Has the Scuderia once again become entangled with its strategy? By really. Instead, she tried everything in hopes of beating a Red Bull she knew was faster.
A FAST FERRARI… SATURDAYS ONLY
The Scuderia’s hopes of victory at home, born after Charles Leclerc’s pole position, were therefore only an illusion. We can even say that the outcome of the Italian Grand Prix has confirmed a trend at work since Budapest: the Ferrari has lost its speed in the race, while remaining relatively fast in qualifying (from Austria, no more victory, but two pole positions), as confirmed by Mattia Binotto:
“From Hungary, Red Bull has the best car. Not on Saturday but in the race. Our tires degrade faster, our opponents have a better balance. We need to understand why.”
For Italian engineers, the problem is of an aerodynamic nature. The latest developments (the new flat bottom introduced in France) provided downforce in absolute terms, but they also upset the F1-75’s balance (which is why Carlos Sainz tested the old flat bottom on Friday to gather data). If the Italian single-seater has become more pointed over the races, the RB18 has gained in efficiency, in particular because its weight ‒ better distributed than at the start of the season ‒ has improved the balance of the car, which has become less under -vireuse according to Max Verstappen.
A NEW WAY OF RUNNING BETTER UNDERSTOOD BY RED BULL
However, with the current chassis, having the fastest car over a lap starting from pole no longer guarantees victory as before. Thanks to the new technical regulations, the cars generate less turbulence. The poleman is therefore no longer the only one to benefit from the advantage of “clean air”, devoid of disturbances. With the F1 2022, the competitors who started behind him can also drive fast without degrading their rubber. This paradigm shift, Red Bull seems to have understood it better than Ferrari by choosing to build a fast car in racing conditions rather than on a timed lap.
This difference in approach between Milton Keynes and Maranello was reflected in the way the two teams approached the Italian Grand Prix. Cavallino made a fin specifically for Monza (promoting straight-line speed), unlike Red Bull, who simply fitted the fin they used at Spa (while testing a cut-out version, which they didn’t ultimately not accepted). In total, the English team has only built three types of wing (low, medium and high downforce), compared to… six for Ferrari, which corrected its intermediate wing in Canada and produced a wing for its home event. . Trials and choices that have a cost…
With a slightly heavier spoiler, the RB18 was slower in a straight line than the F1-75. In reality, it only lost time in the straight sections without DRS ‒ because in the sections where it was activated, it was as fast as the Ferrari, proof that the Winged Bull’s DRS is more effective. But above all, the Red Bull degraded its tires less.
CONFIRMATION IN RACE
These trends were confirmed in the race. On lap five, Verstappen ‒ already second when he started seventh on the grid ‒ was only two seconds behind Leclerc, whose front left tire was already beginning to wear. His Ferrari was not in the same form as in qualifying… This is why the Italian strategists tried a different tactic, bringing in the Monegasque during the activation of the virtual safety car on the twelfth lap. Their idea? The ten seconds gained compared to a normal pitstop should allow their colt to stay ahead of Verstappen after the latter stopped. This is indeed what happened ‒ except that Hollandais, shod on fresher 13 lap tires, came back like an arrow on Leclerc, at the rate of half a second, even a full second, per lap.
With around 30 more laps to complete without pitting (in principle), fresher tires and less degradation, it was almost certain that Verstappen would overtake the No. 16 Ferrari before the end of the Grand Prix.
Therefore, the tacticians tried yet another thing. Giving up a race with just one stop (in any case complicated by the wear of the rubbers), they made Leclerc return twenty laps from the finish to equip him with soft rubbers. They hoped that with softer tires (than Verstappen’s mediums) and 7 loops cooler, Charles would catch up with Max… Except that even on new softs, the Ferrari was barely faster (one or two tenths, no more ) than a Red Bull equipped with old mediums. Whatever his hooves and the strategy deployed, the Prancing Horse was not galloping fast enough…
THE HORSE PREFERS THE QUALIFICATION, THE BULL THE RACE
Basically, the F1-75 is less aero-thin than the RB18: it produces a lot of load (which makes it fast on twisty circuits), but also proportionally a lot of drag. Conversely, the Red Bull can ‒ thanks to its aerodynamic finesse (its downforce/drag ratio) ‒ run with a heavier spoiler, which allows it to wear less rubber, but without wasting too much time in a straight line (thanks to a more efficient DRS). This is what allows it to compensate for a Honda V6 less powerful by about five horsepower than the transalpine block (according to estimates byAuto Motor and Sport):
“We have refined the car and we understand it well, analyzes Christian Horner. It is very effective on high-speed circuits, where you don’t need too much drag. Spa suited us well, and so did this circuit. We compromised our qualification a bit because we knew we were going to take a penalty [pour avoir installé un moteur neuf, NDLR], but it paid off. We were very fast and the tires were in good condition.
In the end, Verstappen added a fresh V6 to his engine fleet without it costing him the win (the fifth in a row). Who can now stop him?