SportF1How Red Bull's F1 diet helped Verstappen and pushed...

How Red Bull's F1 diet helped Verstappen and pushed Perez away

Max Verstappen’s road to his second Formula 1 title has been pretty smooth, but that’s not to say there haven’t been bumps in the road.

The current performance of the car and its driver, who in fact may already be mathematically champion at the next race in Singapore, makes it easy to forget the setbacks that marred the start of the season.

Indeed, at the beginning of the year it seemed that his chances of contending for the world championship were gone before it started, when a series of reliability problems allowed his main rival, Charles Leclerc, to take a considerable advantage in the drivers’ championship.

So much so that after leaving the Australian GP in April, Verstappen sounded defeated when he said he was no longer thinking about the World Cup because he saw Ferrari too far away.

Then, once Red Bull had finally gotten around the reliability of its RB18 , Verstappen continued to struggle with some features of the car that he didn’t like.

For its part, the weak front end of the RB 18 seemed to fit perfectly with what team-mate Sergio Pérez likes, and there was a phase, around the Monaco Grand Prix, in which it seemed that the Mexican would be even Red Bull’s leading contender for the title.

But as the F12022 season progressed, it became clear that both Red Bull Racing and Verstappen managed to find another gear, especially on Sundays.

While the Ferrari F1-75 still looks like a quicker car over a lap, the progress the RB18 has made with its tire degradation has been impressive.

And it is this factor that has played perfectly in favor of the team, allowing Verstappen not to lose ground on those occasions when he had to start further back on the grid.

But more importantly, to help give him the current championship lead, was the fact that he seemed to be increasingly comfortable with the way the RB18 was developing, which was also moving the car away from what he liked. to Perez.

That change has caused some people to say that the team developed the car in a direction that favored Verstappen.

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB18

However, the reality is that the car is more adapted to Verstappen simply because of its natural evolution to improve it, and more especially in the first moments of making the settings, something that was not available in the first weeks of the car’s life.

The real breakthrough for Verstappen was not an aerodynamic development or a bespoke set-up that helped him gain ground, but simply that as Red Bull shed weight on his car, the car simply began to perform as expected.

In the first place, losing almost all the excess weight that they had at the beginning of the course (there was talk of 10 kg of excess weight), automatically allowed a greater speed.

In Formula 1, it is said that every 10 kg of weight represents three tenths per lap, so with a quick calculation it is concluded that they won, just because of ‘the diet’, a couple of tenths.

But perhaps more important to Verstappen, a driver who prefers a more aggressive front end of the car, was the fact that shedding some extra weight allowed him to move the ballast.

Even a few extra pounds of weight shifted to the rear of the car would have been enough to eliminate a lazy front end, bringing the handling closer to what Verstappen prefers.

As he explained recently at Monza: “The car was very overweight, the extra weight was in the wrong place, so it understeered a lot more and was prone to locking up the front tyres.”

Red Bull technical director Pierre Wache explained that by opening up the freedom to be more aggressive with the setup, Verstappen was able to achieve what he wanted from the car.

“At the beginning of the season, we didn’t have the ability to move the weight, and it was part of the setup,” he said.

“But I think it’s all together and after finding performance at some point, and even though it’s a bit difficult to set up the car, the tide went in Max’s favour.

“I think he is capable of driving any car. Now we have to find a way to give Sergio a car to perform and compete.”

Red Bull seeks a solution for Pérez with its 2022 F1 car

Sergio Perez, Red Bull Racing RB18

While Verstappen is completely at ease in the RB18, there is work to be done at Red Bull to help Perez feel more comfortable.

Wache says the situation is easy to understand: Pérez is not as happy with his control of the car as he was earlier in the season. But the hard part is finding a solution that doesn’t make the car slower.

“The main factor is clearly the balance of the car and the confidence with the car, compared to earlier in the year when the car was a bit more balanced for him and a bit less for Max,” he said.

“And after the development potential that we put into the RB18 during the season, he moved away from that feeling. After finding a suitable set-up for him, it’s quite difficult to make him comfortable enough to beat or fight Max.”

In the end, Wache admits that the only way forward may be to sacrifice some recoverable lap time to make Perez happier.

“It’s always difficult when you’re trying to develop the car theoretically to gain performance, and then you’re stuck in terms of setup tools to rebalance it,” he lamented.

“So it means you’re going to have to drop the performance a little bit. To get the right counterbalance, the desired one, I would say you’re usually going to lose a little bit of performance to improve it. Not to say that it’s much, but it’s that kind of direction, yes.”

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