Beautiful, gorgeous Silverstone, fantastic race, heart-pounding the first round, accident or not. One of the first warm reflections that is spontaneous to make is that the understandable search for novelty, format algorithms and circuits to find you listen is income nothing can in front of the spectacle of the True Formula 1. Beyond the format of the weekend, on which we will reflect separately, the race (the real one, the long one) at Silverstone provided particularly interesting from the point of view of performance.
RedBull perhaps with a suboptimal set-up
The accident on the first lap between Lewis Hamilton is Max Verstappen, which saw the latter having the worst, eliminated from the race the only Red Bull capable of showing the potential pace of the car. Verstappen had started well and was defending himself in every way to resist the greater Mercedes speed in extension in the first lap. But seeing the development of the race some doubts about the set-up choices made in Milton Keynes remains. It is probably no coincidence that Dutch is a lot complained after the sprint qualifying for the regimen closed park which prevents changes in the car’s set-up after having covered the last laps of the short qualifying raising a lot of foot for a blistering very evident on the front. The two title contending stables had done it diametrically opposed choices for the weekend, with a Mercedes very download aerodynamically and a RedBull on the contrary, much more charged than the previous appointments. When there are so many sessions of free tests before the race we see that the teams tend to conform towards a optimum, while this time no one had the chance and everyone had to run practically with the set-up they were prepared in the factory or a little more. And here for Verstappen the risk of finding himself with a car he tended to overheat the medium tires were concrete, even if we will not have the counter-proof.
On the other side, Mercedes takes one home bombastic victory, both for how it has matured and for the 0 scored by RedBull on the English track. The updates they seemed to work and Hamilton’s pace in the finale was certainly indomitable. Bottas, however, has never had a better pace than Leclerc, only Hamilton has managed to push his W12 to the limit. Perez’s terrible weekend (and they are two in a row) completely negates the confrontation between the two title contending teams, but the fact that Verstappen was first and had won the sprint qualifying still means that on the track he most of all he had to help Mercedes, even if there was a performance advantage for the Brackley team it would have been minimum. The battle for the title will then in all likelihood continue on a tightrope, with each episode having a high specific weight.
Fantastic Ferrari with medium rubber
When Leclerc took the lead on the first lap the common thought was that very soon he would be attacked and passed by Hamilton easily, but lap after lap a situation began to emerge. quite different. Medium tire worked well on SF21, better than on any other car. Looking at the relative gap graph it is particularly evident.
In the first stint it is clear how Leclerc find a rhythm fastest of the whole group. Hamilton initially keeps pace, and gets very close again when the problems of “engine cut“(Ferrari’s management of the emergency is perfect both from a concrete point of view and from a psychological point of view to keep the driver calm, understandably worried), but he is in the final stint, from lap 23 onwards, the real Ferrari surprise. Hamilton does not keep up, Leclerc begins to stretch, reaching 2 and a half seconds with the Ferrari giving the full impression of have more. Leclerc can in fact comfortably wait for lap 29 for his pit without any lossof performance (the red line never tends to bend downwards but, on the contrary, points more and more upwards).
When Hamilton stops in the pits he has to serve the penalty and ends up behind Norris and his teammate Bottas. But the rhythm of the British from here on is of a whole other level. Up hard rubber there W12 number 44 seems to come to life. Compared to the rest of the group, Leclerc’s pace remains excellent, it is that of Hamilton that becomes irrepressible. It can be seen as the Hamilton line points upwards practically for the entire stint with one slope that no one else on the track has, not even his teammate, who in fact has a pace that is never so superior to Leclerc as to worry him. Leclerc does what he can with one masterful competition to say the least, driven for all laps, opportunistic at the beginning, very fast, able to manage the tires perfectly, without ever a smudge, apart from the snap when Hamilton overtook which, however, would not have been decisive given the difference step between the two cars at that time.
The comparison between the averages of stints of the riders easily shows how extraordinary Leclerc is managing the tire and the gap in the first half of the race, but nothing against Hamilton’s pace with hard rubber in the second stint. At the same time it also shows us how only the seven-time world champion has an unsustainable pace for Leclerc, unlike Bottas, for example, who is even slower in the second stint.
Try to understand how Ferrari “ignited” the SF21 in this way it is not easy, especially because from what one perceives everything is not so clear even in Maranello. The work but there is, and it is evident. The first improvement evident this year lies even before arriving on the track, with a red that is often already very good in the first sessions thanks to factory preparation, as opposed to the past seasons where the set-up revolutions during the weekend were the order of the day. This aspect had a positive effect on the British weekend, given the only free session available for teams before the Parc Fermé. Another important aspect is that the work has become fruitful. After the Paul Ricard disaster, the study sessions in Austria have led to a new understanding of tires, with an updated bottom and a package that is starting to perform optimally in some ranges.
Because Ferrari was doing so fast in the first stint
If it is true that Silverstone, like Paul Ricard, is a track front limited, it is equally true that at Paul Ricard, between temperatures and trim, Ferrari had the problem of not supplying enough energy in tires. At Silverstone, between high inflation pressures and the high temperature asphalt we ended up with the opposite problem, namely of do not over-energize the covers to avoid the famous blistering problems. Ferrari was therefore able to optimize its set-up relying on some characteristics that were married in natural way with the limits imposed by the conditions of the track. On the contrary Mercedes and RedBull had the problem of trying to somehow limit the amount of energy discharged on the tires. From here you can also guess the attempt to download a lot the car by Mercedes, he was born in Verstappen’s regret after realizing their load level was maybe too high the race. Of course the issue is not just aerodynamics, but also mechanics. In one of his streams, Nico Rosberg let slip that the Keystone of Mercedes’ understanding of Pirelli tires at the start of the cycle mechanical type, and that when they understood how to adjust the car from the point of view of the suspension package, anti-roll bars, differential and all the mechanical part of the suspension, the Brackley team did the leap in quality which allowed him to begin to dominate. And this explains how a car as aerodynamically unloaded as Hamilton’s W12 could still generate so much energy in the tire that it even generated blistering problems.
Switch to harder compound, Leclerc’s SF21 and Sainz’s SF21 continued to perform well anyway, but Hamilton no longer had the problem of tire overheating and found himself in his ideal condition, where, once the optimal window of use of the tires is centered, the repetition of fast laps enhances the performance of the tire in a virtuous circle unmatched (even for his teammate). This situation has brought to light the basic difference of the two cars, especially between power, aerodynamic efficiency and grip, which the whole tire issue had masked in the first stint.
The passage of Ferrari is however important, because it is really clear how the team’s work has taken over right direction and is leading to results more and more concrete, like a big puzzle of which you initially struggle to find each piece, but which appears more and more simple as you get closer to the end.
The praise of the pilots also from the point of view of aerodynamic balance are important, because it means that engineers can modulate the pressure center aerodynamics even on a track with different curves between them by radius and travel speed. In short, Ferrari has certainly reached an all-time low in 2020 but is coming out of that bad situation with a quality work. Finally the rule of unique mapping made the hybrid power, a sector in which Maranello excels, of that of the internal combustion engine as well as having placed at the first place ever for weight on performance the management of tires and various compounds. This is certainly a nice help for the Binotto team, given that the data and impressions are in fact that Ferrari has halved the cavalry disadvantage, but is not yet at the level of the competition.
The pilots, never forget them
Finally the pair of Ferrari drivers it really proves to high level and able to collaborate effectively. Leclerc ran a weekend at a stellar level, between concentration, coolness, speed, alertness, pace and tire management. Sainz had a series of unfortunate vicissitudes but from which he had emerged very well, and without the team’s pit stop mistake he could have tried to attack Norris’ fourth position in the race. There next race in Budapest it becomes therefore interesting. Warm conditions are expected, on an extremely winding track (nicknamed the Monaco without the guard rails), so on paper a track that could be very favorable to the red. Without forgetting that on a track of that type the big favorite should be RedBull, with a Max Verstappen we imagine he will arrive hungrier than ever. Of course Hamilton will not be watching for a world challenge that is (surprisingly, it must be admitted) more and more exciting.