There rain expected eventually came and the Belgian Grand Prix qualifying did not deny show and sensational twists. The Spa-Francorchamps track, wonderful to drive, difficult to interpret and a harbinger of talent, has not betrayed expectations, especially under water. There pole position takes it, right on the last lap, Max Verstappen. His RedBull in several moments he gave the impression of being an extremely comfortable car on the wet track but the conditions were very difficult and constantly evolving and the key to the Dutchman’s result was to be able to get into perfect position on the track to go to cross the finish line last, after having done a great ride.
The surprise of the day, however, is certainly not Verstappen’s pole, but who will start next to him in the front row tomorrow: George Russell with her Williams. The Briton finds a performance that tastes good historical. On a legendary track on which high-sounding names have shown their value, with one of the slowest cars in the lot, in the pouring rain he touches the pole position. A real magic, a round of quality And courage, going to put himself in front of his majesty Lewis Hamilton who in the wet has often built businesses and taught everyone. A blow that Hamilton seemed not to fully digest and that will have some relevance as it seems increasingly likely that Russell will be his own. teammate next season.
We compared the telemetrycomplete of Russell’s lap with Hamilton’s to understand in detail where the Williams rider found this fantastic performance.
In first sector Russell builds a important advantage almost half a second, but you immediately see how this happens in three very precise points of the runway: to first detached, that of the Source Russell arrives faster and delays the braking a lot, unlike Hamilton who brakes much earlier and much more cautious. The limit found by Russell is enormously more effective. The perfect feeling of the young English driver can be seen again shortly after, with the great courage it takes to face theEau Rouge under the rain. Russell lifts his foot off the gas just up to 62%, unlike Hamilton who arrives at 55% accelerator. The result is that Russell transits on the legendary curve a 272 km / h against i 267 by Hamilton. In the long straight of the Kemmel Hamilton is very fast, proving that he is still quite a car download and with lots of power, coming to the 310 km / h against Russell’s 304. But thanks to this speed difference Russell manages to delay braking more later and, also in this case as in La Source, a decelerate faster of Hamilton gaining more meters and taking almost 5 tenths of an advantage.
The central sector is quite similar between the two except for the Pouhon curve, which already in the dry has remained the only point really challenger of the track, and in the wet it doubles its difficulty. And here too Russell works magic. We have collected the data of Eau Rouge and Pouhon between Verstappen, Hamilton and precisely Russell and we have put them in a single graph to give the idea.
As mentioned, Russell moves to Eau Rouge at 272 km / h against Verstappen’s 269 and Hamilton’s 267, and at Pouhon the numbers are shocking with Russell passing to 216 km / h well 12 km / h more than Verstappen and even 15 more than Hamilton. Thanks to this the time between Hamilton and Russell in the central sector has a gap of just under a tenth. Then, when you reach the last sector, the W12 number 44 is very fast again, a sign of a low set-up choice and a lot of power available, but despite the seven-time world champion he recovers almost 4 tenths in length he cannot climb over. Williams number 63 going to take an extraordinary one first row. Of course, the set-up of the Williams at times appears to be concentrated on the rain, both for the high load and for some reactions of the car that give confidence also from a mechanical point of view to the driver, but Russell’s achievement remains a record.
We also compared Verstappen’s lap with Hamilton’s to understand if there are significant differences between the two title contenders.
Once again the perception is one RedBull with more downforce although its profiles are visually very small, testifying to a bottom and a diffuser of the car that work exceptionally, providing downforce and balance, a perfect combination for the track at Spa. Verstappen then drives as always superbly under the rain, without errors, aggressive but effective. Compared to the Mercedes also RedBull is slower on the straight, with even significant differences in the third sector, so much so that in that stretch it is Hamilton who gains almost 1 tenth over Max. But Hamilton’s difficulties in some specific points of the track, such as the Source, Les Combes or the chicane before Pouhon make him leave many meters on the road and nothing can against the two young people who are in front of him. Looking at the telemetry graphs then, we notice how it is driving style of Hamilton is also similar to what we have seen him hold in other wet track situations, with extremely acceleration sweets, continuous metering of gas and braking, accelerator pedal always lightly pressed, short-shift in the last straight and long climbs to have a progressive driving, but this time it was not enough, compared to a more aggressive technique than its rivals and apparently, in this case at least, more effective.
Ferrari very bad on the intermediates and Leclerc disappoints – Bad, indeed very bad, the Ferrari. In some situations there was the impression that the SF21 worked better with the wet tires compared to the cars that preceded it, but the choice of a trim exhaust hoping for dryness it has not yet borne any fruit. If with a very wet track and full wet tires at least one of the two reds in Q3 would probably have had a place, with the intermediate the grip proved to be extremely low, the confidence of the pilots minimal and the result went accordingly. To be fair, we must say that today Charles Leclerc he was the only one of the new generation who was not really in the front. Before the frightening crash Norris gave the impression of fighting for pole position, Russell is in the front row with Verstappen, while Leclerc remained behind close to Sainz, giving the perception of a car that just did not want to work and conditions (the intermediate ones ) that obviously the Monegasque just don’t like it.
The race to be discovered – The race is obviously a big unknown. We talk about fluctuating weather with intermittent rain, and seeing the set-up of the cars it is very easy to imagine that we will see big differences in performance in favor of one or the other depending on the track conditions that will evolve during the race. Verstappen starts from the favored position, of course, but a lot will depend on the eventual rain even at the start, between trails and visibility. The premises therefore say that there will be fun.
FP | Federico Albano
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