With one race to go in 2023, the F1 championship is very open in the battle for P2 and P4 in the team standings. Meanwhile, Fernando Alonso, Carlos Sainz, Lando Norris and Charles Leclerc battle for P4.
Sainz’s victory in Singapore, alongside the decline of Aston Martin, has seen Alonso slip down the standings. Ferrari started the year poorly, making some progress in Baku and then in Austria
Toto Wolff’s team has increased its performance but still has clear weaknesses. The accident between teammates at Losail and Austin’s disqualification had an impact. In Brazil, the technicians completely failed to optimise the set-up of the W14. At Interlagos, Mercedes benefited from the misfortune of Charles Leclerc.
The current gap is just 4 points as we prepare to cross the pond for the season’s final race. The layout of Yas Marina is quite varied; traction and reach are essential, but there is also a sequence of challenging corners, some sharp and others rounder.
On paper, unless your name is Red Bull, it’s a match that promises to be uncertain. After the dark test in Las Vegas, McLaren should be a threat again.
Andrea Stella explained, “We suffered because our low load package was lacking, especially in qualifying. We are convinced that we can aim for a podium in Abu Dhabi. We expect the car to adapt much better.”
The MCL60 struggled with DRS efficiency in Las Vegas. The data confirms that Norris and Piastri had just 50% of the efficiency at Red Bull.
On certain tracks, McLaren is the second-fastest. They will be frustrated with their slow start to 2023. Aston Martin is somewhat difficult to place. Despite finding a better technical path, they still have serious limits of inefficiency on the straight.
Would Leclerc have won without the Safety Car?
Despite an unusually close battle – given the absolute dominance – and some missed poles, Verstappen must always be excluded from significant pitfalls in the race. Usually, the mixed zone goes from second to ninth position.
However, on American roads, the Dutchman’s task risked being quite complex after the correct 5″penalty, added to a not-extraordinary first stint on the C4 compounds (medium tyres). The answer was all in the potential race pace on the Hard.
Ferrari expected a disadvantage of 1 or 2 tenths from Max with the softer compound, which could have been compensated for with the help of contrails.
More than the timely entry was the effect of the slowdown under the safety car, Ferrari’s real problem was maintaining acceptable tire temperatures. Leclerc performed an excellent first stint, taking 4 or 5 laps to ignite the performance.
Sainz had trouble managing in the long run after the first lap, but in the end, he was rewarded with a good result.
It could have been a close battle if both Ferraris were on the front row, but instead, Red Bull found themselves playing two against one more easily through Perez.
The GPS data revealed that the DRS effect gave, on average, between 5 and 6 tenths of pace to the two contenders, something that would have allowed a certain fighting margin even after an immediate overtaking.
Nonetheless, even clearing the race of variables adverse to Leclerc, Verstappen cannot be described as the underdog. His pace with the hard tires fitted in the first stop was quite convincing.
Why didn’t Verstappen’s front wing create a big loss in performance?
It is not the first contact between Russell and the world champion. In this case, the Englishman took full responsibility for not seeing the Red Bull.
Verstappen was lucky not to have broken the edge of the floor, at which point he would have had huge stability problems. In the accident, the RB19 only lost the right side front endplate, which did not substantially compromise the balance.
With this generation of cars the front wing is raised more, and the functionality of the bulkhead is reduced compared to the old cars.
According to the engineers, until the generation of the 2021 single-seaters, a similar piece could be worth three-tenths per lap.
Today it is more of an element that intervenes to limit the expansion of the vortices outwards, beyond the front wheels, in the direction of the cars following, therefore reducing the classic outwash effect, harmful for those in the slipstream.
This suggests that Verstappen’s car at that stage generated relatively more turbulence on one side but no major imbalance. Curiously, Leclerc didn’t feel uncomfortable in Zandvoort after similar damage.