In the space of two minutes the scenario of the protagonists of the 2021 World title race has changed drastically. After the red flag exposed due to the accident that happened to Lando Norris, the drivers had eight minutes to print the best possible performance, the time for two laps.
In the first lap Lewis Hamilton scored an overflowing time trial (2’01 “552) against Max Verstappen’s time of 2’02” 525. The impression was clear, namely that the leader of the World Championship had mortgaged the conquest of pole position number 102, but the variable ‘track’, a fundamental element today at Spa, further shuffled the cards.
When the drivers set off for the last lap, the track proved to be more performing, partly also due to the ‘clean’ trajectory of the drivers themselves with their passage. That little extra grip had a noticeable effect on the starting grid for the Belgian Grand Prix, because Max Verstappen correctly sniffed the air by pushing to the maximum and lowering his time to 1’59 “765, while Hamilton finished with the time trial of 2’00 ”099.
The bad news for Hamilton did not end there, because the surprising George Russell slipped into the margin of 0 ”334 remedied by Verstappen.
Tires too cold for Hamilton
“My first lap was very good – commented Lewis – but the general conditions today were very difficult for everyone. I tried to find as much grip as possible, but it was difficult throughout the session, and in the end I think third position is not bad ”.
To better explain why Hamilton was unable to improve his time more decisively on the last lap was Mercedes’ head of track operations, Andrew Shovlin. “We lowered the tire temperature too much in the cool-down lap, and we lost grip.”
Everything perfect at Red Bull. “Max made a small mistake in his first lap – explained Christian Horner – but in the second he was perfect. Now, however, we need to convert this pole into important points in tomorrow’s race, it seems that the weather could be similar to that of qualifying, and if that is the case we will have better visibility from the front. Plus we have a set of new intermediate tires available, and I think we are the only top team to be able to keep it ”.
Mercedes has focused on a drier track
Optimism is tangible in the Red Bull garage, but important indications have emerged at Mercedes that draw a different picture for tomorrow’s race.
“We always have a good car on the race pace – commented Wolff – and in this case the choices we made on the setup front are towards a drier track. If the weather is like today we will struggle a bit more, but if not, I think there is everything to do well ”.
An indication, that of Wolff, also confirmed by Shovlin. “It seems that a number of teams have chosen a setup geared towards wet track conditions in a more decisive way than we have, particularly in terms of the level of downforce. But despite this, our performance in the central sector was good as was the speed on the straight, so we are not unhappy with our set-up choices for tomorrow. But if we could choose, we would like at least a bit of a dry race ”.
The scenarios are therefore different, both in number and in technical choices. Red Bull will cheer for intense rain like the one that wet the seven kilometers of Spa today, Mercedes is hoping for a race with less extreme conditions, little water or dry conditions. Either way, the first thing Verstappen and Hamilton will do as soon as they wake up in the morning is look out the window …