Friday practice can reveal a lot about the form of any given team and free practice two says a lot about a teams race pace as teams simulate long runs on real fuel loads expected on Sunday.
Today’s free practice 2 saw a split in strategy for the weekend in which we might see Red Bull Racing nearer to the sharp end than previously thought, some even say there could be a potential win on the cards, in a similar vein to last year.
TJ13 has recently written that Red Bull saw Adrian Newey’s RB15 has a ‘duffer’, in other words a car whose chassis is not up to the usual supposed high standard.
The Chinese Grand Prix 2018 saw both Red Bull’s qualify poorly due to the lower engine power of Renault, but the Red Bull chassis was incredibly kind to its tyres enabling both drivers to challenge once an early safety car allowed both cars to pit for fresh rubber on an alternative strategy. Of course, Daniel Ricciardo came out on top when Max Verstappen took himself out of contention after falling off the circuit trying to pass Hamilton, then colliding with Vettel, damaging both cars in the process.
This year Chinese Grand Prix, we see Red Bull demonstrate some serious long run pace despite the lack of power from Honda compared to Ferrari and Mercedes. In fact, Honda appears to be near on a par with Mercedes on the straights whereas Ferrari are hugely faster than everyone. Their competitors are not wholly convinced this is purely down to engine power either, with Red Bull’s Helmut Marko claiming an 8 tenths advantage for Ferrari on the straights alone.
Engineers within the paddock, that wish to remain anonymous, don’t understand what Ferrari are doing at all: “It can’t be just the engine. Maybe Ferrari has a clever suspension trick to lower the car on the straights and reduce drag.” whispers one such engineer.
And yet, it seems that despite Ferrari dominating on the straights (as expected) they are lost at sea in the corners. It appears that Ferrari might well be running incredibly low downforce which might explain why the slow Ferrari in Melbourne. Once tyres slip in the twisty sections, tyre performance disappears.
TJ13 has collected it’s data from FP2 and puts Mercedes just ahead on race pace with Ferrari qualifying simulations at the very top. Red Bull are thereabouts on race pace, but slower in qualifying.
Ferrari’s Leclerc will certainly be looking to regain some pace after oil pressure issues prevented a lot of running today.
TJ13’s data suggests that we might possibly see for the first time a three-way fight for the win between Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull. Passing is possible and tyre management is critical, Shanghai a known Pirelli eater on Sunday.
Qualifying simulation data suggest that we might even see Ferrari claim the front row, but lose out on Sunday, causing a possible three-way train.
Further, Mercedes could find that their World Champion driver Lewis Hamilton off the boil somewhat, as the British driver complained during the sessions of a car out of balance and clearly not in a happy place. Never a good sign for the ‘Hamfosi’ when that occurs.
It has since been revealed that Mercedes new front wing the team ran during the sessions has been deemed illegal by the FIA and race scrutineers, forcing the German marque into changing their setup again tomorrow. This could possibly put both Hamilton and Bottas on the back foot somewhat.
When you consider this scenario, along with Ferrari’s troubles in the corners, Red Bull might well pull off a shock win in China with Max Verstappen. The far stronger driver of the team as newcomer Pierre Gasly continues to disappoint after his promotion to the senior team from Toro Rosso.
Why is Red Bull so strong again?
Team boss Christian Horner reveals: “We found the mistake during the tests in Bahrain. The strong wind there intensified some of our weak points, but also hit us with the nose into the real problems.”
“We were fast [in China]. We didn’t have any problems on any tyre type,” confirms Marko
It seems, at least in China, that the RB15 reacts logically to setup changes. Red Bull has found a basic set-up that can be further developed and fine-tuned over the weekend. For the first time this season the RB15 didn’t have to be rebuilt much between practice sessions.
There’s much hope for the Dutch this weekend so long as Verstappen can learn from his mistakes of 2018.
MORE F1 – Saturday Quali…
Brought to you by TheJudge13 contributor Mattpt55
Ambient 20° Track 36° Humidity 48.5% Wind 1.08 m/s
The heavy haze of industrial life hung like a blanket over the paddock as the cost of China’s economic expansion made itself painfully visible. Less so was the sudden tailwind in FP3 into the final corner which first sent Vettel wide, spoiling what would’ve been a significantly faster lap than his posted time and then Alex Albon into a tank slapper that ended rather abruptly (and expensively) in the outside barrier. That put paid to the last minutes of the session, spoiling fast laps by, amongst others, both HAAS runners.
Hamilton had managed to spoil his fast lap all on his own, with a mistake that caused him to abandon his first run and then go again on tyres that were well past their prime. In fact, of the frontrunners, only Bottas and Leclerc managed to improve on their second, late session runs. Make of that what you will.
Also to make of, the fact that after replacing the Control Electronics in both Ferraris and HAAS cars, Vettel still spent a nice chunk of time with the nose of his car off and something vaguely electrical being examined. Renault turned up with new… CONTINUE READING
Chinese Grand Prix coverage
The next race in China is happening this weekend, starting on Friday free-practice. One of the easiest ways of watching is to use the new F1 TV pro (learn more).
After a shaky start in 2018, it seems that the streaming service has got it’s act together better and it’s something this Judge can now recommend.
Friday 12th April 2019
Chinese Grand Prix Free Practice 1: 10:00-11:30 (UK time: 3:00-4:30)
Chinese Grand Prix Free Practice 2: 14:00-15:30 (UK time: 7:00-8:30)
Saturday 13th April 2019
Chinese Grand Prix Free Practice 3: 11:00-12:00 (UK time: 4:00-5:00)
Chinese Grand Prix Qualifying: 14:00 (UK time: 7:00)
Sunday 14th April 2019
Chinese Grand Prix: 14:10 (UK time: 7:10)