We’ve all seen the stories, “Red Bull blast Renault”, “Blame Renault” etcetera and so on and so forth.
This narrative has gradually begun to fall foul of what we actually see in reality, yet prominent publications and journalists still churn it out like rehashed cornflakes.
Cut the Bull
Having taken the writer in question to task on this (impolitely at first it must be said, apologies Mr Hughes once again) insisting that Red Bull overtaking Mercedes and Ferrari on the longest straight on the calendar (China GP, with the amongst the longest 2 straights in F1) is pretty clear evidence of the engine being up to task. Or the Azerbaijan GP top speed of the weekend by Red Bull, circa 341.8kmh.
Clear unadulterated information that most people can utilise to see that Red Bull do indeed have a competitive engine. I will not argue Renault are the best, but for 2018 they are certainly comparable to Mercedes and Ferrari.
Then we get the same old tripe, and it is tripe, shoved into public domain for consumption by people who take the journalist on trust.
“Red Bull didn’t win in Azerbaijan because the engines weren’t good enough”
This invokes my ire, because it’s a fallacy, lazy journalism and takes the readership for less than what they deserve to be.
I asked the writer of the story and the explanations I got came down to “Red Bull cutting wing because their top speed needed to be higher, and this affected their ability to switch on the tyres”
Yet we did not see Red Bull do the same for China. This too was posited to the journalist. And the answer was a “generally accepted view that Renault were under-powered in relation to the front runners”.
It’s at this juncture details become important, when making sweeping statements that contradict what our very own eyes tells us.
GPS data allegedly correlates the view, with it’s 4 meter accuracy.
Yet Laser data from speed traps with its 99.7% accuracy is wilfully ignored.
No mention of the fact Ricciardo flew past 2 Ferrari’s and 2 Mercedes in China, Verstappen was well on his way to doing the same before tangling with Vettel.
The factors raised here are that Red Bull are generally carrying more drag than like for like opposition from Mercedes or Ferrari.
The high rake concept has a higher overall rate of efficiency, per point of drag gained. But that is at a constant speed.
F1 is not raced at constant speed, Braking turning and accelerating are inconsistent and when the Red Bull’s bum is raised up like it’s about to do a handstand, it’s costing them efficiency and pushing air like a barn door. This will have direct implications on Top speed and the time it takes to get there.
This leads me onto my next point, which is because of this, Red Bull will gear their ratios accordingly to the most likely speed they’ll use in each gear over the season. For instance, at Monaco it’s unlikely 8th gear will be used, but it is raced as rules dictate one set of ratios for the season.
So having higher drag, will automatically lead to conservative ratio choices, but if it does not, as we saw Red Bull in China and Azerbaijan, then we have to ask the question….
What have Red Bull done to get their top speed?
The journalist was effusive in his point about Renault being under-powered and that going into detailed minutiae was unnecessary.
I’ll fill the details in for you.
Red Bull may have a taller ratio set that can get higher top speeds in specific conditions. Following a marginally faster car in a straightline would get them a tow and the engine can then make lighter work of the ratio.
A good explanation to get the feel of this would be the tallest gear on your mountain bike would exact a lot of effort on a flat plain.
But the moment the gradient declined slightly you’d be able to pedal faster and pick up more speed until you reached your potential pedal limit(rev limit) or your energy output limit(HP).
Red Bull could be trying this and it’s clear that they have amongst the tallest final ratio on the pitlane. This is an incontrovertible fact.
Each team has had its share of following cars to get the benefit of drag reduction, but Red Bull wins out.
The question now becomes different, which is why would Red Bull do this when in situations of not following a car, you are hampering top speed by means of drag(rake) and gear ratios?
The answer is that it would be advantageous for Red Bull to do so. We’ve seen the results. China was not a mirage, as much as some sections of the F1 reporting media believe.
Red Bull’s crucial error
Cutting their wing to silly levels is what cost Red Bull in Azerbaijan. They could not turn on their tyres, and fell even to Renault in the first half of the race.
But the engine is a constant, and we know it was plenty good enough for China with the longest straight on the F1 calendar and another long straight thrown in for good measure.
Therefore, Red Bull shot themselves in the foot and found themselves cast adrift unable to follow because they were too greedy on the rear wing cutting, leaving them unable to switch on their tyres which amplified inherent problems every team has with set up. It happens. Just don’t go defecating on the hard working folk at Renault, especially when favouring a team with a very large “party” budget known to spoiling the media.
Again, I’m not suggesting Renault are equal to or better than Mercedes and Ferrari PU’s. I’m pointing out that the engine is not the differentiator and this lazy gumph needs qualification before being sold as gospel truth to the masses.
A sub 30hp deficit to Mercedes and Ferrari can be made up in a variety of ways, for instance tyres are a major area this year and probably the biggest area of gain.
One mistake on set up, and 30hp among over 1000 ponies is negligible. Less than 3%.
My final salvo (for now) puts the ridiculous accusations at Renault into perspective, Red Bull won 4 constructors titles and 4 drivers titles with an engine that had a more than 3% power deficit to Mercedes and Ferrari.
Makes you think, doesn’t it?