A qualifying session to say the least exhilarating to see, to analyze, which leaves with the flavor of the real Formula 1. This is what the track of Zandvoort he knew how to give on Saturday. We do not yet know what will happen in the race and if the difficulties of overtaking will dampen the enthusiasm a bit, but the discipline of the flying lap (and woe to abandon it) on the renewed Dutch track it was a mixture of car engineering and of driving technique which left us an extraordinary amount of ideas to analyze.
Mercedes behind a sumptuous Verstappen – Starting from the most important fight, the one for the world championship, the home idol did not betray expectations. The times when Verstappen under pressure could not produce the expected performance seem long gone and the Dutchman has literally dominated until the very end, when Hamilton once again showed some of his best qualities. RB16B number 33 goes on track with a practically perfect mechanical trim and with a level of downforce it seems superior to that of Mercedes, with a load index that from our calculations is even the 2.46% higher. Verstappen’s progression is unbelievable. Suffice it to say that the minimum speed in corner 3 for Verstappen was 119 km / h in Q1, before moving on to 132 km / h in Q3. But at the same time it can only leave admired the incredible ability of his rival, Lewis Hamilton, from learn from his mistakes and put immediately the information received on the track. Suffice it to say that, always keeping the very difficult curve 3 as a reference, in the first attempt of the Q3 Hamilton brought 125 km / h of minimum speed, in turn brought to 132 in the last attempt. Hamilton’s ability to convert their weaknesses along the lap, in real strengths on a par with his rivals at the moment in which it matters most remains a constant that over the years we have seen him do over and over again on many tracks in the world championship. However, it was not enough for the Englishman, albeit slightly, to be able to go and take pole from the home idol. Comparing directly data from Hamilton and Verstappen we can find further ideas.
You immediately see that the W12 has more speed in draw, but after the exit of turn 1 Verstappen immediately takes off. Max’s transition from turn 2 to turn 3 is irrepressible, and although Hamilton manages to equalize the minimum speed, the distance difference in turn 3 is all in Verstappen’s favor with a technique which is sometimes defined “V-Style”, As the Dutch brings a lot of input speed, use the brake a lot more and then try again lots of traction at the exit, forming a V both as a trajectory on the track and on the speed graph.
Verstappen has though a problem in the traction phase (we circled it in yellow in the full telemetry graph) as it incorrectly operates the shift lever when passing from fourth to sixth gear and skipping the fifth instead. This leads Red Bull to slightly lower acceleration in the second part of traction, but that still doesn’t stop Max from gaining over 130 thousandths on its rival only in this section.
In the central sector the performances are at times more similar, especially at the difficult turn 7, but they see a dominance again of Versappen in the curves 8 and 10, a sign that the car available to the Dutchman has a truly remarkable one among its main qualities stability when braking and when engaging. Verstappen’s speeds are superior despite the accelerator track you show a Hamilton who tries in every way to raise his foot as little as possible and to work on the gas as we have often seen him do in a profitable way. As in Spa, Hamilton’s driving technique does not seem to pay off in Zandvoort longer time which must pass with brake pedal pressed leads to lower cornering speeds.
The third sector, on the other hand, is all the prerogative of the seven-time world champion, who manages to express one perfect performance at turn 13 and then almost exploits the problem at Verstappen’s DRS. From the data in our possession, Max does everything as it should, by pressing the button on the DRS less than 2 tenths of a second from the moment it received the signal that the device was available at opening, but it is the mechanical system a not working properly, making the poleman drop off on the street 14 km / h and 134 thousandths compared to his previous lap in this section.
However, the two problems are not enough to stop Verstappen who will start from an important pole position tomorrow, even if he will be immediately chased by the two Mercedes. There departure it will certainly be a highlight of the race, with the whole course up to curve 3 with many possibilities and with the world championship at stake. How the cars will come out of turn 1 and then turn 3 and finally from the first lap will determine the strategic progress of the tender, although Max still needs a great race being back only against opponents. The performance of Perez it is honestly too far below expectations and if at the beginning of the year the conditions were excellent, the situation is starting to get particularly heavy despite the renewal.
Ferrari misses an opportunity – Behind the leading trio will not start a red, but the Alpha Tauri of one amazing Pierre Gasly. We had said that the track exalted the riders, and just as it was for the front row, it also applied to the other positions. Gasly gets a phenomenal ride, unlike Leclerc who leaves a few tenths on the road in more than one point of the track and loses his position. We compared the rounds of the two to find the most significant differences.
The first sector sees Gasly perform better in terms of top speed and as an extension to the entrance to the Hugenholtz complex (turn 2-3). Cornering 3 Leclerc is more effective of the French rival with a good 5 km / h of minimum speed more, but at the corner exit the rear of the SF21 breaks down slightly (area highlighted in yellow) and the advantage for the Monegasque in this section is only 43 thousandths which is not enough for him to obtain the best performance in the first part of the track.
Leclerc had been the first of the day to take full turn 7, in the first attempt of Q3, but fails to repeat the feat on the last lap, lifting his foot by 22% from the accelerator, unlike Gasly who (extraordinarily) runs it at full throttle at 264 km / h. Gasly’s advantage in turn 7 is however canceled by Leclerc with an excellent passage in the next corner, but in turns 9 and 10, where there is a need for a lot of stability of the rear, Leclerc pays a aerodynamic set-up too unbalanced towards the front, which forces the Monegasque to a conspicuous correction exiting from 10 (second area highlighted in yellow) which hand over the sector and at that point the position to Pierre Gasly. The Frenchman has a difficult time at Turn 13, but a bit of a bit in the final draw power missing from the Ferrari engine makes itself felt and there is no way for Leclerc to recover the gap and take the second row. It was predicted that the battle would be pulled, but with McLaren out of the game every position is fundamental in terms of third place in the world, so overall it is a shame for Leclerc not to have taken the position of “first of the others”, which the car probably would have deserved. But it must be said that Gasly’s lap was truly of a stellar level, while Leclerc’s best driving lap was in Q2, without the Monegasque being able to repeat himself in Q3. It must be said that the SF21 has proven itself again extremely sensitive with every slightest change in conditions, from temperature to track tires, and when a car is so changeable in performance, on a track as selective as Zandvoort, it is more difficult to find the maximum limit in the single lap. We will see at the start and then in the race if Leclerc will be able to quickly make up for what he was unable to bring home in qualifying.
Turn 7: the test of courage – It is not only Gasly who faced the very difficult turn 7 in full at the last attempt. Even the other Ferrari, that of Carlos Sainz according to our data it passed in the last attempt of Q3 with the accelerator fully depressed and without touching the brakes in that very difficult stretch of track. As far as we know, it is only Gasly and Sainz who succeeded in the feat of courage, with the Spaniard from Ferrari who paid for the mistake in free thirds, but who nonetheless demonstrates excellent driving skills, just 10 thousandths from Leclerc on a track where the rider we have seen makes a big difference.
As for the passage to turn 7 the others have more or less all raised their feet, with Leclerc as mentioned that despite the passage in full in the attempt before the last run he passes with 22% of the gas raised to 262 km / h, Verstappen with 26% at 263 and Hamilton with 20% at 264. Overall, however, all very similar in terms of speed, remembering that the possibility of passing in full obviously also derives from the top speed out of turn 6, which if too high it forces the pilot to slow down slightly more.
Before closing today’s long analysis there are 2 graphs showing another extraordinary feat of the qualification of Zandvoort: that of the seventh place just 60 thousandths from the Ferrari of Antonio Giovinazzi. Antonio was called to an important result, among the rumors of his possible exclusion from next year, the presence in the house of Kubica who could worry him and a complicated situation at the end of Q2 with the nut of the front right who did not want to know about unscrew. But the pilot from Puglia has found one extraordinary performance also in Q3, right on a track where the driver counts so much. Let’s look at the comparison between him and Verstappen in turns 3 and 7, the most selective of the track.
We see that at turn 3 Giovinazzi leaves only 27 thousandths to the poleman, and to turn 7, the one where you need the most courage of all, Giovinazzi goes on the brake because he comes out of turn 6 well 5 km / h faster than the Dutch, but then he has a perfect and fast turn 7, only 1 km / h slower than Max e even earns him 27 thousandths. We have exalted many young drivers for extraordinary feats, today the laurels Antonio deserves them all.
FP | Federico Albano
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