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F1 | Red Bull Racing's speculation over Mercedes' rear wing continues

Red Bull Racing must be desperate to figure out what caused Mercedes' straight line speed. Was it simply the power of a new engine; a clever rear wing design or something else?  They are running out of time to find the answer.

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F1 | Red Bull Racing's speculation over Mercedes' rear wing continues
Fuente imagen: f1.com

Sir Lewis Hamilton in his W12 was a force to be reckoned with last weekend in Brazil, whilst channeling the spirit of Ayrton Senna around Interlagos. Despite a disqualification and engine penalty in Sao Paulo, Hamilton was the victor of a gripping Grand Prix. There is no debating the fact that the pace of the W12 was too much for the rest of the grid to handle. As such, with just three races of the season remaining, Red Bull Racing is surely desperate to figure out what is causing such a deficit on the straights. Is it simply the power of a new engine; a clever rear wing design or something else?  

Having achieved a lead over Red Bull Racing of 0.438 seconds in Friday’s qualifying for Saturday’s Sprint, the pace of Mercedes was already evident. Already a huge deficit for Red Bull Racing who were no doubt anxious that the Silver Arrows had made a dramatic breakthrough as the season draws to a close. Despite all the well publicised struggles and sanctions encountered by Lewis Hamilton in Brazil, the British racer crossed the line on Sunday with a 10.4 second lead over the current leader of the F1 Drivers’ Championship - Max Verstappen.

Auto Motor und Sport’s motorsport correspondent Michael Schmidt analysed the performance of the straight-line speed of Mercedes’ W12. In the sprint, Hamilton was a staggering 21.7 km/h faster through the measuring point at the end of the home straight. In the main race, the difference was 15.2 km/h. In the first sector and in the third sector (the two straights of the track) both sections went to Hamilton. Sector 1 with 18.281 to Verstappen’s 18.643 seconds and then Sector 3 with 16.396 to the Dutchman’s 16.744 seconds.

Before looking at the opposition, Red Bull Racing’s Technical Director Adrian Newey has explained that their rivals’ pace forced them to have slightly less downforce than planned. This  coupled with a more aggressive driving style by both Red Bull drivers, in the middle section of the track, led to far hotter tyres than the team wanted.

Such an outcome does make a lot of sense to explain the speed difference as Mercedes have already said that better traction from Corners 3 and 12 ( the corners in front of the straights) resulted in a quicker pace.

Nevertheless, there is still the lingering claims from the Red Bull Racing camp that there is something else at play. This was demonstrated by the sight over the weekend of Adrian Newey and Chief Engineer Paul Monaghan heading to the office of FIA Technical Director Nikolas Tombazis with heaps of paperwork as they sought to get a clarification on Mercedes’ rear wing. The key point here is that it is not a protest just merely a clarification request. Over at Mercedes, Team Principal Toto Wolff is adamant that there is nothing to be found.

So, what is giving Red Bull Racing cause for concern?

Apparently (or rather, allegedly) a part of the Mercedes’ rear wing is formed in a downward manner which means the rear wing gap is more than allowed. It is done in such a way that it cannot be seen unless you know where to look.

Max Verstappen was handed a €50,000 fine for touching and examining Lewis Hamilton's rear wing in Parc Ferme after qualifying in Brazil. This in turn has led people to speculate that Verstappen was made aware of this suspicion and did know where to look. The Dutchman pressed the lower element (not the upper) and seemed to be looking for something specific last weekend.

This bold idea was revealed in auto motor und sport and came from the belief that a former Mercedes employee has revealed the rear wing trick to Red Bull Racing.

Whether a disgruntled employee, a double bluff or a simple misunderstanding, we again find ourselves in the unfancied position of off-track events overshadowing those on the track.

During this week’s Race Debrief (posted on Mercedes’ social media) Mike Elliott, a Technical Director for Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team explained “We failed to pass the test we needed to pass…we didn’t pass the technical directive, for some reason, we are yet to understand, we had some reliability issue.” Despite this though, Lewis Hamilton had one of his greatest Grand Prix weekends culminating in victory of the Sao Paulo Grand Prix.

Lewis Hamilton is a superb racing driver – obviously. However, Red Bull Racing and in particular the team’s Sporting Director Dr Helmut Marko also attributed the superiority of the W12 to the fresh Mercedes engine in the back of it.

According to Red Bull Racing, when comparing an old and new Mercedes engine the difference is about 20 hp. For Honda’s own engine, which Red Bull Racing is running in their 2021 challenger, the difference between their old and new engine is a maximum of eight more hp.

However, Mercedes say these numbers are not realistic and have explained previously that the advantage of the fresh engine is a maximum of one tenth of a second. Therefore, Red Bull Racing find themselves back at square one.

There are just three races of the 2021 F1 season remaining and the brains at Red Bull Racing have not had long to crack the problem they are facing. If Qatar sees another dominant W12 performance, then what has been a gripping title battle may fizzle out before the end. For the neutral fan they will hope Red Bull Racing has found a way to respond. Otherwise, an 8th consecutive constructors’ title could well be headed back to Brackley sooner rather than later.


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