distance, would have given him a two-second lap advantage for a couple of loops. It remains to be seen how the overtaking would have taken place… In any case, according to Red Bull’s calculations, the RB18 hit with the number 1 would have won with a lead of around fifteen seconds (a little less according to Mercedes’ estimates).

In short, whatever the scenario, the Red Bull team is a well-oiled machine, particularly when it comes to strategy. Even in the Dutch dunes, it did not suffer from the grains of sand which too often jam Mercedes and Ferrari machines.

F1, F1 Technique, Technique, F1 2022, Red Bull, Ferrari, Verstappen, Mercedes, Leclerc, Hamilton, Alpine

ALPINE: A LOW-COST BUT INTELLIGENT DEVELOPMENT

Stuck between two circuits requiring low downforce, Zandvoort was not rich in terms of developments. Alpine, one of the few teams to bring new features (along with Williams, Alfa Romeo and AlphaTauri), has thus mounted a “new” rear wing on the A522.

In reality, the Dutch specification combines the Hungaröring beam wing (which requires more downforce than Zandvoort) with the main plane used at Spa (which requires more finesse). A simple and economical solution which, combined with a good strategy, allowed Fernando Alonso and Esteban Ocon to both score points for the fifth Grand Prix in a row.

Stone by stone, Enstone is increasing its lead over McLaren in the provisional constructors’ ranking, in particular thanks to a sustained pace of development despite the ceiling on budgets.

F1, F1 Technique, Technique, F1 2022, Red Bull, Ferrari, Verstappen, Mercedes, Leclerc, Hamilton, Alpine, McLaren

McLAREN HURSES TO REDUCE DRAG

In Belgium, McLaren had introduced a number of new parts, some of which were intended to improve the overall performance of the MCL36 (and not just track specific).

So, as did their counterparts at Ferrari in Spain, the aerodynamicists at Woking lengthened the central “keel” installed inside the diffuser, as can be seen in the image above (compare the yellow arrows).

They also redesigned the front suspension arm fairing, to improve airflow and gain some downforce, while reducing drag.

F1, F1 Technique, Technique, F1 2022, Red Bull, Ferrari, Verstappen, Mercedes, Leclerc, Hamilton, Alpine, McLaren

Schematically, the single-seater of Lando Norris and Daniel Ricciardo suffers from two major weaknesses: excessive drag compared to the load generated (as we saw at Spa or Baku), and hyper-sensitivity to high temperatures, which disrupts exploitation of the rear tires (as we saw in Miami).

“I don’t think we have a particularly narrow operating range, Explain McLaren technical boss James Key. We manage to make the car work on most circuits. But we have a few weaknesses which tend to penalize it on certain tracks and help it on others.

“Surprisingly, straight-line speed is one of our two weak points. This is not a problem we had before, so we are trying to find the reason. Also, when track temperatures are high, cornering at low speeds is a problem for us.”

“To remedy this, there are short-term solutions, and deeper adjustments, that we can only make on next year’s car ‒ like revising the geometry of the rear suspension, for example.

If the simulation tools in Woking are outdated (the team still uses the Toyota wind tunnel in Cologne, which cannot simulate the behavior of F1 cars in corners), Key admits that his team made mistakes on the MCL36 project.

While the team had been on an upward slope since 2019, they failed to seize the opportunity created by the reset of the aerodynamic rules this season, unlike Alpine.

IN THE SAME SERIES

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