Analysis: RBR gamble on giving up pole to win the race

Red Bull Racing have become the master strategists in F1. It is rare they drop the ball under pressure and regularly make the right calls in the tightest of sports.

In the 2021 Abu Dhabi finale – under the safety car when Mercedes failed to pit Lewis – Red Bull Racing knew their only chance was to call Max in for fresh tyres. Mercedes froze in that moment thinking track position was more important. Their mistake was not realising if they had pitted Hamilton Red Bull would stay out.

The rest is history.

Only once this season have we seen RBR run a rear wing setting described by Ted Kravitz as a “barn door”. But they have more often competed with Ferrari for track position during qualifying by running a skinnier rear wing to improve straight line speed.

They can afford to do this as their car is kinder to the tyres than Ferrari’s.

Miami has 3 DRS zones and on the scant evidence to date, they will be powerful in the race.

In qualifying today, Ferrari surprisingly ran a lot more wing than Red Bull which was effective for qualifying, but RBR have gambled by giving up pole position their quicker race car will be able to take advantage of the DRS zones during the race.

Christian Horner explained to Sky F1 the few thousands of a second that sees his lead driver on row two were all part of the car setup strategy risk.

“We’ve got a very different race car to Ferrari tomorrow, they’re carrying a bit more down force, they’re quicker in some of the corners, we’re definitely going to be a bit easier through the corners but we’ll be much quicker on the straight tomorrow”.

The reason RBR settled on their car setup strategy is to do with track temperature. Tomorrow is set to be hotter than today and Ferrari have proven this year to be harder on their tyres than the team from Milton Keynes. Hotter temperatures mean cars with higher tyre degradation suffer even more.

The Ferrari choice to go with a higher down force package was their best chance to beat Red Bull in qualifying, but their higher tyre wear this year will now be exacerbated tomorrow.

Red Bull are gaming that the Ferrari decision will see their drivers needing an extra pit stop in the Miami searing heat. If so, Max or Sergio are now easily favourite to win the race.

Ferrari’s gamble is this circuit will deliver a safety car or two, and this will mitigate their higher tyre degradation problem.

To me I think Red Bull have called it right, but its good to see Ferrari trying buck the trend of them merely optimising their car and hoping for the best.

Sometimes it’s better to lose the battle to win the war, and in qualifying today Red Bull may have again demonstrated their ultimate F1 strategy superiority.

11 responses to “Analysis: RBR gamble on giving up pole to win the race

    • Well they lost and could’ve done Things different which may have given a different result = mistake.

    • JL, this is not a political forum where you have to talk to the crowd. Mercedes did not make a mistake in Abu Dhabi, they totally &@$@&$-@& Surely you can’t be that naive?

    • They did – and they lost. Had Lewis pitted he’d have been P2 on fresher tyres and Red Bull would have taken track position staying on old tyres.

  1. Yes,
    Red Bull is very good at race day strategy.
    They seldom beat themselves.
    But ‘working’ the race director is cheating and an unfortunate part of life.
    And Yes
    Red Bull cheated at Abu Dhabi.

    • Rubbish. Massi had repeatedly been told by the teams they didn’t want SC finishes

  2. I know the authors of different articles on this site but this one has mystified me.

    All season, Red Bull has been carrying a straight line speed advantage whereas Ferrari have had shorter gearing and more downforce.

    Bahrain, Max passed Charles on straight before DRS allowed the Ferrari past. He retired from second.
    Saudi, Max couldn’t get close to Charles until after the safety car following three cars retiring around same time. Only tyre warm up prevented Ferrari winning.
    Australia, Ferrari dominated with better tyre use. Max barely troubled the lead and retired from second.
    Imola, a wet/dry weekend fogged the results.

    Who knows, tomorrow may be a RBR victory, or Ferrari could dominate. From what drivers have said, there’s no grip off line so a pass could be hazardous. If both Ferraris navigate the first corners cleanly, Red Bull may not see which way Charles went.

    But putting more wing on a car normally aids tyre protection as the car slides less through corners.

    Ultimately, Ferrari to all intents and purposes is still running their car as it ran originally in the first tests in Barcelona. Most others have already brought significant updates. I’m fairly sure the Italian team is more than satisfied with their current speed irrespective of whatever flatulence Horner gushes

    • Well, less downforce delivered less tyre wear for RB today. It’s more complicated than more downforce stops slippage and tyre wear I’m afraid. Ferrari have in all but one race had higher tyre deg while running higher downforce.

  3. Unfortunately you are wrong, whatever mercedes did the
    f I a was going to do the opposite you just have to remember the interview with bernie Eccleston on the grid near the start of one of the racees, bernie was asked what does he think of a rookie ( Lewis Hamilton) on the verge of winning the championship in his first year, just search for bernies answer and you will see why Hamilton was not allowed to win his 8th championship.
    We race as one and the FIA never took that seriously.

    • so it was Bernie’s fault that Lewis drove into the gravel in china? And with this he himself threw away his championship!
      It was also Bernie who said to Mercedes last year, don’t bring in Lewis for fresh tires. Come on. Yes Bernie had a lot of fingers in the pie, but don’t make him more powerful than he actually is.

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