With a new regulation still in its infancy, Formula 1 teams continue to search for the best way to extract the maximum speed possible from ground effect single-seaters.
While much of the grid has spent a lot of time trying to resolve porpoising issues, some teams have started to look elsewhere, realizing that their performance isn’t just about removing the effect of rebound.
One thing they are quickly discovering is that cars are especially sensitive if there is not a good balance of tire management on both axles.
Both Red Bull and Ferrari, for example, believe that the difference in performance between their cars at the Melbourne and Imola grands prix is down to the tyres.
In Australia, Ferrari put the F1-75 in the perfect window, and Red Bull – trying to protect the rears – ended up abusing the front tyres. This was one of the reasons why they couldn’t match the pace set by the Maranello team.
In Italy, however, the tables were turned between the two teams. Red Bull tuned their RB18 to perfection, while Ferrari failed and, in the sprint, Charles Leclerc was the driver who suffered the most graining on his front tyres.
Helmut Marko , adviser to Red Bull, explained: “We were quicker than Ferrari. We put the tires in the right window and our whole execution, including finding the correct balance of the car, was much better than in Australia.”
“The difference wasn’t that big. We were only one or two tenths faster in terms of pure pace. We just managed the tires better. What went wrong for us in Melbourne, happened to Ferrari this time [at Imola]. graining much earlier than us due to the balance of the car.
Williams performance boss Dave Robson believes that when teams show a big increase in speed in races, it’s probably because they’ve hit the nail on the head with tire temperatures.
“If you’re the car that has both axles in a good [temperature] window, and you can keep it in that window, then you’re going to find plenty of pace,” he said.
“Now we always have the same internal discussion: do we think that all the other teams can do that all the time or do we think that they are better than us in other aspects and that when we can do it and they can’t, we benefit? It’s very difficult to know.” .
“I think it changes from track to track, so it’s not always easy because that balance between the two axles is really important.
Ferrari said after the Imola weekend that it had to investigate why it failed to match Australia, but Maranello boss Mattia Binotto suggests his forecasts were not helped by difficult weather conditions, which limited laps on dry asphalt.
“I think in terms of tire management, if at any point we haven’t been strong enough, it’s been in the sprint race,” said Binotto.
“The reason is that we have very little time to set up the car. Only one session on Friday, which was in the wet, so [there was] very little data to collect and even for the drivers to do a long run.
“It is true that we had FP2 on Saturday morning, but the feeling is that we lacked experience this weekend coming into the sprint race, and Red Bull did a better job of that. We’ll review and understand why we couldn’t do as good a job.”
But if getting the tire balance right proves to be the key performance factor in the battle for glory in F1 2022, then it could be the case that the oscillations between teams can turn out to be quite dramatic throughout the race. campaign.
It also suggests, perhaps more significantly, that Red Bull ‘s return to form at Imola might mean nothing if they don’t get down to business and get it right in America this weekend.
As Marko already pointed out: “Miami is a completely different track and we don’t know anything about the asphalt there. The temperatures will also be very different. The game really starts again there.”