At the starting line of the 2022 Formula 1 season, Scuderia Ferrari, Red Bull and Mercedes showed up with three different cars based on three profoundly different aerodynamic concepts, enhancing the creativity allowed by a new technical regulation that forced all the teams to start from a blank sheet . Although during the championship the various updates have helped to improve the single-seaters, by solving some of the critical points, some elements have remained almost constant throughout the world championship.
To get a more complete picture, we compared the data from three appointments with three types of corners with different characteristics to analyze the behavior of the three single-seaters and understand which elements the engineers may have worked on in anticipation of the 2023 cars. From the twisty third sector of Barcelona that enhances the mechanical and insertion qualities, up to the medium-fast sequence of Austin where the load and overall stability count, passing through the fast Parabolica of Monza.
The third sector of Barcelona: Ferrari the fastest in the slow corners
Over the years, the Barcelona track has earned a reputation as a real testing ground for the teams, especially for the third sector, the slower one which still remains a very indicative section to get an idea of the mechanic and balance characteristics of a single-seater. For this reason, Motorsport Italy has selected it as one of the points of comparison between the three teams that have dominated the championship, in an attempt to understand their strengths and weaknesses in the first phase of the season in which the first updates had already been introduced.
As explained by F1 expert Gianluca D’Alessandro, from a lap time point of view, Ferrari made that sector time one of its true strengths, managing to obtain the best times of the entire qualifying with both drivers, demonstrating an overall balance in the short-run corners up to the point of being able to impose itself as landmark.
At that moment in the championship, the qualities of the F1-75 in terms of traction and front-end precision managed to make the difference, allowing Charles Leclerc to take pole position with almost three tenths of an advantage over his rivals. For the Ferrari, that appointment represented one of the key moments of the championship: on the one hand it was an excellent weekend in terms of performance, but on the other the Maranello team had to contend with the issue of reliability, betrayed by a single-seater as fast as fragile.
These aspects also stand out from the telemetric comparison starting from turn ten, a medium-low mileage section modified in 2021 with a more streamlined profile, where the agility and precision of the front of the Maranello car allowed the Monegasque to be able to exploit a better line and getting back on the accelerator early. On the contrary, Red Bull failed to be as incisive, due to weight and balance problems which forced Max Verstappen to follow a wider line to contain understeer, an aspect of which the reigning world champion had complained on several occasions already in the first months of the 2022 season.
The same behavior can also be observed in turn 13, another very slow section that prepares for the last chicane. Paying attention to the telemetric data, it emerges that in reality the Dutchman had managed to slightly mend the margin by bringing more speed on the track, but also in this case it was above all a question of lines.
Show your support for Scuderia Ferrari with official merchandise collection! Click here to enter the F1 online Store and shop securely! And also get your F1 tickets for every race with VIP hospitality and unparalleled insider access. Click here for the best offers to support Charles and Carlos from the track!
Charles Leclerc attempted to follow a more internal and slower trajectory to better position the car for the next change of direction, while the Red Bull driver adopted a softer approach, letting the car slide even at the cost of sacrificing entry into the chicane.
For the Monegasque, that was a decisive moment, making the most of the qualities of an F1-75 challenger which, at that time of the season, was capable of establishing itself as the best by exploiting excellent mechanical traction, a good overall balance, a lighter single-seater and lots of downforce.
The Mercedes weekend was more complex: the German side showed up in Barcelona with one of the first updates packages to defeat porpoising. The goal was not only to find precious time in terms of performance, thus being able to lower the car towards the ground, but also to understand if the changes made could confirm if the direction chosen was the correct one, thanks to the great work of updating the CFD to recreate more accurate models of the oscillatory phenomenon.
Those corrections helped to change some aspects of the W13, but other weak points of its nature remained clearly visible, such as the performance in slow corners, where it had suffered since the opening round of the championship.
Added to this were also the problems in managing the operating window of the tires on the flying lap, the main weaknesses of the Brackley team for most of the 2022 Formula One season. In terms of timing, in fact, in that area Mercedes also had to succumb to Haas and Alfa Romeo, teams that shared some strengths with Ferrari. The greatest difficulties were highlighted in the slowest sections of the track, such as the sequence 13-14-15, where the W13 lost about 6 km/h as compared to the F1-75.
Parabolica (Monza): Red Bull dominates
The second element of this comparison could not fail to be an extremely fast section like the Parabolica of Monza, as it helps to highlight some characteristics of the single-seaters which have remained almost constant throughout the year.
In front of its public, all eyes were focused on the most eagerly awaited Ferrari. Even if the characteristics of the Brianza circuit played more in favor of Red Bull, the home appointment is always full of emotions and, at least on the flying lap, the Red Bull did not disappoint.
It was undoubtedly a strange Saturday, due to the numerous penalties that sent many top drivers to the back of the grid, but it was still an exciting qualifying, uncertain right up to the end.
In an attempt to counter the high top speeds of the RB18, the Maranello team showed up with the low-load package set aside two weeks earlier in Belgium, but which would find its best expression precisely in the “Temple of speed” scenario.
A choice that helped to defend, if not dominate, on the long straights, but which led to a few too many difficulties in the corners, where Red Bull managed to prevail easily. Saturday in Monza was a bit of a reflection of the season. When Ferrari was forced to have to give up something in terms of downforce compared to its rivals, the risk was that of compromising behavior in the corners, especially on fast tracks.
In contrast, the Milton Keynes team took a different approach. Even knowing that there would have been the risk of losing something on the straights, a more loaded setup was chosen than the rivals, which ensured better cornering performance and more careful tire management in the race.
To explain this concept, it is interesting to refer back to the Parabolica, where Max Verstappen was able to impose his seal by bringing greater speed into insertion with a more decisive braking, and then maintaining it on the road until he reached a minimum speed about 8km/h faster than that of the F1-75.
While the Dutchman could push on entry knowing that he had an overall stable car that would allow him to get back on the accelerator without major problems, Charles Leclerc chose a different approach, slowing down more in the first phase and then accelerating back on the gas. Two different interpretations, but which let us understand how in this type of situation the RB18 guaranteed a good margin of maneuver for its drivers.
Similarly, Mercedes also had to deal with an extremely low set-up in an attempt to remedy one of the car’s two major weaknesses, the lack of speed on the straights.
In fact, excessive drag has often forced the German team to make compromises. On high-load circuits, the possibility of using wings with greater downforce helped to enhance some characteristics of the W13, especially when cornering, but when this characteristic was missing, the German single-seater often exposed all its problems both in slow sections and fast ones. That was also the case in Monza, where the W13 was unable to keep up with her rivals.
Austin’s “big snake”: between precision and stability
Like Barcelona, the Austin track is also considered to be one of the most complete, thanks to an excellent mix of characteristics that incorporate some of the most famous sections of other tracks on the calendar. One of the most interesting combinations is the fast sequence of the first sector, a mixture of medium-speed corners which require great aerodynamic stability and a car that can react quickly when changing direction.
The uneven asphalt full of bumps adds another element of complexity, forcing not only the teams to lift the car slightly off the ground, but also the drivers to find the right compromise in managing the tyres. Bringing the front tires up to temperature on the preparation lap without overheating the rear ones proved to be a particularly difficult task in 2022 and the big snake in Austin showed it clearly, with profoundly different approaches.
On that weekend, the Maranello team focused on a high-downforce set-up that paid off in both the first and third sectors, but paying the price compared to Red Bull on the long straights where greater aerodynamic efficiency was required.
And it was precisely in the first split that Ferrari prevailed in terms of timing, scoring the two best sectors of the entire session with almost a tenth of an advantage over their rivals. As had already happened in Suzuka a few weeks earlier in a very similar context, the F1-75 also proved to be extremely fast and effective in that kind of corner in the United States, managing to carry a lot of speed along the track without forced lines.
An aspect that can also be appreciated from the telemetry comparison, in which it can be seen how Carlos Sainz, the poleman of the day, was able to maintain a more linear and constant trend, even in the use of the accelerator. On the contrary, in some points Verstappen followed more aggressive trajectories, narrowing the curb in the hope of having a car ready for the recall in the next corner, such as between six and seven, where the Spaniard from Ferrari managed to bring 6 km/h of more speed.
Lewis Hamilton did not go beyond the fifth time, with a Mercedes that on the dry lap confirmed once again to be “there in the middle”: too far away to worry the other top teams but fast enough to take shelter from the teams in the middle of the standings. However, the large package of updates helped to reduce the gap from Ferrari and Red Bull, providing a significant weight saving that helped change the nature of the single-seater, under the guise distantly related to the one that at the beginning of the season had had to deal with the porpoising.
But the changing wind conditions, the progressive lowering of asphalt temperatures and a strategy that did not give the desired results in the tire warm-up phase, put the W13 on the defensive. Although the US track went well with some of the single-seater’s characteristics, as demonstrated on Sunday as well, others amplified the weak points of a car that struggled to express itself at its best on Saturday, especially in the first part of the snake.
A look into the future
The first year of the new technical cycle has now come to an end, with a long series of data that has allowed the teams to understand the characteristics of the respective single-seaters, from the strengths to those on which to work.
At Ferrari, the revision process that has already begun during 2022 will continue in an attempt to find more inspiration on straights, thus expanding the window of aerodynamic configurations without having to sacrifice cornering speed, especially on faster tracks.
During the past year, the Maranello team had tried to intervene on this aspect by working above all on the wings, with new solutions that could guarantee something more when DRS was open. However, it is clear that work will also be done on other areas on the new car, especially on the floor. The hope is that these interventions add up to better reliability also on the Power Unit side, an aspect that could guarantee some additional horsepower compared to the most critical phases of the last championship.
Not even Red Bull should revolutionize its single-seater, finding itself an already very competitive base that has allowed it to win both the drivers’ and constructors’ titles. Instead, it will be interesting to discover the new Mercedes, which in 2022 worked hard to try to fully understand its W13, not only in terms of aerodynamic concept, but also on a mechanical level, bringing updates up to a few races from the end of the world championship. It will be a key year for the Brackley team, above all to understand if the chosen direction is the right one.
Leave a Reply