Ferrari leads on points, Red Bull on victories. The two best cars in the field reach their destination in different ways. The Red Bull RB18 is the fastest car on the track, the Ferrari F1-75 on the corners. Who has the better cards?
In the World Cup duel, it is a draw. Ferrari leads on points with 157: 151. Red Bull after victories with 3: 2. Ferrari has more pole positions, more fastest laps, more laps in the lead, Red Bull has more retirements but a sprint win on the account. The position of the drivers is also balanced. Charles Leclerc leads against Max Verstappen, Sergio Perez against Carlos Sainz. After podium finishes, Ferrari is 7: 5 ahead.
The two cars not only look completely different visually. They are also totally different in character traits. Like last year in the exchange of battles between Red Bull and Mercedes. Red Bull stood high behind, Mercedes low. Red Bull was a compact car, Mercedes one of the longest in the field. Red Bull known corners, Mercedes straights.
Top speed forces Ferrari to compromise
And now? The 2022 title race is also a battle with odd weapons that neutralize each other in the sum of their properties. Red Bull turned the former weakness to its great strength. The RB18 is by far the fastest car on straight journeys. But the Ferrari is better in the curves. Fast and slow. Efficiency meets stable downforce in all situations. “The great strength of Ferrari is its good driving characteristics,” admits Red Bull technical director Adrian Newey.
However, this scheme can be softened depending on the circuit. In Miami, Ferrari was only one step ahead of Red Bull in fast turns, sometimes even losing time in the slow passage between corners 11 and 16. This was due to the Ferrari tires getting too hot. With its unparalleled top speed, the Red Bull forced Ferrari into a setup where Ferrari had to sacrifice some of its strengths.
In the first five races, Red Bull had the better cards three times in terms of track layout. In Jeddah, Imola and Miami, the opponent’s better top speed was a bargaining chip that Ferrari had to keep an eye on. Ferrari relied on lap times and tires to get quickly into their work window. It almost worked in Jeddah, but failed in Imola and Miami. The soft tire mixes gave off too quickly on the Ferrari. It gave Red Bull an opportunity to get into the DRS window and take the lead.
Red Bull knows how to jump better
The Red Bull RB18 generates more of its downforce through the chassis than any other car in the field. This allows the use of smaller wings. Ferrari restrained the horse the other way around. The car’s geometry aims to maximize the use of wings and rear brake valves. And stable downforce via a large window with ground clearance.
Red Bull can afford to go their own way because they are the only team that has understood to jump. It is there, but minimal and it does not bother. Therefore, Red Bull runs extremely low in the fast sections. You can see it on the flying sparks. This also reduces air resistance. Ferrari has a lower limit when it comes to vehicle height. Then the mare starts to bother the riders too much. However, you can live with a certain amount of swinging. When the drivers brake or turn in, it suddenly disappears. The good aerodynamic stability makes this comfort possible.
Bouncing is still a trump card for Red Bull. Adrian Newey and his team can continue to develop their car without fear that the shot will backfire and you will suddenly run into problems like the ones Mercedes is currently keeping up with. Ferrari has this concern. This is why engineers have been more reluctant to participate in the arms race. They wanted to learn more about the phenomenon before making major interventions on the vehicle.
Engine benefit for Ferrari
The good character of the Ferrari ensures that the red cars are always set up relatively quickly for the respective track. It never happens that Ferrari is completely wrong with the setup. It often takes Red Bull a whole day for the cars to drive in the window where they work optimally.
Actually, Ferrari should have better cards on hand when it comes to tire wear and reduction of grip. It was the same in Bahrain and Melbourne. But because Red Bull is so fast on straight lines, Ferrari can not always drive as you would like. You will need tires that heat up quickly to get to the front row. Defending is easier than attacking a car flying on straight.
Ferrari will continue to rely on its concept because the powerful engine absorbs some of the disadvantage of top speed. Measurements from Red Bull and Mercedes have shown that the Ferrari engine is currently four kilowatts (5.4 hp) ahead of the Honda V6 and eight kilowatts (10.8 hp) ahead of the Mercedes. It can rise. First, Ferrari still has a revision of the hybrid system up its sleeve that can add more power over longer periods of time. Second, a narrow space has been left in the ignition of concerns about reliability. It could more certainly provide another springboard later in the year.
Weight is a wild card for Red Bull
In terms of overall stability, Ferrari is clearly ahead. So far, there has been no defect in the World Cup leader. On the other hand, all six drivers with Ferrari engines already drive the other unit. Ferrari was allowed to improve due to a reliability issue. The first engines are reserved for Friday in the future. The Verstappen is still running with its first drive, the Perez with the first engine but the second turbocharger and the second MGU-H. With Leclerc, Sainz and Perez, the use of a fourth engine is likely to be penalized.
Red Bull claimed the biggest joker when it came to vehicle weight. Neither of the two top cars reached the minimum weight of 798 kilos at the start of the season, but Ferrari was, according to Red Bull, seven to eight kilos closer. That’s three tenths. Red Bull has now completely trained from the bacon. An additional five kilos were saved for the Spanish GP. This is close to the border.
But Ferrari has a slight advantage in the wind tunnel until June 30th. Third in the 2021 season, Ferrari must use 80 percent of the limits for wind tunnel use and CFD testing, Red Bull only 75 percent. With the status of the World Cup on June 30, it will be decided who will be allowed to use their gear five percent more often the rest of the year.
The drivers are bound. Charles Leclerc drives at eye level with Max Verstappen. He has delivered fast laps in qualifying at the touch of a button, has reduced his error rate and improved his tire management and is just as involved in duels as his rival. Therefore, unlike last year, Verstappen does not play games with the course boundaries. He knows Leclerc will strike back with the same coin. Carlos Sainz and Sergio Perez are also currently neutralizing themselves. In terms of speed and crashes.