Formula 1 2021 continues amaze. The wet track and difficult conditions were the Lewis Hamilton’s domain until recently. Indeed, until the first attempt in Q3 in today’s qualifying. After years of absolute perfection, of always grasped opportunities, of situations that from unfavorable suddenly became favorable, the reigning constructors and drivers champions they keep making mistakesheavy. With an intermediate tire Hamilton walked with more than half a second advantage over all. The new cars are at their limit on dry tires, and Mercedes’ advantage in running the tires that was enormous two years ago has now been virtually wiped out by the competition (at least by Red Bull). But when it turns 10 seconds slower of the car’s potential, Mercedes and Lewis Hamilton continue to be the best in operating wet tires. It seemed like a script already written, with yet another Lewis pole in the pocket of the seven-time world champion up to mid-Q3, but then everything changed suddenly. Hamilton can no longer be so perfect as he used to be and, after having mistakenly insisted on delaying the switch to slicks, he ends up sensationally and awkwardly on the wall in the pit lane. And for the second time in a row on a wet or at least “wet” qualifying is beaten incredibly from his future teammate, George Russell, on Williams. Russell will start third, with another feat on the dry lap and with the merit of having understood first that the track would be faster on dry tires.
In front of him, in the front row, one McLaren it’s a Ferrari with a stronger and stronger Lando Norris it’s a fantastic Carlos Sainz. Lando we have already praised him other times, he is expressing a very high driving level and, this year, with great continuity. He is a driver that McLaren can really do build a future. Sainz made a exceptional work. The SF21 (like before it the SF1000, the SF90 and so on until at least 2017) makes one enormous effort to make the wet compounds. Some progress has been made in Maranello, but the problem is still not resolved at all. But Spanish is a wrestler and, despite the difficulty, he manages to get to Q3, which is not at all obvious. Back on the soft dry tire Sainz makes a beautiful lap, suffering mainly two things: the straight-line performance (which remains a flaw of the red even in conditions of non-optimal grip) and having been the first to cross the finish line. We compared the lap of the first two, Sainz and Norris to realize the main differences.
Norris vs Sainz – On the main straight the acceleration curve is very similar between Ferrari and McLaren, with the impression that McLaren has something more like couple, but that Sainz came out very well from the last corner and with a perfect tire temperature. The passage of curve 3 see acceleration curves today much more similar between them than what we saw in free practice, a sign that the teams have finally opted for dry trim (and who were still aggressive in the differential calibrations despite the wet track). In the first two sectors the Spaniard of the red literally does a magic, gaining in every corner and suffering the return of Norris in the extensions blameless. The posterior instability of the SF21 makes you suffer at the corner exit, but Sainz finds a great deal compromise between power oversteer and traction efficacy (we are allowed the joke but it seems that the father’s genes have reached the son) and manages to resist well up to the rear straight. Here Norris’ McLaren gives a real tear, with 8 km / h of speed in more extension and about 3 tenths gained. In the last sector, however, the track is much more humid and every passage of the car dries and tires the asphalt much more in percentage than the first part of the track. The result is that at curves 14 and especially 16 the SF21 number 55 has two very large ones oversteer snap, which cost almost half a second on the stopwatch. In fact Sainz has, unwittingly drifting, dried and rubberized the track for Norris coming up behind him. The passage of the Englishman in that section is clean and practically perfect and pole goes to McLaren number 4.
To give the impression of how much difference there was on the straight with the very fast cars, despite the wet track, we compared Sainz’s rear straight with those of Norris and Russell and the gap it is truly remarkable.
The fastest ever as top speed is George Russell that comes to touch 303 km / h. After him Norris comes to 296 while Sainz stops at alone288 km / h, 15 km / h slower than Russell. Over 4 tenths earned by Russell on the Ferrari and over 3 by Norris, an important gap, also because both Russell and Norris had come out of turn 10 almost 10 km / h slower of the SF21 number 55 (testifying to Sainz’s great tour).
The race could be dry and the pace shown by Ferrari looked good, certainly at the level of McLaren and superior to Williams. For Sainz, the troubles could come at the start and if you get to the chapter overtaking, whether they are to be carried out or from which to defend yourself. There lack of speed on the straight can weigh in the melee, but if the Spaniard can have a clean start and impose his pace, he will be able to bet at least on the podium. We can foresee a great battle with Norris, with a McLaren that, after the one-two at Monza, seemed to go very well on the Russian track as well. Behind the first 3 Lewis Hamilton will try from the start a earn positions and then to go on to win the race, trying to exploit the technical advantage shown by the W12 in dry conditions compared to all the competition. Given the morphology of the track it will not be easy for Hamilton.
Leclerc observed special – From the bottom Verstappen and Leclerc will enliven the race with their comeback attempt. The Dutchman needs to go back to the points area to limit the damage, the Monegasque will be very interesting to observe: the new Power Unit, renewed in the hybrid part, could show some interesting ideas just in the overtaking phase, with modalities of hybrid energy discharge more thrust than we have seen so far. The Sochi track is certainly not exceptional, but this edition of the Russian Grand Prix offers an important number of topics of interest on the eve. Finally, although it may be a statistical note or a little more, one cannot fail to value how they were 3 young drivers, of the latest generation to return in the first 3 places on the grid 3 historic houses of Formula 1 as McLaren, Ferrari And Williams. It is so beautiful when history embraces the new generations.
FP | Federico Albano
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