Long-run analysis: Red Bull data needs to be "taken with a pinch of salt"

16-04-2021 17:15 | Updated: 16-04-2021 18:31
F1 News
Long-run analysis: Red Bull data needs to be taken with a pinch of salt

The Grand Prix weekend in Imola is underway and Mercedes have topped the timesheets in both FP1 and FP2. Visibly, the car looks smoother on the track. The seven-time World Champions demonstrated a slightly stronger long-run pace but Red Bull had a troublesome day and shouldn't be written off.

Complications for Red Bull

In FP1, Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon renewed their rivalry with a mystery crash. Perez lost a bulk of track time as his RB16B had to be recovered and repaired. Also in the opening session, Max Verstappen was on a flying lap but had to back off after Nikita Mazepin crashed by the pit entry. 

In FP2, Verstappen had to retire early with a driveshaft issue. Another chunk of long-run data missing. This means any data comparison needs to be taken with a pinch of salt. With so much disruption, it's likely Red Bull have a bit more room to improve as the weekend moves forward. 

Mercedes on top, Ferrari fighting for the second-row?

As the timesheets suggest, Mercedes have the strongest qualifying pace in Imola. Not something that was widely predicted as the Mercedes car seemed to struggle on corner exit in Bahrain. The weekend's track is significantly more technical than the Bahrain International Circuit at the event three weeks ago.

During the opening stages of FP2, Mercedes powered in some fast laps on the medium tyres. Bottas' fastest lap during this stint remained at the top of the timesheet throughout the session. Mercedes clearly well prepared to get through to Q3 on the medium tyres. Perez and Verstappen's fastest time in this stint was 1.5 seconds compared to their rivals. 

Both Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc have been strong so far this weekend. Leclerc was within 0.25 seconds of the top three drivers in FP1, the same can be said for Sainz in FP2. Pierre Gasly was also in the mix during both sessions. 

The rest of the field isn't as close as it was in Bahrain. 0.962 seconds separates the top nine, whereas this separated the top 15 three weeks ago despite the Italian event taking place on a shorter track. 

Long-run data, Mercedes marginally ahead

During the final 20 minutes of FP2, teams and drivers conducted their usual race simulations. And this is where it gets particularly close. Perez averaged around the 1:19.85 mark. Hamilton averaged around 1:19.84. Outside of this average count, he did have a slow 1:23.288 lap in this stint. Bottas averaged around 1:19.61 on a long-run pace. These times were all set on the medium tyres. 

This data points to another close race and showcases the improvements Mercedes have made during the three weeks.  

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