I n Barcelona face the Engineers in the shop window. In a sense, the season starts a second time with the European opener. With the exception of HaasF1, Toro Rosso and Sauber, all teams brought more or less large expansion stages to the fifth race of the season. At Red Bull and McLaren, one can confidently speak of a B version. Force India renovated its VJM11 for the third time. This time pretty massive in the areas of baffles, underbody, suspension and diffuser. The new front wing, on the other hand, was not used again.
Red Bull invested a seven-figure sum in a conversion that is more dramatic under the fairing than in the visible area. A new cooling system and a better flow through the side pods should reduce the air resistance. Modified baffles and a new underbody increase downforce. The team spoke of half a second of progress.
On the McLaren MCL33, 40 percent of all parts were new. The car with its idiosyncratic three-hole nose should actually already be ready in Melbourne. But bad planning and delays in the crash test threw the schedule overboard. McLaren hoped to lead the midfield with its B version. Even the greatest optimists did not believe in the connection to the top.
Red Bull, McLaren and Force India are on the spot
If you ask the 3 teams with the biggest changes, then everyone spoke of progress. Which was not reflected in the result. The two Red Bulls again only qualified for the third row. We knew beforehand that they were at least as strong as Mercedes and Ferrari in the race.
The top speed was again modest, although the air resistance was reduced. Red Bull only ended up in the back third. “We just lack power,” Max Verstappen desperately said. In tight corners the RB14 remains a force. “Despite tires 20 laps older, it had better traction than we did,” said Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff. Conclusion: 'Red Bull is the favorite for Monte Carlo.'
McLaren also praised his upgrade: 'Everything is better and faster. The car has more grip and feels a lot better, ”said Fernando Alonso. His first participation in Q3 seemed to confirm the statement. Nevertheless, he had Kevin Magnussen's HaasF1 in front of his nose. The Dane was 40 seconds short of the race. Is thisReal progress?
In the end, Alonso scored points for the fifth time in a row, but the McLaren MCL33B couldn't really convince. Alonso's 8th place was maintaining the status quo. McLaren had no chance against HaasF1 and Renault. One now hopes for further upgrades. 'We have to understand the converted car even better,' they said.
After the success of Baku, Force India was confident that the positive trend would continue. Even if Barcelona isn't the type of racetrack that Force India can shine on. Despite the upgrades, no Force India made it into Q3. The two points in the race were damage control. Last year they drove home from Spain with 22 points.
Sergio Perez struggled to beat Charles Leclerc's Sauber. “The window in which the car works has gotten bigger,” protested sports director Otmar Szafnauer in response to criticism, and one treads on the spot. “The drivers are now much happier with the car than during the test drives. We have made massive steps forward since then, ”confirmed Andy Green, Head of Technology.
Mercedes and Ferrari neutralize each other
Mercedes and Ferrari limited themselves to detailed work, each in four places. At Mercedes on the front wing, the front end of the side pods, in the middle of the side panels and on the diffuser. Ferrari also changed the front wing and the floor in several places and provided the biggest eye-catcher of the technology show with its halo-mounted mirrors and winglet next to the McLaren nose. They are history again in Monaco: What Ferrari calls an additional attachment is, from the FIA's point of view, an illegal wing.
The two World Cup rivals put the time saved by their upgrades to a tenth of a second each. So they neutralized each other. The fact that Mercedes was still clearly superior was due to the route layout, the tires with less rubber pads and less risk of overheating, the cool temperatures and a well-filled data memory for vehicle set-up. The Silver Arrows were fast from the first lap. Needed in the three races beforewe have three training sessions each to trim the cars for the tricky Pirelli soles.
A Mercedes engineer confirmed: “Our good shape has nothing to do with the upgrade. We just made better use of the tires. Ferrari was on the wrong side of the window, as in Melbourne. That’s the crux of the matter. One moves forwards and the other backwards on different route layouts, temperatures and asphalt types. I have no doubt that Red Bull will be a force in Monaco and that Ferrari is not far from it. ”
HaasF1 dominates midfield
HaasF1, Toro Rosso and Sauber had changed almost nothing about their cars. And all three did above average. HaasF1 was clearly number 4 in the field in training and racing as well as in the winter test drives. 36 seconds ahead of Renault and 40 seconds over McLaren are a word.
Pierre Gasly with 12th place on the grid and Brendon Hartley with a race that is decent for his standards showed that the Toro Rosso form curve was slow after two races rose again. Sauber surprised himself by winning points. Barcelona was one of the Confederates' fear stretches. “Too many fast and medium-fast corners. We're missing the downforce, ”feared Marcus Ericsson in advance. Nonetheless, Leclerc scored a point.
Team principal Eric Vasseur praised his team: 'We did a good job, especially on the subject of tire management and work processes.' The pit stops are excellent this year too. Team manager Beat Zehnder also attributed Leclerc's surprising 14th place on the grid to the tires: “We hit the window for the supersoft tires exactly. Maybe it helped that our car was still lacking downforce. If you overload the tires in sectors 1 and 2, you pay for it in the third sector. ”Vasseur believes that Sauber benefited from not bringing an upgrade to Barcelona. “We were able to concentrate fully on the new tires. The others have put on additional work with their upgrades and may have confused themselves. ”
HaasF1 team boss Guenther Steiner is the sameOpinion. “We could have gotten an upgrade with hanging and choking. But why should we screw this to the car in a hurry at a Grand Prix when you have enough to do with other tires? That is why we gave ourselves more time for the Aero package so that it could be fully developed at a later date. ”The result proved Steiner right. The HaasF1 were as inviolable in midfield as the Mercedes at the top. Just annoying that only one car scored again. There was more to it than just 8 counters.