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Formula 1

How much is Red Bull’s F1 weight disadvantage costing it?

by Edd Straw
3 min read

Red Bull has had a strong 2022 Formula 1 season, but it hasn’t been perfect – with Max Verstappen admitting the team has been “not amazing in qualifying”.

Ferrari has been the better performer in qualifying sessions, taking seven pole positions out of 11, with Red Bull having the rest. Verstappen has taken three of these, Sergio Perez the other.

But Red Bull has the better record on race days, winning seven times (and taking both sprints), meaning Verstappen leads the drivers’ championship by 38 points over Charles Leclerc.

“We are still a little bit, I would say, not amazing in qualifying,” said Verstappen.

“But that hasn’t only to do with just the car, we are still a bit heavy.

“When all the fuel comes out, that is just a limitation we have. So we need to lose weight with the car, which we’re working on.

“But that’s why in the race, it’s a little bit less of an issue because first of all, you cannot push like in qualifying so probably that helps a bit with the way we have the car. And that weight issue with a full tank is a little bit less visible.”

Red Bull was reckoned to be around 15kg overweight pre-season, but The Race understands it got this down to around 7.5kg by the time of the Miami Grand Prix in May.

Motor Racing Formula One World Championship Miami Grand Prix Qualifying Day Miami, Usa

However, subsequent car upgrades are reckoned to have pushed this weight up a little to potentially around 10kg. This can be thanks to more robust components, or aero parts that are more intricate and potentially carry more weight as a result. By contrast, Ferrari is believed to be at or at least close to the 798kg minimum weight.

Around a lap, an extra 10kg is estimated to cost 0.3-0.4s in lap time depending on the track configuration. But despite that, increased aero performance and improved balance characteristics can be worth that sacrifice, especially if any upgrades that add weight are part of a development path that will yield compound gains down the line.

All teams have had a battle to hit the minimum weight of 798kg this season. The minimum mass regulation was changed pre-season, with 3kg added to the original figure of 795kg as a result of difficulties.

Most teams struggled to a greater or lesser extent with the minimum weight, although Alfa Romeo started the season in the best shape. Ferrari also had to work at its weight to have got to where it is now, while Mercedes was reckoned to have started the year in the vicinity of 15kg overweight.

Overall, Ferrari has had the edge in qualifying this season over Red Bull. Even at the Red Bull Ring recently, Verstappen took pole position but only by a margin of 0.029s. Ferrari then had a comfortable pace advantage in the race thanks to its tyre degradation advantage.

Motor Racing Formula One World Championship Austrian Grand Prix Race Day Spielberg, Austria

But the weight is only part of the equation. Work has also been done on the balance to create a stronger front end, which Verstappen is particularly adept at getting the most out of.

In the development war with Ferrari, both have brought regular updates that have left the two teams finely-balanced on performance at the halfway point of the season.

However, Red Bull is not focusing on qualifying pace over race pace, with the objective just to make performance gains that help in both scenarios. That includes any weight savings, with any extra weight less noticeable in race stints but still having an effect.

“We’re only able to influence our own performance, not what Ferrari does. So our challenge is to get as much out of our package as we can within the constraints we operate with this year,” said chief engineer Paul Monaghan.

“If we’ve managed to put a little bit more performance on our car, then it will serve us well for qualifying as well as the race. You wouldn’t do one versus the other, you look to do both – otherwise it’s a bit of a false game potentially.

“So we’ll just keep on, where we can, trying to find ways of putting a little bit more pace on the car.”

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