This season, the battle between Mercedes and Crimson Bull has by no means been so shut within the premier class. The Silver Arrows, now black, are step by step recovering from the implementation of recent aerodynamic guidelines. Within the storage subsequent door, nonetheless, Crimson Bull capitalized on these adjustments. Moreover the brand new model of Honda’s energy unit, much more environment friendly, the workforce has solved its issues of 2020 and likewise made vital developments in Portugal, third spherical of the 2021 season.
A really completely different philosophy from that of Mercedes, which has labored tirelessly since winter testing to right its aerodynamic weaknesses and get nearer to Crimson Bull. The German workforce achieved this in a really quick time period, and with just a few modifications. The primary focus was on utilizing current settings and components to enhance the package deal.
Portugal was no exception. The low-grip floor and the uncertainty surrounding tire administration exacerbated the completely different conduct of the single-seaters. And from the primary laps of the wheel, the Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas excelled. Apparently, Hamilton took a unique path from his teammate relating to the extent of downforce: Mercedes has two completely different rear wing configurations, pilots check them frequently throughout free apply periods to see which resolution provides the specified stage of efficiency.
From the skin, the distinction doesn’t appear main, however in actuality the 2 fins supply neither the identical stage of downforce nor the identical compensation for the consequences of drag and DRS. The primary visible distinction between the 2 options is the presence of a single or double upright (seen beneath within the illustration of the Mercedes W11 from 2020). These uprights have completely different structural and aerodynamic traits, usually dictated by the format of the circuits.
It’s not clear whether or not Mercedes intentionally pressured a unique setup on its drivers, given the Max Verstappen menace, or whether or not the choice was as much as the duo. Hamilton’s rear wing, with two uprights, had much less downforce than Bottas’s rear wing. Thus, the Briton was purported to be sooner in a straight line and lose floor within the corners.
The completely different configurations of the rear wing of the Mercedes W11.
That is what occurred in qualifying, as Bottas took pole place due to his extra secure rear finish within the final sector. Hamilton gave the impression to be trying past qualifying nonetheless as a result of within the race, along with overcoming his opponents with the assistance of the DRS in the primary straight, the reigning World Champion was additionally in a position to preserve his tires in an even bigger window. Working.
With Bottas’ rear wing, it was simpler to heat up the tires for qualifying, a session the place the tires final just a few minutes. Nonetheless, throughout the race, this setting took a toll on the efficiency and longevity of the tire, its temperature elevated and this impacted the tread, which started to slide extra consequently.
In the meantime, Hamilton, whose automobile was lighter in downforce, took barely completely different trajectories attributable to his settings, which triggered him to cope with the tires differently. That is maybe the rationale why his tempo didn’t appear nearly as good as that of Bottas and Verstappen in the beginning of the race, his two opponents having much more downforce to heat up the tires extra simply. Nonetheless, they suffered the results later within the first stint, with Bottas unable to defend towards his team-mate, and Verstappen, regardless of assist from the DRS, unable to move Bottas on the primary straight.
After we heard Hamilton complain a number of occasions concerning the fast degradation of his tires on the radio throughout the Grand Prix, the Briton was not mistaken. Alternatively, its administration was a lot better than that of its direct opponents. As common, it took all of the composure of his engineer, Peter “Bono” Bonnington, to handle his race completely and instruct him to raised handle the entrance finish because the Briton continued to achieve floor on Bottas. .
You even have to contemplate that being within the function of the hunter relatively than the hunted gave Hamilton the chance to make use of the DRS. Activating the drag discount system adjustments the aerodynamic conduct of the automobile and provides the tires a little bit of a break on the straights. Thus, though he suffered from Bottas’ “soiled air” within the first kilometers, Hamilton took benefit of the DRS to remain within the wake of his team-mate and to guard his tires. Hamilton’s long-term imaginative and prescient in his set-ups and his persistence as he climbed up the standings have been decisive in his victory in Portimão.
With Giorgio Piola