Tuesday 29 June 2021

Formu1a.uno - Analysis: this is how Red Bull turned the World Championship upside down.

PHOTO CREDIT: Red Bull Content Pool
May 9, 2021: Spanish GP was the last Mercedes win with Lewis Hamilton. From then on, four consecutive victories for Red Bull: Monaco, Baku, Paul Ricard, and Austria 1.

The latter is “the most dominant of the year”, according to Red Bull Team Principal Christian Horner. Verstappen's advantage in the drivers' championship does not say everything because it is true but up to a certain point: in fact, it could have been higher. The Dutchman could have won in Bahrain and very calmly finished ahead in Baku.

Lewis apparently seems to be extracting maximum performance from what he has. A little. And while it is a merit, at the same time it is worrying because it doesn't seem enough. 

The Red Bull Ring is always an important benchmark. On a track like this, with three DRS zones, if you can keep your competitor out of these, it means you have more. And the RB16B actually had more all weekend. When Hamilton came into the pits for his second stop, which is useful to take the fastest lap and the extra point, his delay was nearly 18 seconds, a gap/space of two and a half tenths per lap. Real.

In just over a month, Red Bull overturned the world championships, with what is to be considered in all respects a decisive 'world' acceleration.

How? Thanks to some aerodynamic updates brought to the track in the last GPs, which also made it possible to fully exploit the potential of the Portimao package, and to the recovery in terms of power, thanks to the PU number 2 introduced in the French GP by Honda.  

But let's take a step back, analyzing how Spielberg's domination came about for a world championship that is to be divided so far into two parts. The first, of continuous growth for the Mercedes team coupled with too many difficulties for Red Bull. The second, after the Spanish GP, with the decisive increase in performance (especially in the race) of the RB16B associated with a W12 instead of more 'development'.

We started in Bahrain with the belief that Red Bull could finally oust Mercedes from the role of the undisputed queen of F1, dictated by dominated pre-season tests. At least partially, so it was, even if the victory of the Grand Prix went to Lewis Hamilton.

However, in Sahkir some critical issues had emerged with the Honda power unit, which we had already talked about. Vibration problems had in fact resulted in the replacement of some electronic components (battery and control unit) on the cars of Perez, Gasly, and Tsunoda as well as requiring a less aggressive use of the hybrid part of the Japanese unit, which caused the RB16B to lose performance.

This, coupled with the small leap forward made by Mercedes with its power unit at Imola, had opened a slight gap in engine performance between the German power unit and Honda. Well compensated in qualifying by better use of the tyres by the Anglo-Austrian car, unlike the W12.

Thanks to a more efficient diffuser, Red Bull are able to use the spoon wing already brought to the track in Baku (V2) at the Paul Ricard.

In Portimao, Red Bull arrives with an important package of updates, which sees the implementation of new flow diverters and adjustments to the bottom and to the diffuser; the desired results are not seen. The same goes for the following weekend, in Barcelona.

The performance of the W12, on the other hand,  continues to grow so much that in the Spanish GP we witness what was to be considered as a real performance overtaking.

The steps of the world champion team went through an intrinsic improvement of the car. An attempt was made to better understand the car and to find that correct balance between the front and rear axles, undermined by the 2021 regulatory innovations and, not least, by the abolition of the DAS which allowed the W11 to quickly have the front wheels up to temperature.

While Red Bull, more in place right from the start, was trying to get performance through updates that were not giving the expected performance improvements on the track.

In Spain, Red Bull Racing enters with a high-downforce rear wing to protect the rear tyres. However, the lack of horsepower of the Honda power unit does not allow him to keep it for qualifying and race. Too much time lost on the forehand against the W12s due to an underperforming PU compared to the Mercedes one and a high-rake set-up that intrinsically increases the aerodynamic resistance of the car.

From the FP3s, the engineers, therefore, decided to use a lighter, spoon-shaped wing on both RB16Bs, however, causing a crisis in the management of temperatures on the rear axle. Mercedes dominates.

Between Monte Carlo and Baku, Red Bull has worked hard on updating its front wing. In the illustration, the specification at the beginning of the year (Old Spec) was compared with the one brought to the track in Azerbaijan (New Spec).

However, in the following GPs, the turning point arrives: two updates to the front wings, brought between Monaco and Baku, coupled with a novelty to the diffuser (only partial in Monaco, complete only in Styria), allow Red Bull to find a lot of 'efficient' downforce at the rear, opening that window of operation and setup that was the real weakness of the RB16B compared to the W12.

The novelties to the diffuser brought to the track by Red Bull between Monte Carlo and the Styrian GP concern the outter profile. First only partially, then along the entire length, having a sawtooth profile, according to the engineers of the Anglo-Austrian team, allows increasing the efficiency of use of the rake set-up.
News used immediately by Max Verstappen while Checo Perez is granted only in subsequent GPs if evaluated positively in terms of costs/benefits since the budget cap issue is anything but simple to manage.

Thus, while Mercedes is forced to use the rears more, adding drag to the W12, Red Bull manages to enter the French GP weekend with a rather minimal spoon wing, finding an optimal 'balance' for minimizing tyre problems on a very complicated track, especially on race day.

Over the weekend were Honda, thanks to the introduction of its second power unit, solved those annoying problems that had limited its performance for 5 Grand Prix.

From the GPS data, the engine performance of the RB16B returned to that of Bahrain, slightly ahead of Mercedes. Ferrari followed, with Renault closing the engine performance ranking to date. All grouped in 25 horsepower, no more, according to what was collected.

The (small) advantage of PU alone does not justify the important advantage in the straights of the RB16B. In between there is also the greater aerodynamic efficiency, which allows Red Bull to be able to use much less 'draggy' rear wings.

Returning to the horsepower increase of Honda power unit 2, according to Red Bull the step forward is to be found in the new oil specification that ExxonMobil has brought to the track: “We have new oil, so I think Exxon should take all the credit for the steps forward Lewis indicated. From the point of view of the engines, they are homologated, and the second unit is the same specification as the first ”.

We remind you that engineers are allowed to make changes to their power units to solve reliability problems.

All this while Mercedes is reaching its 'maximum' understanding of the W12, a car that has now been praised in terms of performance.

Lewis Hamilton understood this too. Hence his important outburst in the post-Styrian Grand Prix: "Red Bull continues to make improvements and it is clear that it has made many in recent races. It is currently impossible for us to keep up with them. Even in the long runs, they are better. They continue to make fast laps one after the other and on the straight, we lose a lot." claimed the seven-time world champion.

The Low Rake set-up used by Mercedes and Aston Martin was penalized the most by the 2021 regulatory changes.
He then continued, getting to the point: "We need updates of some kind, I don't know where, rear wing, engine or any other component, but we certainly have to make up for the ground we have lost".

An appeal to the 'wind' as Mercedes are already fully oriented towards 2022 and no major update is expected in the next Grand Prix, but only minor aerodynamic updates and in terms of exploitation of the power unit.

We await a few more GPs, but the road seems to be drawn. Tyres permitting.

Author: Piergiuseppe Donadoni

Co-author: Giuliano Duchessa

Illustrations: Rosario Giuliana

Original Story Link: https://www.formu1a.uno/analisi-ecco-come-red-bull-ha-ribaltato-i-mondiali/

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