How the RB18 diet helped Verstappen kick into high gear in F1 2022

Amid all the current dominant form that means he could claim the crown at the Singapore Grand Prix next weekend, it’s easy to forget the dramas that overshadowed the start of the campaign.

In fact, at the start of the year, it appeared that his championship challenge could be over before it started, as a series of reliability dramas allowed arch-rival Charles Leclerc to open up quite a significant advantage. in the Drivers’ Championship.

Then, once Red Bull had finally ironed out the reliability of its RB18, Verstappen found himself struggling with some characteristics of the car that weren’t to his liking.

Instead, the weak front end of the car seemed to perfectly match what teammate Sergio Perez likes about the car, and there was a phase around the Monaco Grand Prix where it looked like the Mexican would even be the main title threat.

As the F12022 season progressed, it was very noticeable that Red Bull and Verstappen managed to find alternate gear, especially on Sundays.

While the Ferrari F1-75 always seems like a faster single-lap car, the progress the RB18 has managed to make with its tire degradation has been impressive.

And it was this factor that played perfectly in the hands of the team, allowing Verstappen not to lose ground on those occasions when he started lower in the order.

But more importantly, to seal his championship advantage, he seemed increasingly comfortable with the way the RB18 was developed, which also took the car further away from what Perez liked.

This change prompted some suggestions that the team deliberately launched on an upgrade push that favored Verstappen.

Bull Racing RB18″ data-author=”Alessio Morgese” data-custom=”false” data-src=”https://cdn-1.motorsport.com/images/mgl/6zQpr4pY/s8/max-verstappen-red-bull-racing-1.jpg”>

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB18

Photo by: Alessio Morgese

However, the reality is that the car came more to Verstappen simply through its natural evolution of improvement, and more specifically the opening of configuration windows that were not available in its early days.

The real breakthrough for Verstappen wasn’t some bespoke aero development or setup that was brought in to help him make gains – it was simply that when Red Bull lost weight it then delivered a double whammy of gains.

First, losing most of what was thought to be up to 10kg of excess weight at the start of the season provided an automatic speed advantage.

In F1 it’s said that every 10kg of weight is worth 0.3 seconds per lap, so a rough estimate means there were a few tenths on the table gained here.

But perhaps more importantly for Verstappen, a driver known to love a sharp front end of a car, bringing some extra weight to the car meant there were finally options for moving the ballast around.

Even a few extra pounds of weight moved to the rear of the car would have been enough to dial in a lazy front end – and bring the handling closer to what Verstappen is looking for.

As he recently explained at Monza: “The car was very overweight, it was just in the wrong place of the car as well as overweight, that’s why it understeered a lot more and tended to lock up. in the front.”

Red Bull technical director Pierre Wache explained that as the freedom to be more aggressive with the setup opened up, it played more into letting Verstappen get what he wanted from the car.

“At the start of the season we didn’t have the ability to move the weight, and that was part of the setup,” he said.

“But I think it’s all together and, having found your performance somewhere, and it’s a bit trickier to set the car up, so it went in Max’s favour.

“I think he is capable of driving any car. Now we have to find a way to give Sergio a car to perform and compete.”

A solution for Perez

Sergio Perez, Red Bull Racing RB18

Sergio Perez, Red Bull Racing RB18

Photo by: Red Bull Content Pool

Although Verstappen is one with the RB18, there is still a lot to do to help Perez feel more comfortable.

Wache says the situation is easy to understand: that Perez isn’t as happy with the handling as he was earlier in the campaign. But the hardest part is finding a solution that doesn’t slow the car down.

“The main factor is clearly the balance of the car and the confidence with a car, compared to the start of the year when the car was a little more balanced for him and a little less for Max,” he said. declared.

“And after the development potential we’ve put on the car over the season, maybe stepping away from it is part of it.

“After finding a good setup for him, it’s quite difficult to get him as confident as he could be to beat or fight with Max.”

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Ultimately, Wache admits the only way forward might be to sacrifice ultimate lap time which can be salvaged by making Perez happier.

“Everytime [it is] difficult when you’re trying to develop the car theoretically for performance, and after that you’re stuck in terms of configuration tools to rebalance the car,” he said.

“So that means you’re going to have to lower the performance a bit. To get to the right counterweight, the one you want, I would say normally you’re going to lose a bit of performance to improve it. That doesn’t mean it’s a a lot, but it’s that kind of direction, yeah.”

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