Just two races back, the lead Max Verstappen held over Aston’s Fernando Alonso in Canada was a mere 9.5-seconds, the smallest gap of the season excluding the safety car-led Australian race. Meanwhile, Lewis Hamilton pursued Red Bull fiercely in Spain.
In the latest Austrian race, Ferrari posed as the top contender to the current F1 powerhouse – Red Bull, expected to finish over 24s behind, were it not for Verstappen’s late third pitstop with Charles Leclerc.
Post-Austrian race at the Red Bull Ring, Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff admitted to the lack of clarity surrounding the recent fluctuations in race speeds among the three contending teams. He noted that the only consistent element was Max Verstappen, while Sergio Perez of Red Bull had his ups and downs, making it hard to decipher.
Ahead of the British Grand Prix at Silverstone, Alonso, too, found the situation puzzling. However, he suggested that the variances in track characteristics – high-speed and smooth Barcelona, street-like Montreal, and Austria, with its quick bends and tough kerbs – might provide some insight.
“In Austria, Aston was slower than in Montreal, without a doubt,” stated Alonso about his team’s pace, which landed them fifth and ninth spots for him and team-mate Lance Stroll, respectively.
“Spain was also a bit slow. It’s a puzzle we’re all eager to solve.
“In Spain, Mercedes was evidently the second fastest, posing a significant challenge to Red Bull. In Canada, Aston Martin filled that role, and in Austria, it was Ferrari.
“The last few races have seen Mercedes, Ferrari, and Aston producing diverse results, which we must understand to evade such pitfalls and poor performance weekends.
“But as of now, we don’t have a concrete explanation. It seems to be track-specific, but we’re still probing,” he added.
Russell proposed that the tricky task of mastering F1 tyres could be the reason, given the changing temperatures and diverse weather conditions at recent events.
“Noticeable shifts in performance are occurring between all teams this season,” observed Russell.
“Red Bull is not immune either, with their lead fluctuating from 40s to 15-20s. Tyre sensitivity plays a major role in this.
“However, I’m optimistic that this weekend will be better for Mercedes,” he assured.
Russell also suggested that the need to compromise on optimal ride heights with ground-effect cars might contribute to the difficulty in duplicating performance across different tracks, as it’s impossible to tailor the car for every corner type.
“It’s a potential factor,” he conceded.
“The inconsistency may result from teams developing their cars within different windows, adapting to either slightly higher or lower ride heights. But the definitive answers are still elusive.
“Our focus is on improving our car’s speed throughout the season, despite the challenges,” Russell added.
Verstappen suggested that the track layout also influences performance. He explained that from Red Bull’s viewpoint, the distance to the rest of the field often depended on how well they adjusted to their set-up window. The same factor might be limiting Aston, Ferrari, and Mercedes.
“Unpredictable weekends with weather transitions from rain to sunshine and drying tracks can make the set-up a hit or miss,” explained Verstappen.
“Consequently, the gap can sometimes be misleading. On some weekends, the set-up is just more accurate than on others.
“We hit the right window in Austria, while other teams didn’t, thus the gap seemed larger.
“In Montreal, however, things were tighter. But, we were slightly off the mark,” he concluded.
Additional reporting by Jonathan Noble
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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about F1 Performance Fluctuations
Who are the primary teams being discussed in the text?
The primary teams being discussed in the text are Red Bull, Mercedes, and Aston Martin.
What is the main confusion in the recent F1 races?
The main confusion revolves around the inconsistent performances and changing race speeds of Red Bull, Mercedes, and Aston Martin, as well as fluctuations in the lead that Max Verstappen holds over his competitors.
Who is identified as the consistent element in Red Bull’s performance?
Max Verstappen is identified as the consistent element in Red Bull’s performance.
What is one theory for the performance fluctuations?
One theory suggests that the variances in track characteristics may be causing the performance fluctuations. Another proposes that mastering F1 tyres could be a significant challenge affecting the performances, given changing temperatures and diverse weather conditions at recent events.
What does George Russell believe might contribute to the difficulty in duplicating performance across different tracks?
Russell suggests that the need to compromise on optimal ride heights with ground-effect cars might be a contributing factor, as it’s impossible to tailor the car for every corner type.
What is Max Verstappen’s explanation for the varying gaps to the rest of the field?
Verstappen believes the track layout influences performance and the gap to the rest of the field often depends on how well they adjust to their set-up window. He also notes that unpredictable weather conditions can make the set-up a hit or miss, causing variations in the results.