Max Verstappen, Red Bull, Silverstone, 2019

How Silverstone signalled a breakthrough at Red Bull

2019 F1 season

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While Lewis Hamilton was denied a fifth consecutive pole position in front of his home crowd by a mere six-thousandths of a second, it was easy to overlook a potentially very significant lap time by Red Bull in Q3 at the British grand Prix.

Max Verstappen came within two tenths of a second of putting his RB15 on pole position. That was Red Bull’s best qualifying performance at Silverstone since their championship-winning days.

It came at a track which has exposed the team’s lack of outright power during much of the V6 hybrid turbo era so far. Coming two weeks after their victory at the Red Bull Ring, team principal Christian Horner considered this performance at the team’s ‘other’ home track another sign their collaboration with Honda is bearing fruit.

“It’s really encouraging to be this close to Mercedes around this type of track that we know is power-sensitive,” said Horner. “And to be able to follow the Ferraris as close as we’re able to through Maggotts, Becketts and Copse. Max was able to take some serious momentum behind the Ferraris there. That’s usually the sign of a pretty decent car.”

Red Bull’s season so far has had hallmarks of their 2017 campaign. In both cases their form initially appeared to suffer as a result of an off-season change in the aerodynamic regulations, but their subsequent development rate has impressed.

“I think the last couple of the last few races we’ve started to get some performance on the car,” Horner conceded, cagily.

“We’ve definitely unlocked some potential. The car has behaved very well at this circuit and high-speed, low-speed as well we’ve been competitive.”

The circumstances of the British Grand Prix weekend also masked some of the team’s performance, said Horner, referring to a minor power unit problem Verstappen experienced in qualifying.

“For Max to be as close to the pole time as he was, without the [engine] hesitations maybe he would have got even closer. And then in the race we didn’t see his true pace because he spend it stuck behind a Ferrari for 99 percent of it.”

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The reference to “hesitations” brings to mind Verstappen’s frustrations with the Renault engine last year. He suffered more from power delivery problems from the French V6 hybrid turbo than his team mate, which Horner put down to differences between his driving style and that of Daniel Ricciardo.

Now it seems improvements in the balance and grip of the car have allowed Verstappen to push harder, and in doing so has discovered new shortcomings in the Honda power unit. But Horner is confident they can be quickly resolved.

“I think it was just the speed at which Max is applying the throttle is something that hasn’t been seen before,” he said. “It’s the type of thing that I can think can be tidied up on a dyno.”

For Red Bull to be as strong as they were at Silverstone, a track which hasn’t flattered them in recent seasons, suggests they will be even stronger at upcoming tracks where outright engine performance is less vital.

“We’ve got confidence going to Hockenheim, following the performance here [at Silverstone],” said Horner. “This, after Monza, is one of the most power-sensitive circuits on the calendar. You’re flat-out on the lap here for pretty much the entirety of the Barcelona lap, or lap equivalent.

“So that’s encouraging for us, certainly for a circuit like Hockenheim which is less sensitive.”

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2019 F1 season

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15 comments on “How Silverstone signalled a breakthrough at Red Bull”

  1. Pretty funny that Verstappen is now able to use the throttle quicker into corners than Honda had imagined. Curious how that works.

    1. I find that intriguing, I would expect the throttle response on an F1 car to be instantaneous and surely faster than any human foot but I might be wrong. Probably some delay by design to avoid breaking traction? But then again that would be traction control! Maybe Horner just unintentionally spilled the beans here :D

      1. The power units are mapped to try and give optimal power delivery tailored to the circuit corner by corner

        Sometimes they underestimate what the drivers can manage, in this case they weren’t optimised for such early power delivery

        Alonso had an issue a while back confusing the software by taking a corner flat that they didn’t expect should be flat out

      2. Verstappen might not be human then ;-)

  2. It’s called mashing the throttle and is not generally a desirable characteristic, although it’s obviously working for him.

  3. It’s great that RB/Honda are finding so much more performance. I’d love to see Max and Lewis and Levlerc fighting regularly.
    Still slightly suspicious though that they’re willing to accept penalties at some circuits later on and are thrashing and trashing their units. Looked a bit that way in Austria, but I realise I’m only speculating at this point.

    1. Paul, knowing they aren’t yet up there with Mercedes, while at the same time of course hoping to place as high as they can, I believe they are happy to make some aspect of this season an R&D one, not minding if they have to take a components penalty here or there as long as they are competitive and gaining momentum in that regard while working on reliability as always.

  4. Interesting that all those having a laugh at RBR’s decision to go with Honda have have not been proven right.

    I’m pleased that Honda has made good progress and that RBR’s decision was vindicated.

    The pressure must be really building on Renault now as they seem to be slipping to 4th best PU (if they weren’t already last year)

    1. I’d say Red Bull were still more competitive last year with the Renault than they are this year with the Honda. It is mainly due to the fact that Ferrarri have gifted a place or two at most races to Verstappen through poor strategy combined with the fact that Red Bull are running effectively a one car team.

      I think Honda have made some progress but lets not pretend there isn’t some huge caveats when talking up their performance. All the current evidence points to their engine reliability being woeful and the engines lasting less than half the 7 races they’re expected to run. As the engines are not running to the full distance that’s expected, Honda are also clearly running more power and lower reliability modes pushing HP development. The fact that 2 Renault engine cars are fighting for best of the rest and not any of the midfield running the other engine manufacturers power units also highlights the Renault engine is fairly competitive albeit it in a second tier with Honda.

      Until Honda race an engine for 7 races they’re still last in the rankings to me. The goal is to win championships for teams not the odd races where you throw an engine away knowing the penalty at the next race is of limited damage. At present the Honda method is okay for Red Bull as they’re not the top team and fighting for the championship but if they ever hope to get back to number one then reliability will become key and that will lose them too many points at present.

      1. All the current evidence points to their engine reliability being woeful

        its something you can “imagine” , but there is not a single piece of real world evidence for this remark. So if you really think you have some evidence please share it with the world.
        What we can see is a very reliable engine that is not running at full speed yet. Turning it up, as RBR requests will probably lead to failure anytime, but higher performance. Its a trade off.

        If they stay on the unreliability mode the current Renault engine is in, they will never catch Mercedes of Ferrari on pure power.

        1. I guess we will see by the end of the year what happens but at the moment it’s looking like they’ll use 5 or 6 engines at least. Obviously Renault have thrown engines at Hulkenberg and Ricciardo but Norris is still on 2 engines. Renault have had good F1 engines 1994-1997 and 2004-2007 and arguably 2009-2013. Honda’s last good F1 engine that was a race winner on performance was 1993 and possibly 1997 in the Jordan. History is not on Honda’s side here and I’d back Renault to come out on top eventually imo.

          I would say I didn’t laugh at Red Bull taking Honda engines though, I thought it was the only move they had left given their awful attitude. In my opinion they caused some of those Renault “reliability” issues with their packaging and use of other fuel and lubricants.

          1. Renault already proved this year again they do not need “other causes” for reliability issues. There are very capable to F#$# things up.
            Already Renault received penalty’s for using more engines. Several engines ended their life on track.
            On the other hand, Honda did not received a penalty and no engine failed until now. There reliability is excellent. And yes, of course accepting future penaltys and pushing the enigines more to the limit will result in additional engines. But they are trying to close the gap and it looks good!

  5. Very very exciting for us Max fans to hear. They seem on a great path at RBR/Honda. Onward and upward.

    1. @robbie It’s really good news for F1 in general if for the remainder of this season and next if we roughly get engine parity and have 3 teams ligitimately fighting for wins, rather than Mercedes racking up 75% of wins and Ferrari and RedBull splitting the other 25%. For this seson the title has been already decided though.

      With the 2021 rules I hope teams like Renault and McLaren can really get to that level as well with the midfield still being close amongst each other, but also a bit closer to the top teams. The entire midfield being a lap down every race prefents them from reaching an odd podium in an eventful race. Would be great if that were possible again.

      If, in addition to the gap between teams being smaller, cars can follow each other a little bit better and fight wheel to wheel for longer, we might be in for a very good era of F1 for the next decade.

  6. “Stuck behind a Ferrari for 99 percent of it”…. its racing, that sort of thing happens. A faster car is not enough if you cannot overtake.

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