Behind Mercedes there are two duels. In Hungary, Red Bull won against Ferrari, McLaren against Renault. Why is that? Leading German automobile magazine ‘Auto motor und sport’ illustrates that the weak points of Ferrari and Renault are very similar.
Just before the summer break, the question of all questions was: Has Red Bull caught up with Mercedes yet? If we start from pure speed, then Red Bull doesn’t lack much on Mercedes. At Hockenheim Mercedes lost his opponent by 0.346 seconds. But Max Verstappen did not drive an optimal lap. At the Hungaroring Verstappen was 0.018 seconds ahead of the silver arrows. Not everything went smoothly at Mercedes.
Although Verstappen caught up 18 points with Lewis Hamilton in the last four races, the Dutchman sees the picture soberly. After his defeat in Hungary, the Red Bull pilot took stock: “Mercedes had cooling problems in Austria. In Germany the conditions were treacherous, so that nobody could go to the limit. In Budapest Lewis and I drove full the whole time. Then you could see that Mercedes still has a superior car.”
Red Bull & McLaren with better all-rounder
For Red Bull the first half of the season nevertheless feels like a victory. The team from Milton Keynes started the season in third place, and twelve races later Ferrari finished as Mercedes hunter. One floor down at the top of the chasing field a similar picture emerges. Renault started the season with great vigour. But now McLaren is clearly the fourth power. The two duels are quite comparable. The respective loser fails because of his concept. That’s only fast on certain tracks. Red Bull and McLaren have the better all-rounder.
Ferrari needs a high proportion of straights to beat Red Bull. If you add a lot of curves with short radii like in Bahrain or Montreal, it’s perfect. Then Ferrari even becomes a danger for Mercedes. In qualifying, the power advantage is a real weapon. Almost the same formula can be applied to Renault. The less long the corners, the more straight the R.S.19 goes, the better the result compared to the McLaren. The last two race tracks confirmed the overall judgement. The Hungaroring was poison for Ferrari and Renault. Only 67 percent full load. A single straight with a length of 790 metres. 14 corners in quick succession, most with long radii. Hockenheim is divided. The first two sectors are perfect for Ferrari and Renault. In the Motodrom, the track profile is more like that of Budapest. Both Renault and Ferrari lose. In the last sector, not only the long corners fall on their heads. Because both cars are rarely perfectly balanced, the tyres suffer. Ferrari and Renault usually arrive with too hot tyres in the last corners and lose disproportionately much time there.
McLaren and Renault on the same level in Hockenheim
The difference between Hockenheim and Budapest is also noticeable in the downforce level. On the Hungaroring everything is screwed to the car that somehow brings contact pressure. Also at the expense of air resistance. Hockenheim is more on a par with the Red Bull Ring. Ferrari and Renault punish routes with maximum downforce. Ferrari, because in comparison to Mercedes and Red Bull there is no downforce. Renault, because the current breaks off when the front wheels are turned. Then the tail becomes restless. On the Hungaroring the front wheels are constantly smashed in.
The first sector of Hockenheim is about 1,730 meters long, contains two straights, a fast and a slow curve. Nevertheless Ferrari loses a tenth on Red Bull. The straights are not long enough. The exit Motodrom is the Red Bull over 10 km/h faster. McLaren is a breath faster than Renault in this passage. Short fast corners are good for both. The hour of the Ferrari beats in the second sector. Two thirds of the 1,690 meter long section consists of straights. Red Bull is only better in the sector time because Charles Leclerc did not compete in Q3. McLaren and Renault are again level. An intact Ferrari would have achieved the best time there according to the findings of the free practice session. In the Motodrom Red Bull makes up two tenths on Ferrari. Renault was able to hold its own against McLaren surprisingly well, which was also due to the fact that McLaren only had improvements for slow corners on the car at the Hungarian GP. Which was a big hit there as well. The Renault customer team beat the factory racing team in Budapest in all three sectors. Most clearly in the 2,050 metre long middle sector with its eight corners.
Ferrari and Renault at a standstill
Scuderia Ferrari only had a chance at the Hungaroring in the first sector. The tyres were still in the working window and the advantage of the home straight covers the disadvantages in the first three corners. Ferrari entered the qualifying lap with an advantage of 0.177 seconds. But already in the middle sector Red Bull compensates. And on the last 1,320 metres it was going to be bitter for Ferrari. In only three corners 0.339 seconds remain on the track. The Ferrari car falls into oversteer because the rear tyres are too hot. Renault, on the other hand, is beaten by McLaren in the middle sector. The difference is 0.428 seconds.
Ferrari and Renault have been working on their weaknesses since the start of the season. But somehow you get the impression that both are treading water, while at Red Bull and McLaren every upgrade seems to work. And when it’s only at the second attempt. Ferrari has upgraded the aerodynamics in three steps since the French GP. All with the aim of increasing downforce and thus improving tyre management, Renault almost launched a B version of the R.S.19 in Paul Ricard. “What unfortunately hasn’t been an icebreaker so far”, regrets Nico Hülkenberg. Team boss Cyril Abitbeoul has now ordered to understand the old upgrade before screwing the next one onto the car. The complaints of the Ferrari drivers in Hungary sounded like those of France. The Italian side’s Team Principal Mattia Binotto contradicts: “We know what we have to work on. The direction is right.