Red Bull’s Concerns Over Verstappen’s Late Race Strategy at Spa GP

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Max Verstappen, the reigning world champion, made a stunning climb from the sixth spot, which was five places down from his Friday qualifying session’s top position, owed to a post-practice gearbox alteration.

By the 17th lap out of 44 on the past Sunday, Verstappen had overtaken the frontrunner and his teammate, Sergio Perez. After this, he created a significant 8.9s gap by the time both Red Bull drivers made their final pitstops.

TOPIC: Verstappen’s Unexpected Star Performance in Spa

Verstappen, post this, clocked an outlap a second faster than Perez and proceeded to set his personal record in the primary Spa race, a 1m48.922s, surpassed only by Lewis Hamilton’s last-ditch 1m47.305s.

Lambiase, prior to this, had cautioned Verstappen to deliver a ‘smooth outlap’ as Red Bull placed great importance on tyre conservation, considering the 14 laps remaining when Verstappen inquired about the best time.

As Verstappen began his personal best lap, Lambiase expressed concern over his outlap speed, indicating that he had overused the tyre and questioned the wisdom of that move.

Upon completion of Verstappen’s high-speed attempt, Lambiase informed him about the notable wear on the tyre in the first stint and urged him to be more judicious. This mirrored a prior request when Verstappen was closing in on Perez and was enigmatically asked to maintain a certain pace before the first pitstops.

When informed that his pace had reduced to the preferred level for the team, Verstappen humorously proposed he could maintain the speed and opt for a third pitstop to give his mechanics some ‘practice’, similar to what he did in Austria. Lambiase quickly dismissed this idea.

F1’s Pirelli tyres demand strategic management during race stints. However, Verstappen’s early phase on the new softs was especially critical as he raced towards the finish line at the Belgian Grand Prix.

In response to F1’s query on what Verstappen risked that worried Red Bull, Pirelli motorsport boss, Mario Isola, stated that two potential risks exist when pushing hard early on new tyres.

The first is the possibility of graining, especially when the tyre is not ready. The cool conditions at Spa, along with drivers easing off during a brief mid-race shower and cautious tyre management, made the red-walled compound the preferable choice.

However, the risk of graining remained if the surface of the front-left tyre was exposed, particularly during the early stint phases, which could have made the last 14 laps, a 60-mile run, more challenging for Verstappen than Red Bull would have preferred.

It was observed that the tyres removed from Verstappen’s car after the first two stints had experienced this to some extent.

Isola continued, explaining that graining can lead to mechanical resistance at lower temperatures, which then has to be cleaned to regain performance. Also, over-exerting new tyres could lead to greater thermal degradation due to the compound’s higher thickness, resulting in more heat.

Isola added that Red Bull appears to have a good margin in 2023 in-race tyre management, allowing them flexibility in their race strategy.

Reflecting on his performance, Verstappen mentioned that while following Lewis Hamilton and Charles Leclerc early on, he strained his tyres too much. After switching to the medium tyre, he felt a significant improvement in his car’s performance. He expressed his enjoyment in leading the race and managing his tyres efficiently, even as the rain created new challenges. His overall performance once again showcased the potential of successful tyre management, culminating in a thrilling race.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Max Verstappen’s Spa GP strategy

What was the concern of Red Bull about Max Verstappen’s strategy at the Spa GP?

Red Bull was concerned about Verstappen’s soft tyre strategy, particularly his outlap speed and the strain it could potentially put on the tyres. They feared that pushing too hard early on the new tyres could lead to ‘graining’ and increased degradation, making the last part of the race more challenging.

How did Max Verstappen perform at the Spa GP?

Max Verstappen had a strong performance at the Spa GP. He climbed from sixth place to pass long-time leader and teammate, Sergio Perez, by the 17th lap. He then pulled out an 8.9s lead before the final pitstops and went on to set a personal best lap in the main Spa race.

What was the potential risk with pushing hard on new tyres, as stated by Pirelli’s motorsport boss?

Pirelli motorsport boss, Mario Isola, explained that pushing hard early on new tyres could lead to two potential risks. The first is initiating the graining process, particularly when the tyre isn’t warmed up yet. The second is the possibility of increased thermal degradation due to the compound’s higher thickness, resulting in more heat.

What was Max Verstappen’s response to Red Bull’s concern?

Verstappen admitted to straining his tyres too much while following Lewis Hamilton and Charles Leclerc early in the race. However, after switching to the medium tyre, he felt a significant improvement and was able to manage his tyres more efficiently. He expressed his enjoyment in leading the race and successfully managing his tyres, even under changing conditions.

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