Before starting the analysis of the twentieth round of 2022 Formula 1 season, we should make some clarifications concerning the setups adopted by the teams before Parc Fermé. Ferrari have tried several alternatives. From a mechanical point of view they tested various balance setups, trying to go with a harder suspension. As for aerodynamics, an attempt was made to use a rear wing with a lower downforce configuration, in order to gain some speed on the straights.
The changes have created a harmful scenario in free practice. In view of the qualifying session, the Maranello technicians decided to go back and revert to the choices made by their direct rivals. Mercedes and Red Bull, on the contrary, immediately adopted a high load setup. The W13 was stronger due to the high altitude, as we have already explained in recent days. In fact, the efficiency counts less at the 4.304-kilometre Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez, even if just looking at the track map it would not seem like it.
In the first few laps, the two W13s managed to stay close to Max Verstappen’s Red Bull. From the pits Peter Bonnington informed his driver on the points where he was losing most to the Dutchman. Constant monitoring also from the point of view of the tires, in order to be able to lengthen the stint. At a strategic level, the Mercedes played a different card, namely the yellow tyre for the first stint.
In Red Bull and Ferrari, on the contrary, they chose the red (softs) to be able to have an advantage in terms of grip during the start. From the start to the first corner there are many meters, so having a good starting point to gain or hold the position is essential. But by choosing the mediums you could have a long-term advantage, as, of course, you could stop later.
Max, towards the twenty-second lap, began to suffer from graining on the front. In this regard, we recall that his set of Soft tires had been used for the last attempt during qualifying. The first to stop was Sergio Perez, in order to shuffle the cards and put the Mercedes pit wall in difficulty. The Mexican mounted the mediums and then oriented himself on a double stop strategy, but the Mercedes men did not react immediately, also because the Mexican suffered a slow pit stop.
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Max Verstappen stopped on lap twenty-six, as his red-banded Pirellis were finished. On the return lap he was very cautious so as not to scramble the compounds and overheat them. From the Mercedes garage they informed Lewis that the target was to stay out six more laps, in order to exploit the advantage given by the yellow compound.
At the twenty-ninth lap Charles Leclerc also returned to go to the mediums, as did Carlos Sainz. Mercedes then stopped Lewis Hamilton to avoid being overcut by Sergio Perez. With George Russell, on the other hand, they extended the stint in order to split the strategies. Ferrari perhaps could have also tried something alternative, but realistically the result would have been the same given the poor race pace.
When Max mounted the Mediums, the main idea was that he could not go with them until the end. In reality, the yellow band compound was very durable and the Dutchman managed to cross the finish line as was the case of Sergio Perez and the two Ferrari F1-75 cars.
Taking into consideration the graph of the total race pace, the scenario is more than emblematic. The image is created based on the average times for each drivers over the course of the race. Observing the data that emerge between the leading group, the two Ferrari cars were the slowest.
The problems for the Maranello team are obvious. Despite the study and the various set-up changes made in an attempt to balance the car, Ferrari has clearly missed the target. Quite the opposite of what proved to be the strength of F1-75 last week and on other occasions throughout the 2022 Formula 1 season.
Upstream of the race it remains very difficult to understand what went wrong this weekend. The poor result scored by the Italian side must undoubtedly be the result of different factors. It is very interesting, from this point of view, to carefully observe the data regarding degradation.
Although only Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc have the same compound in this comparison, the ideas that can be analyzed are different. On the medium, Mercedes suffered a clearly contained degradation, very similar to the value that the RB18 produced on the same compound in the second stint. With the Soft the RB18 performed better than the Italian car, even if the gap is not particularly high. With a full tank of fuel, Ferrari used the softer compound properly and was able to lengthen the stint by a few laps compared to Verstappen.
The wear highlighted on the Dutchman’s RB18 was very useful to the Red Bull engineers, as they were able to understand what to do in view of the second stint. Max had complained about the graining on the front, but in fact they realized that the degradation was very low, as the data also confirm.
For this reason they realized that the reaction was too fast compared to what was happening on the track. As soon as the compounds are removed from the cars, the Pirelli men carry out surveys to understand how much is left. What emerged from the analyzes was that the degradation was by no means high. Mindful of this, with the mediums, in Red Bull they decided to lengthen the stint, so as to be able to go all the way.
As mentioned in the second stint Max Verstappen suffered a degradation on the average equal to 0.020s / rev. A value in line with that of Lewis Hamilton in the opening stint. Lewis, with the Hard, suffered more degradation than the reigning world champion, with a softer one-step compound. Very unusual.
This confirms the impressive ability of the RB18 to take care of the tire. The delta between the values of Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc remained unchanged compared to the first part of the race. What was really missing, therefore, was Ferrari’s pace on the track.
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