Ferrari against RedBull, Charles Leclerc against Max Verstappen, Carlos Sainz against Sergio Perez. We can consider these as the battles that will animate the top positions from now to the end of the 2022 Formula 1 world championship, while waiting for the return, albeit very complicated this year, of Mercedes, as also confirmed by Toto Wolff in Miami.
Behind the top teams, at the Miami International Autodrome an important confirmation came from Alfa Romeo, which continues to amaze with Valtteri Bottas, then Alpine and McLaren, with the latter recovering from the very disappointing initial races. Haas continues with ups and downs, while the teams that have most surprised negatively are Aston Martin and AlphaTauri.
Ferrari innovative in aerodynamics, Red Bull in mechanics
The pre-season testing sessions had already shown the excellence of the cars designed by Scuderia Ferrari and Red Bull, the only two teams to have fully understood their 2022 projects, unlike the world champion team. In this regard, it is curious to recall the words of James Allison, former Mercedes technical director, who before the start of the pre-season tests spoke of a risk “that one or two teams could completely miss the project”. Looking at these first five races and the gap between the W13 and the F1-75 and RB18, we could say that the Mercedes project certainly did not get it right.
Returning to the two top teams, their start to the season was rather linear in terms of performance and without major surprises, except for the problems encountered by Red Bull in Melbourne and those of Ferrari in Imola. The two cars were born from two completely different projects both in mechanical and aerodynamic terms, as explained by Piergiuseppe Donadoni and Giuliano Duchessa for formu1a.uno.
Red Bull has focused on reversing the suspension schemes we were used to. The RB18 uses the pull-rod at the front and a push-rod at the rear while Ferrari did not feel like taking the risk, even though the team also considered those suspension designs. The most important doubt was at the front, not a great strength of the previous cars and it is also for this reason that the decision was the most conservative one with the choice of the best known design, the push-rod.
From an aerodynamic point of view, Scuderia Ferrari was instead more innovative and courageous than the Anglo-Austrian team, as team principal Mattia Binotto had defined it during the presentation. At Maranello they focused heavily on the flows above the sidepods in the direction of the beam wing and the rear wing, as well as below the floor while Red Bull worked more on the flows passing above the floor, directed towards the diffuser and that interaction which exists with the flows passing through the Venturi tunnels.
From the Bahrain tests, Red Bull gained almost a second
From such different projects, one could not immediately expect conferences in the many pros and few cons of the two concepts. Red Bull was able to count right away on excellent aerodynamic efficiency, thanks to a low resistance carchassis, and on being able to run without porpoising, the now very famous aerodynamic bouncing, well known even to the less experienced fans. On the other hand, the Milton Keynes-based engineering department had made the choice not to focus too much winter resources on reducing the weight of their car.
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The RB18 therefore started the 2022 F1 pre-season very overweight, this caused him problems mainly with the front, due to a poorly optimized weight distribution but even more fundamental on the new generation cars which, as formu1a.uno points out, suffer chronic understeer to balance due to the new aerodynamic concept. The Anglo-Austrian car could thus find performance much more easily than Ferrari, not so much with aerodynamic updates, but for ‘slimming’ ones, which still need to work hard and with resources, but without any correlation problems for their operation.
So it was. The package introduced at Imola, which reduced the weight of the RB18 by 4 kg, allowed the engineers of the Anglo-Austrian team to open the setup window in an important way. Therefore, not only direct gains from weight loss, which can be estimated around two tenths of a second, but also indirect gains that have doubled that lap time gain. If we add to these the package introduced in the tests in Bahrain, for aerodynamic improvements, we arrive at an overall gain close to one second for Red Bull. This led to the overtaking in performance against a Ferrari that was able to count on more limited gains, achieved only by understanding the car, which were evaluated at 4 tenths by the Bahrain tests.
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