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Hughes: 'Red Bull left it in Belgium due to wing choice and pit stop strategy'

Hughes: 'Red Bull left it in Belgium due to wing choice and pit stop strategy'

01-09-2020 12:24 Last update: 12:24


The Belgian Grand Prix was quite boring. The Mercedesses drove right away, Verstappen eventually drove in no man's land and it was only behind that that it was a bit interesting. The different teams in midfield were very daring to each other where Pierre Gasly, among others, did good business. For Red Bull Racing it was a race as usual, faster than the rest, slower than the top. In the case of Verstappen then. Hughes explains at Formula1.com where the team 'failed'.

Specific rear wings

The journalist writes in his debrief that the Mercedes race was ultimately determined by two crucial choices of Red Bull Racing. These choices had to do with the downforce settings and the behaviour of the tyres. It is clear that if Red Bull had just made a different choice, the race could have been very different because Mercedes would have had to react.

First with the downforce: the teams drove with lower and smaller wings than usual and already on Friday it turned out that the RB16 was faster. The overall balance of the car was also stronger, says Hughes, but the complication for Sunday was rain. In that context, a higher downforce would be better again and therefore Red Bull decided to continue.

Hughes: "Red Bull tried their very small wing on Friday morning – and the car seemed to like it. But there was a complicating factor: the forecast for Sunday was rain. In which case, obviously the higher-downforce set up would be much better. That’s what Red Bull chose to go with from Friday afternoon. When the Mercedes engineers observed this, they doubtless felt relieved." This is because the W11 performs just the other way round.

"But the W11 seemed to prefer the higher-downforce wing. If Red Bull had gone for their lower downforce wing and Mercedes gone for the higher, the W11 would have been way too vulnerable at the end of the Kemmel straight into Les Combes. Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas would likely have been sitting ducks to a DRS-armed Max Verstappen."

The second crucial decision

"Not converting to a two-stop was the crucial second decision at Red Bull. If they had done so, it would have forced Mercedes into a decision of whether to do the same, so as to cover off Verstappen. But with Verstappen staying out, Mercedes could simply bank track position." However, a two-stop would have created a new risk in the form of Daniel Ricciardo.

"So even if Verstappen (or the Mercedes pair) had made second stops, they would have exited behind Ricciardo and may well have been unable to pass. Alex Albon in the other Red Bull had just spent most of his race bottled behind one Renault or another." Crucial choices or not, according to this analysis it was Red Bull's safest choice to just do what they did last weekend.