Red Bull sacrificed grip for straight-line speed – Verstappen

2017 Australian Grand Prix

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Red Bull has tried to minimise its straight-line speed deficit with its car set-up, Max Verstappen has confirmed after the team fell short of pace-setters Mercedes and Ferrari in Melbourne.

Verstappen was the team’s top qualifier but lagged almost 1.3 seconds off the pole position time set by Lewis Hamilton.

Red Bull’s sub-par showing has prompted speculation the team’s competitiveness has been affected by the FIA’s recent rules clarification on suspension design. The outwardly conservative design of the RB13 was met with surprise from some.

Verstappen said the car’s lack of pace was “not just in power – we built a car that is efficient on the straights but it means we lose a bit of grip in cornering”.

He admitted it had been “a bit of a tough weekend in general”.

“I haven’t done as much running as I would have liked,” Verstappen explained. “Qualifying was pretty much the first time I managed to string some laps together uninterrupted.”

“This morning we didn’t have the balance and therefore couldn’t find the rhythm, so we tried a few things that unfortunately didn’t work how we would have liked.”

“Heading into qualifying we found some positives and built it up lap by lap, after that I kept improving, the balance got better and I managed to have a fairly good qualifying. The car is better balanced now but it is clear to see we still a have to gain a bit.”

Red Bull and Mercedes’ straight-line and cornering speeds

The graph below compares the minimum cornering speeds and maximum straight-line speeds achieved by Hamilton’s Mercedes on his pole position lap and Verstappen’s Red Bull on his quickest lap during Q2.

Red Bull have previously been able to count on superior cornering speeds, achieved through high levels of downforce, to counteract their less competitive straight-line speeds owing to the Renault engine’s lack of power. However in Melbourne they were lagging behind their rivals on both counts.

The only corner at which they were significantly quicker than Mercedes was turn 12. Like Ferrari, Red Bull were able to take this bend without lifting, which Hamilton did not do on his fastest lap.

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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16 comments on “Red Bull sacrificed grip for straight-line speed – Verstappen”

  1. I really like the apex and top speed chart. It’s very insightful and it really shows how much of a gap 1.3 seconds is, as Hamilton’s apex speeds were up to 20 kph faster. Apparently Hamilton straightened the car earlier in turn 12, thereby sacrificing some mid-corner speed to get on the throttle earlier, but maybe the Vettel/Verstappen method is faster.

    Albert Park is probably one of the worst tracks for a low-downforce configuration because it lacks long straights, so I expect Red Bull to be slightly more competitive in the next rounds, but not much. They have a lot of work to do to catch up.

    1. I’m not sure I agree on the low downforce suiting the circuit… I mean, there’s 6 parts of the track on the graph that shows the cars nudge at least 300kph. The corners are relatively flowing, and sure, that might be beneficial to more downforce, but when you’re going that fast that often, it can’t be a bad thing if you lack downforce.

      It’s also a reason the cars aren’t that much faster in laptime. The cars have more grip, but because of the high speed nature of the track, the cars are feeling the effects of drag much more.

      Downforce is really only needed in the final sector. Ferrari used it to great effect in the early 2000’s while they had a great car, as did red bull and their era. Downforce isn’t the be-all and end-all at this track, you can get away with a low downforce setup here.

  2. The only corner at which they were significantly quicker than Mercedes was turn 12. Like Ferrari, Red Bull were able to take this bend without lifting, which Hamilton did not do on his fastest lap.

    I think this is more to do with Hamilton making a mistake than the difference in the cars.

    It is pretty disappointing that even trying to make a low drag car, they’re still slower on the straights. How are they compared to the other Renault powered cars?

    1. I also thought it was to do with how Hamilton took T11 that effected his entry to T12. Though looking through the lap, he was braking earlier then usual to get on the power sooner, i suspect doing so on purpose to play to his cars strengths.

      I seem to recall Redbull at Monza a few years ago (2011 maybe?) going completely the opposite way on setup to the norm, instead of having skinny wings and going for top speeds, they played to their strength of down force and cornering speed, and still grabbed pole.

      Redbull at the moment it seems are trying to have their cake, and eat it.

  3. Wow, mercedes were slower through turn 12 (exiting the fast chicane), but STILL were faster down the following straight!
    Seems to me like it’s still primarily Renault holding them back!

    1. It also shows how similar they went on setup. The Red Bull is consistently slower in most parts of the track, which tells me they’re quite close in balancing speed and downforce.

      Unfortunately, it also means they’ll not be able to challenge them anywhere, which is where you might find benefits in going a different path like more or less downforce (to generate a speed delta at a part of the track). I guess it’ll help them defend though, but I don’t see that as a necessity given the gap behind them.

      Maybe next time they’ll take a different path at a track with different characteristics…

    2. @scottie not necessarily it could be relating to the usage of the ERS

      1. Good point

  4. Get ready ladies and gentlemen.
    1st Blame Renault
    2nd Cry to the media
    3rd Demand equal engines.
    Looks like that illegal suspension that was removed has had some negative effect.
    Well i guess the RB13 is just “unlucky for some”
    who would have thought it would be RBR themselves.

    1. I don’t think so. Red Bull/Renault were saying last year that they expected to be a bit behind at the start of the season as they wanted to focus on reliability with the new engine concept. I don’t think we’ll know until the first new engine, or even the second… Assuming everything’s continued on that plan, they’ve been suspiciously quiet really.

      1. Reliabilty ay? Somebody better tell em it aint workin.

  5. Is anyone else not particularly liking these new multiple split times from FOM? It’s just too much data, I end up watching it like windows installing updates, instead of watching the cars!!

    1. Lol, I kind of think they’re cool, but I’m experiencing the same as you. Unless it’s my imagination can we not now know quite quickly when a car hasn’t a chance for pole, giving one a feeling of redundancy? Of course there’s still the placing they do earn to be revealed, but…

      I think I’d like it to be there, as it is more info, and will just learn to not focus on it when it is a distraction, or when I’d like a bit more suspenseful an experience.

    2. Neil (@neilosjames)
      26th March 2017, 2:33

      I’m not a fan either… as you say, it drags attention away from the track. And as Robbie said, it gives too much away and removes a bit of suspense.

      It’s the sort of thing I’d like to see after key laps, not during them.

    3. I really like it despite distracting a little bit from looking at the cars. It is great to see it update online

  6. I don’t get this. It didn’t really show as being this bad in Barcelona? Especially the part about cornering, trackside watchers in Barcelona said it looked great in most corners. Odd situation.

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