F1 | Reds from another world – Carlo Platella

That of Melbourne arises as Ferrari’s best performance in the last decade, certifying the F1-75 as an absolute reference point at the start of the season. A technical superiority that of the Scuderia di Maranello which will not necessarily be confirmed for all twenty remaining appointments, but the Red star at the other end of the globe appeared competitive in qualifying and consistent on the race pace. The gap on the only surviving Red Bull was over 20 seconds, net of a race in which the Safety Car neutralized the gap on two occasions.

The F1-75 turns out to be a car that manages to quickly warm up the tires while limiting wear over long distances, agile in slower corners where the mechanical grip at the rear and traction qualities emerge, as well as pushed by a power unit with torque delivery that guarantees prompt speed recovery in the draw phases. The main quality of the car conceived at Maranello in the last two seasons, however, is its flexibility. Mattia Binotto said it during the presentation phase: the Cavallino technicians paid attention to guaranteeing ample possibilities for adjustments and interventions on the mechanical and aerodynamic balance, to avoid having to deal with a single-seater forced to work within an excessively narrow window of parameters. Such quality proved invaluable in Melbourne, where the F1-75 responded well to the traditional set-up corrections made between free practice sessions. These include a progressive reduction in the car’s height from the ground during Friday practice, after the data collected on the track revealed how the new road surface of Albert Park was much less bumpy than in previous editions. From this point of view, the working methodology carried out by the team is also appreciable, with the front wing of the Red which on Friday was equipped with various sensors to monitor the variations in height from the ground, although a work of analysis in anticipation of future updates.

Ferrari did not even suffer from the elimination of the DRS zone on the draw line preceding turns 9-10, a change that potentially could have penalized the Red more in qualifying than the more aerodynamically efficient Red Bull. The inability to activate the movable rear wing also meant that the cars hit the straight with more downforce at the rear, accentuating the crushing to the ground and the aerodynamic rebound. The F1-75 proved to suffer more from porpoising than the RB18, which instead can run at minimum ground clearance, as evidenced by the continuous sliding against the ground at high speeds. The Scuderia in Melbourne therefore had to resort to compromise choices on the mechanical-aerodynamic set-up, which although they were not as deeply penalizing as those adopted by Mercedes, however, limited in part the maximum potential. The impression is therefore that Ferrari has further room for improvement on this front, which can be realized as soon as the aerodynamic updates in the development phase arrive. From this point of view, the current condition of technical superiority relieves the Scuderia from the pressures of competition, thus being able to allow the necessary time to calmly develop the innovations to be introduced into the car. However, a team that does not only work in terms of porpoising, as a new rear diffuser was also evaluated in Melbourne to improve aerodynamic efficiency.

In addition to the single lap performance, the F1-75 was also the car in Australia that best handled the widespread graining caused by the new low-grip asphalt. In addition to the intrinsic qualities of the car, the merits are recognized both at the level of the team and of the drivers capable of build on the experiences accumulated in the first half of 2021, when the SF21 often encountered front tire graining. In particular, the suspicion is that in the very first laps after the start and after the exit of the Safety Car, Leclerc deliberately adopted a conservative driving style so as not to excessively stress the tires before having them warmed up. On the contrary Verstappen in the initial stages remained in the wake of the Monegasque, but then suffered from excessive tire wear. At home Red Bull does not worry so much the gap remedied by Ferrari, as in a season of 23 Grands Prix it happens to see more marked differences than usual due to the configuration of the track or to a set-up that is not particularly effective. This was already seen in 2021 in the direct challenge with Mercedes, with large gaps, for example, inflicted on the Silver Arrows in Monaco or Austria. On the other hand, the poor reliability of the RBT power units is much more alarming. In Bahrain the two Red Bulls had priced in a draft pump malfunction apparently related to fuel volatility, while in Melbourne the official explanation given for Verstappen’s withdrawal is a leak from the external gasoline line. The impression is therefore of problems related more to the preparation and management of the power unit than to design defects, which Red Bull Powertrain’s new division has yet to learn to prevent. The RB18 in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia has shown that it can hold its own against the F1-75, but the retirements are allowing Ferrari to realize its current technical potential to the fullest, waiting to see how the updates will redefine the balance of power.

Mercedes it was again plagued by the chronic problems of the W13, summarized in the excessive aerodynamic resistance of the rear wing and in the recurrent porpoising, two critical issues not unrelated to each other. Lewis Hamilton complained about the lack of progress, but we will have to wait for the aerodynamic updates presumably coming in the next races. Meanwhile, the champions in charge aim to collect as much data as possible, with an increase in weight linked only to the accessory sensors estimated to be around 1.5 kg. For the Brackley team it will be essential to understand in detail the origin of the problems affecting the W13, like what Ferrari did in the now distant 2020. The study work proves to be crucial not only in terms of development for the season. current, but also to set the project for the 2023 car on solid foundations, which will start shortly. However, it is positive to see how the Silver Arrows were able to maintain a pace in the race not far from Red Bull, even with a car 7 tenths slower in qualifying.

McLaren continues its growth path by taking fourth place in the constructors’ standings, which was unheard of just three weeks ago after the defeat in Bahrain. The Woking team attributes much of the credit for Melbourne’s performance to the MCL36’s affinity with the Albert Park track, but in Australia there is also an aerodynamic update for McLaren on the outer appendages of the rear brake vents, in a crucial area for the correct operation of the bottom and the diffuser.
A closing note for Williams, able to conquer the first point of the season with a decidedly atypical strategy. The FW43 was far from the rest of the mid-group in qualifying, but in the race Alex Albon was able to stretch over his rivals after each restart while mounting used tires, highlighting Williams’ great docility on the tires at Albert Park. Even more than the result itself, it is positive to note that in Formula 1 of 2022, despite the traditional stratification of hierarchies, the certainties have collapsed on the team that from race to race is relegated to the bottom of the group.


FP | Carlo Platella


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