Ferrari is the cause of the stress disease that plagues the Red Bull RB18

F1 – Such a critical world start in Red Bull and Alpha Tauri they couldn’t expect it. One of the certainties on which the team of Milton Keynes – and partly the subsidiary from Faenza – had built a 2021 reliability was to be framed and handed down to posterity. There RB16B he had known very few setbacks. In the case of Max Verstappen the only zero in the ranking had arrived due to accidents or “external” problems: Baku, Silverstone And Monza situations in which the Dutchman had not scored points.

Now, after only three world championships, the balance on the issue of reliability is disastrous, tending towards dramatic. Considering the four pilots of the two teams equipped with power unit HRC, the potential arrivals were 12. Only 7. That is, about 58% of the total. The five retreats had to do with the propulsion unit or with the service components of the same.

Pierre Gasly’s AlphaTauri AT03 after the start of a fire due to a problem with the battery pack during the 2022 Bahrain GP

It was theAlphaTauri to open the great ball of engine failures. During the Bahrain GP Pierre Gasly’s AT03 has had a start of fire caused by a problem with the battery pack. An organ related to the turbo-hybrid engine that has already begun to raise an alarm on service components.

Remaining in the reality of Faenzafocusing on Jeddahit was the turn of Yuki Tsunoda deal with one power unit bizarre. After free practice he was left on foot by a hydraulic problem that re-emerged in the grid laps of the Grand Prix, forcing the Japanese to watch the event on TV.

In home Red Bull, as far as possible, the situation seems even worse. Also because, at every flat rate, the Ferrari from Charles Leclerc it becomes a farther and farther dot in the sky. In the event that opened the season of F1 2022, Verstappen And Perez they experienced the same movie ending. The protagonist of the thriller film was the area of ​​the complicated pumping and pressurization system of the mixture of the former Honda engine. The men of the novello Milton Keynes powertrains department they may have run into a problem stemming from not yet full understanding of E10 fuels.

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2022 Bahrain GP – The moment when Max Verstappen’s Red Bull RB18 goes silent

In the final stages of the Sakhir GP a vacuum occurred which did not allow the system to suck fuel to be conveyed to the power unit HRC. Basically, the cavitation effect occurred which consists in the formation of vapor zones within a fluid which then implode. This happens when fuel residues are “shot” on the walls of almost empty containers. The residual amount of remaining mixture increases in temperature because it is thinned out due to the forces involved when the car is on the track.

As the degrees increase we arrive at vaporization point which causes a block of steam in the pump from which a sudden, and in the case of Bahrain, fatal lowering of blood pressure. Which did not allow the pump to draw the liquid which in the meantime changed its state.

This evidence points directly to the new challenges offered by fuels E10 working at higher operating temperatures. From here a different cavitation point that found the British team unprepared. Difficulties thoroughly analyzed and, apparently, resolved because neither in Red Bull nor in AlphaTauri they have reviewed.

When the problems seemed to be fixed, a new one came. The difficulty encountered in Albert Park by car no. 1 once again depended on the fuel system. This time, however, to look for the cause you have to get out of the tank, that is where we find the suction, pressurization and fuel delivery pumps. This time the offending detail is an external element, attributable to the ducts that arrive or depart from those pumps.. Obviously it is under investigation and a more detailed analysis will be produced as soon as the power unit it will be in the factory.

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Front view of the Japanese powerplant (Honda RA620H) fitted to Austrian Red Bull Racing cars during the 2021 season.

A component not included in the V6 but still necessary for its operation. So, when it is claimed that the Japanese engine is exempt from liability, it is inaccurate. It must be understood why a very solid engine is now suffering. What has changed from one year to the next? E10 fuels are among the main suspects. In winter Helmut Marko he made it clear quite clearly: several horses had been lost and they were trying to recover them.

Perhaps the Anglo-Japanese engine engineers are squeezing more the engine in the search for performance, in an attempt to stem the excessive power that the engine Superfast from Maranello is demonstrating. We will not be able to know because confirmations to this effect will never come from the department powertrains.

It is very likely that the 10% share of ethanol has reshuffled the cards so as to create problems for all the service members of the engine unit.. There is a suspicion that the materials with which some pieces are built are suffering, which, at given temperatures, would exceed the normal stress threshold, leading to fatal breakage.

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Ferrari Power Unit 2022

But there is another element that could give a partial answer at the moment that the reigning runners-up are going through. With a new operational regulatory corpus Andrian Neweyas usual, he spared no effort. The RB18 is not a conventional car. Even with a quick and distracted observation, one can notice ingenious ideas and extreme solutions that require compromises to be realized. The way the components of Sakura’s V6 are allocated would be putting the system under the best conditions to function.

The single-seaters conceived by the genius of Stratford-upon-Avon often have contraindications: they are fragile. History tells it and it would be superfluous to recall the glaring examples. Clearly we are in the conjecture, there is no supporting evidence. But the trend is known and evident.

There is another risk that the Red Bull he is running: the RB18 is overweight. In abundant overweight. It is estimated that it exceeds the minimum mass limit set by the technical regulations by about ten kilograms. Here is that targeted slimming interventions are planned to give more handling to a car that struggles in direction changes, as well as in the thermal management of the compound as happened yesterday in the race.

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Red Bull RB18, Australian GP 2022

The package of update planned for Imola at this moment has the taste of risk: a further lightening of a machine, however complex, could aggravate the situation relating to reliability because the weight saving will also be achieved by more compacting the bodywork parts that insist around the power unit and auxiliary elements, the parties that have so far subtracted 36 points from the reigning world champion.

Honda, after announcing her disengagement, she partially retraced her steps. Support for the Red Bull and its engine department is guaranteed until 2025, when the regulatory freeze ends. But it is clear that this is more of the operational assistance needed to manage the transition than of development.

Still, Sakura wants to protect its intellectual property by making it safe from the aims of Volkswagen that many would like as a new partner of the team of Mateschitz from 2026. A not exactly crystalline situation which could partly affect the tightness of the engines whose “cure” appears slower than usual.

Clearly, the technical regulations of F1 allow you to act on the engines only for issues relating to reliability. And therefore this context is surmountable. But you have to understand how. And when. After three races the défaillance continue to emerge: the batteries, the water pump, the fuel pump and today the external ducts. Many, too many, are the elements involved in this difficult puzzle.

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Dutch Max Verstappen (Oracle Red Bull Racing) – in action during the Fp2 of the Australian GP 2022

The words of a bold man come to mind Helmut Marko who gloated over having stolen fifty or so engine engineers from the Mercedes. If a Brixworth have suffered the blow (and we will really understand it in a few weeks, when and if the W13 will have overcome the impasse), it does not seem that a Milton Keynes the contribution of this workforce and its relative know-how have brought factual benefits. The truth is that Red Bull is in trouble.

The struggle to the last meter in 2021 with the relative need to push on projects to be put in the attic and the balance of technical performance which stole precious hours of wind tunnel and tokens CFD they are making the “drinkers” out of breath in the run-up to one Ferrari almost perfect than in the definition of his F1-75 practically nothing was wrong. It is too early to say that the world championship is marked, we are only in the third race, but the trend is starting to become quite clear.


F1-Author: Diego Catalano @ diegocat1977

Photo: F1, Albert Fabrega, Oracle Red Bull Racing

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