The Melbourne Legacy – Alberto Antonini

Melbourne, state of Victoria. Few words that perfectly describe a situation. If the first Grand Prix in Bahrain had highlighted Ferrari’s superiority, this time it was authentic supremacy (Saudi Arabia, from a performance standpoint, had been a substantial draw). At this point I believe and maintain that the Scuderia can only lose this world championship by itself. The qualities of the F1-75 were not enough, especially with Leclerc at the wheel, there are also serious limits of preparation / organization in his direct rivals. Limits that the Australian race has highlighted in full.

I don’t know if they can already risk comparisons with single-seaters of the past such as the F2002 and F2004, which in the respective years indicated by the initials had amazed their own designers at the first contact with the asphalt. Compared to those years, the simulation is much more advanced. This is why I believe that the ‘delta’, that is the difference between forecast estimates and reality, is much smaller today, precisely because these estimates are more precise. In any case, it makes no sense to say ‘we made a good car’ until you see what others have done. And the project sketched out three years ago by Simone Resta – remember that it was supposed to be the single-seater for 2021, before Covid – was developed and completed in an optimal way, both in terms of aerodynamics and in the performance of the Power Unit. You already know that I personally believe little in the matter of the resources set aside in recent years to allocate them all to the current season. Rather, I think that the road has been drawn in the right way from the very beginning. Look at Ferrari, Red Bull and Mercedes: these are three totally different aerodynamic concepts for the new generation of single-seaters. I really don’t think that in Maranello, but also in Milton Keynes and Brackley, they carried out parallel studies of radically different solutions (ie a W13-style Red or a Red Bull with Ferrari bellies) and then made comparative evaluations. The concept of the car is decided well in advance: so I am convinced that Ferrari had the best idea from the start. Mercedes is problematic for a number of reasons, mainly related to the aerodynamic concept. In Australia they haven’t done so badly, but I suspect they don’t quite know why (a bit like Ferrari when it hit a race last year). And this prevents consistent developments by ‘baptizing’ a precise direction. In F1 without a right car you don’t go anywhere: but people make cars; and just a year ago there Mercedes a major structural change began, involving the role of James Allison and other key characters. Perhaps the answer to the question ‘what happened to Mercedes?’ it’s right here.

When at Red Bull, two retirements out of three races for Verstappen are more than a warning signal. According to external analysts, the problem that stopped the RB18 in Australia appears to be related to cooling, that is, a concept of cooling that does not fully meet expectations. Those ‘dangerous correlations’ that were once thought to occur only in Italy. Gambit: is it possible that the set-up choices in the field, such as those of using more or less wing, also affect the internal flows and therefore the cooling? The double retirement of the first race, however, was linked to another problem, namely the fuel circuit. We await further confirmations, that is races, but the impression is that the precision and attention to detail typical of Adrian Newey’s staff are no longer at the level of the glorious years. Is it the fault of the budget cap, or rather of the need to become an engineer ‘on his own’ after the official release of Honda?

In any case, there is no doubt that competition from Ferrari has more problems at the moment than Ferrari itself. Of the next three races on the calendar, two will take place on ‘normal’ and well-known circuits, so we will see if the English teams will be able to recover their ability to adapt. In the meantime, however, even under the banner of the Cavallino, everything is not 100% (as always in this sport, after all). He has problems right now Carlos Sainz and they exploded dramatically over the Albert Park weekend. In qualifying Carlos was understandably unnerved by the lap canceled by a red flag that appeared when he was already at the finish line: but then he messed with the restart procedure – for some years, thanks to the MGU-K, the Reds have been in motion from the cockpit with a button, once the ignition mode was set – and the confusion spread to the whole team. On Sunday, at the start of the race, it was not only the hard compound tires that drove him to the bottom of the single-seater platoon. After more than a year in red, and despite devices such as the ‘McLaren-style’ clutch fitted to him, Carlitos still does not fully master the Ferrari starting procedure.

But they are easier problems to solve than those of the competition. And on this Ferrari must capitalize, as on the points scored so far by Leclerc and on a newfound harmony in the work in the pits. The important thing is to get one thing in mind: that the era of inferiority complexes is over. And that anyone can suffer, metaphorically speaking, from high blood pressure.

FP | Alberto Antonini


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