Ferrari take an important step, Mercedes porpoising woes return

Jaden Diaz
31 Jul, 2023

At the moment, there is no way to have more exciting racing when it comes to aiming for victory.  Spa-Francorchamps could not deny what the other 12 races had brutally shown – Red Bull is in a position to win everywhere

It doesn’t matter where he starts; if Max Verstappen is able to avoid early contact, then he can’t be stopped.

The Dutchman extended his advantage over his team-mate to 125 points, the equivalent of 5 Grands Prix ahead when there are just ten left to go.

The fight between Ferrari, Mercedes, McLaren and Aston Martin continues, with gaps ​​that vary according to the characteristics of the tracks.

Verstappen has no rival; the others jostle for a place in the sun

Not counting the times under the safety car in his ten victories in the season, the reigning champion has always achieved significant gaps on any pursuer, normally well over 20 seconds

Worst of all, his management seems even more controlled, embarrassing the competition. The DRS in Hungary could not have been a big factor.

Here, it is more relevant again, but compared to the recent past, it is not so powerful, though this is only a less significant piece of the puzzle.

“Maybe Ferrari and Mercedes are now closer in terms of strength, but we don’t really care that it looks weakened if we bury them with degradation,” said a voice close to the team. 

Indeed, the base load of the RB19 is light years ahead of the competition. Which also sets the benchmark in terms of wear on the tyres. 

It is surprising that Perez has not been able to use him correctly; the positive note for him is having closed mid-season with a performance closer to what Horner and Marko expect from him, taking some of the pressure off. 

“Today, I could race right away with no car in front, which helped me better interpret where I am with the pack.” Currently, Verstappen remains a mirage for anyone, Checo had an honest race but couldn’t get close to the lead.

After stopping, Verstappen could push 1 sec per lap faster than his teammate, not to mention those further down the grid.

Ferrari was better than expected, but it was clear how the SF-23 evolved 

The positive news for Maranello is having set up the car well upstream. The SF-23 is more stable, and its strength is the same seen in Canada, Austria or, less recently, in Baku.

The little drag on the long straights and the strong braking are the qualities. The bulk of the development adjustments – rethought in the running – are part of the job. At least they stabilized the performance in the race. 

In Belgium, only the Red Bulls at Kemmel could easily overtake Leclerc’s Ferrari, but in addition to this, the car had its balance (without bouncing) in order not to collapse in the long sequence of corners from Les Combes to Stavelot. 

Sainz would probably have produced a fight with Hamilton, but the damage caused by contact in turn 1 was profound, at least 3 seconds, due to the loss of downforce and consequent greater degradation.

Ferrari

The Spaniard was asked to stay on track despite the large damage to the floor and side. 

In theory, it made no sense looking at the times, but the team would have used a potential red flag created by the brief incoming weather to make repairs and try to score points.

SF-23 has changed its appearance and will change again as much as possible within the financial limits.

The technical department will complete the installation of the new parts in late September and early October with a package that is said to be more substantial than the one already introduced in Barcelona. 

Mercedes: Hamilton’s podium was a vain hope; more and more effort turns to the W15

Hamilton and Russell have opted for different aerodynamic choices. Lewis was clearly more comfortable than his teammate, who ran a long 1st stint on average and – thanks to the accident involving Sainz and Piastri – was able to recover a couple of positions from the start.

However, his W14 suffered from limitations due to hopping, which shows a more aggressive approach in terms of heights to recover the load from the bottom.  

In a circuit like Spa, it’s not useful to travel too- low due to the compressions and the danger of pad wear. The consequence of bouncing is having accentuated the overheating of the tires requiring handling beyond expectations.

Hamilton had to do it, and he couldn’t have attacked Leclerc. The best thing was to take the fastest lap away from Verstappen.

Lewis’s steady-mouthed words can’t hide that it wasn’t a comfortable ride, some clues that the dark evil called porpoising can unexpectedly resurface. 

While Hamilton can’t wait to drive the next Mercedes, Toto Wolff explained:

“It’s hard to understand on these cars, there’s a very fine line between losing performance and gaining it, but once you know how to manage streams, you can unlock many tenths. As did McLaren.

“Now we see that we have a more similar design to other cars, but we can’t do everything we would like. We will have the changes on the W15”. 

James Allison was not called at random. The winning designer is a decision-maker and returned in good time to determine the guidelines for the next project by moving Mike Elliot a little to the sidelines and freeing Loïc Serra.

McLaren got the set-up wrong 

Oscar Piastri’s excellent result in the sprint was dictated by wet or mixed conditions. In the race, the Australian went out after a corner due to contact with Sainz’s Ferrari.

Norris, however, was the only one to have used the Hard tires due to anomalous degradation, despite having the greatest possible load on board should have protected them.

However, the McLarens could not have worried the Ferraris and Hamilton. 

The defect of excessive drag in very stable weather conditions could not be compensated for in the central section and did not pay off. Spa’s extensions are too extensive to obtain an interesting compromise. 

After the departure of Laurent Rossi, Alpine chases the management on the track 

In the middle of the race weekend from Enstone came the dismissal of the three leading figures, which in fact, mark a rejection of the project.

The timing of this news was certainly surprising. Still, Otmar Szafnauer, Alan Permane and Pat Fry (who had already signed an agreement with Williams some time ago) were not given any more time. 

The first two are free to move elsewhere, and it is highly probable that they will do so in the short term.

Alpine is also pushing to ensure the equalization of the Power Units. There has been talk of 30 hp missing compared to other manufacturers; on average, the time lost would be equivalent to around 7-tenths.

However, it does not seem possible to estimate a gap beyond 10, perhaps 15 kph, i.e. values ​​not far from 15hp.

It cannot escape that the French car travels everywhere very unloaded. Unfortunately, by not supplying its engine to customer cars, it is more difficult to make correct analyzes of the goodness of the A523 chassis. 

Yet in the sprint, Gasly’s excellent result in resisting attacks showed important speeds, certainly the result of a project that continues to be low-drag, but that doesn’t justify the theory of a power unit that is exaggeratedly far from its rivals.

Author: Giuliano Duchess

Translation: Jaden Diaz-Ndisang

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