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Tactical check GP Brazil 2018: The discarded victory

Red Bull
Tactics check GP Brazil 2018
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I n Brazil repeated the pattern of the previous races . The tires make the music. It all depends on how the cars deal with the tricky Pirelli soles. Red Bull used the tires on race day in Austin, Mexico City and Sao Paulo better than the competition. Ferrari was still on the ball in the USA and Mexico, but not in Brazil. Mercedes had tire problems in all three races. All of a different nature. There was also trouble with the engine.

Nevertheless, Lewis Hamilton celebrated his tenth win of the season in Brazil. Max Verstappen stumbled over the lapped Esteban Ocon on the way to victory. The Dutchman was the fastest man on the track that day. Even with a damaged car. The collision with Ocon had torn a large chunk out of the right floor panel. The Red Bull lacked 10 percent downforce.

Hamilton, on the other hand, lacked an estimated 50 hp engine power. The eventual winner had to reduce the power output due to a broken exhaust and far too high engine temperatures. That cost at least four tenths per lap.

If Daniel Ricciardo hadn't had to start from 11th place due to another engine penalty, he too would have been a candidate for victory in view of the battered cars in front of him. But in the end the Australian got stuck on Kimi Raikkonen's Ferrari.

The Finn achieved normal form. He crossed the finish line just 4.7 seconds behind the winner. Sebastian Vettel didn't play a role. With him, the tires stayed too cold, regardless of the type. A defective sensor forced the World Cup runner-up to make adjustments to the steering wheel that brought the car out of balance.

Ferrari tire advantage only on paper

The starting position for Ferrari was ideal . Vettel and Räikkönen started the race on soft tires and thus tactically had a trump card in hand because they could make the time of the first pit stop more flexible. “I wish we had this luxury,” admitted the Mercedes strategists. 'But to try soft tires in uncertain weather conditions in Q2 was too high a risk for us.'

However, Ferrari experienced a nasty surprise right from the start. A sensor in Vettel's car gave false signals. Vettel had to make corrections to the steering wheel that had a negative impact on the road holding. 'We already knew then that it would be difficult for Seb,' explained team boss Maurizio Arrivabene.

What exactly Vettel had to adjust remained a secret. It must have been in the area of ​​the chassis, differential, brake balance or engine brake, since the aerodynamic coordination is fixed at the start. For Vettel there was another problem. “I braked the front left tire at an angle in the first corner because Lewis got into his shoes so early.”

After Hamilton's pit stop at the latest, the Ferrari drivers noticed that the supposed tire advantage at the start was not there was. “The Supersoft tires were faster and they lasted longer,” Vettel wondered. Raikkonen clenched Bottas. “The tires suffered as a result, and the advantage was gone.”

Red Bull drove on the Supersoft tires as if they had strapped on a set of soft. Verstappen made it to lap 35, Ricciardo even four laps further. The Silver Arrows were already in the pits in rounds 18 and 19. Both with blisters on the rear tires.

The fear of the undercut

But the battered tires were not the starting signal for the pit stops by Hamilton and Bottas. Rather the fear of an undercut of the competition. There were indications that Red Bull wasn't looking for the advantage of the early pit stop. Ricciardo could have lured the Ferrari out of the reserve like this, but did not do it. “That was a certain indication that Red Bull had planned a long first stint under all circumstances so that it could drive with soft instead of medium tires in the second stint,” the Mercedes engineers look back.

Nevertheless, they wanted to be sure at Mercedes. Bottas should be protected against the Ferrari in his gearbox and Hamilton against Verstappen. Just as Verstappen came to Kevin Magnussen from the pit stop window, Mercedes pitted his world champion.

Red Bull did not care. “Verstappen had nothing to lose. He was so much faster than everyone else, regardless of the tire compound, that he could do without the undercut because he knew that he would later run down everything with the soft tires ”, the men at the Mercedes command post were aware /p>

The Red Bull racing pace was a mystery to them. “We could do a quick lap with a fresh set, but then fell into a hole for six to seven laps before the tire recovered. Verstappen didn't have that hole, and that alone was worth five to six seconds of racing time. Had we gone as fast as Max, the tires would have died like in Austin. '

Red Bull Motorsport Director Helmut Marko believes that the temperature rise of eight degrees on Sunday played into their own cars. 'We kept the tires in better shape than Ferrari and Mercedes.' Vettel despaired with tires that were too cold: 'It wasn't warm enough for us.'

Verstappen complicity in collision

At least Hamilton was fast enough on the medium set to catch VerstappenDo not let it drive away for more than 20 seconds. The Dutchman would have needed a lead of 22 seconds to stay in the lead after his pit stop. But as it was, he came back on the track behind Hamilton. But that wasn't a problem. Verstappen finished off the champion within four laps.

The Briton had to turn the engine down more and more and in the end was 17 km /h slower on the straight. Verstappen drove past the Mercedes on the home straight as if it were parking. Ricciardo took a little longer with Bottas. The Finn achieved normal speed on the straight, but in the end he was powerless too. “We came out of the last corner much better. The good traction helped a lot when overtaking on the home straight, 'explained Marko.

Verstappen could easily have afforded to let Ocon drive by.

Against all this background, Verstappen has a certain complicity in his collision with Ocon. He and his team had to know that the constructors' title would be more important to Mercedes than the day's victory. And that you had the clearly faster car. “Verstappen was not our enemy. It was about getting the cars to the finish line ahead of Ferrari, 'admitted Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff.

It is all the more incomprehensible why the front runner then messed with Ocon for the devil. He would have overtaken him one lap later anyway, because Ocon's tire advantage would have disappeared.

It may be consolation for Verstappen that Hamilton made the same misjudgment in 2013. The Englishman wanted under all circumstances to prevent the Williams driver Bottas from rounding back. But the advantage of fresh tires is so huge in Interlagos that even cars without a chance become opponents.

An excerpt of the lap times on lap 43, the lap before the crash: Ocon drove 1.12.876 minutes on fresh supersoft , Verstappen 1.13.116 minutes on eight laps of old soft rubbers and Hamilton 1.13.451 minutes on 24 laps of old medium soles.

Blisters on the front tires were no problem

With Hamilton in the finale a huge black trail near the front leftOutside shoulder to see. But the bubbles did not put pressure on the lap times. “If it happens at the back, it's problematic,” explain the engineers. “That's why our drivers tried everything to put more stress on the front tires. And so the bubbles hit the front tires in the second stint. '

For Mercedes there is now another riddle to solve. Why have there been problems with the tires in the last three races? And why were the reasons and effects different each time? “In Interlagos we weren't much worse than Ferrari. We drove 52 laps on the medium tire, 'the technicians fought off the black painters.

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Bottas made a second safety stop like Vettel.

So Vettel and Bottas' second pit stops were not the result of tire problems, but simply a safeguard and an attempt to do something different. Even with the faint hope that a safety car might bring them back into the race after all. Neither of them had anything to lose because the gap at the back was big enough.

Vettel knew that he would have an easy game against Charles Leclerc with Supersoft tires. And Bottas knew that he would stay ahead of Vettel if he reacted in time. On lap 59, his lead over the Ferrari was a reassuring 26 seconds.

The race remained stable in midfield this time. With clever tactics, there was nothing to be gained or lost. This time the speed differences were too big. Charles Leclerc was the best driver behind the top 6 from start to finish. Romain Grosjean was always 7 seconds behind the Sauber on average. It was his own fault that he couldn't catch up. Grosjean took on Marcus Ericsson on the starting lap. Again a HaasF1 against a Sauber.

Then parts of the car with the starting number 8 were missing. The other HaasF1 driver first had to make up lost places at the start until he had a clear view ahead. Too late. The train to the front had already left. Kevin Magnussen only caught up with Grosjean in the final phase. Force India had no chance. The HaasF1 was missing over 20 seconds. At least it was the lead over the Toro Rossoreassuring. They were 50 seconds behind Sergio Perez.


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