Long run analysis | Are Honda and Red Bull hiding a lot of pace?

07-05-2021 17:22 | Updated: 07-05-2021 17:58
F1 News
Long run analysis | Are Honda and Red Bull hiding a lot of pace?

The timesheets in the second practice session ahead of the Spanish Grand Prix produced an eye-opening result. For the first time in 2021, Red Bull Racing were significantly behind Mercedes in terms of one-lap pace. Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas are also ahead in terms of long-run pace, but what are Honda and Red Bull hiding? 

The difference between Mercedes and Red Bull is remarkable in Barcelona. The timesheets show that ninth-placed Verstappen is 0.615 seconds behind Championship rival Hamilton, with Sergio Perez one place further behind in FP2. Perhaps what is more remarkable, is the number of drivers separating Verstappen and Hamilton. 

Both Ferrari drivers, both Alpine drivers and both AlphaTauri drivers separate Verstappen and Hamilton in the timesheets. This is one lap pace, and it's worth keeping in mind that one of Verstappen's push laps was ruined after the Dutchman ran wide at turn 10. 

Field remarkably tight

Just 1.043 seconds separated Kimi Raikkonen in P16 and Hamilton in P1. That is unbelievably tight. Particularly on this kind of circuit with many different features to test every part of the car. 

As the teams head towards the Grand Prix, it is likely this gap widens. But it is still astonishing and promising in how the midfield teams could potentially catch up with the lead teams further down the season. 

Alpine have again had another positive start. To have both Ocon and Alonso high up the field will impress the French team. They were hoping their strong results in Portugal weren't just circuit specific. It is also surprising to see McLaren miss out on the top 10, perhaps they have some work to do overnight. However, the most likely option is McLaren are starting to tone down their performances on Friday due to their success in the previous three rounds. Their battle with Ferrari will continue. 

Red Bull v AlphaTauri

The question marks surrounding Red Bull Racing get answered when looking at AlphaTauri. With both Pierre Gasly and Yuki Tsunoda ahead of Verstappen and Perez, it seems to be clear that Red Bull have turned down their engines for FP2. It's likely Red Bull are hiding their true pace rather than having reliability concerns. 

The fact that there is no Honda-powered car inside the top 10 on the speed trap chart, also points to a lower engine mode for Honda. 

Long-run pace

Mercedes also led the way with the long-run pace. Hamilton's average lap time on the medium tyres was only 0.011 seconds quicker than Bottas' average lap time on the same compound. The small gap suggests Mercedes might finally have found some consistency in their current car. 

The comparison between Red Bull teammates is also interesting. Both on the soft tyre long run, Perez's average lap time was 0.269 quicker than Verstappen's average. The long-run pace also suggests Alpine are in the fight with McLaren and Ferrari. 

Driver Tyre Average lap time Difference to quickest on the same tyre
Hamilton Medium 1:22.994 Quickest
Bottas Medium  1:23.005 0.011
Leclerc Medium 1:23.535 0.541
Norris Medium 1:23.781 0.787
Ocon Medium 1:24.095 1.101
Vettel Medium 1:24.527 1.533
Stroll Medium 1:24.637 1.643
Perez Soft 1:23.346 0.020
Verstappen Soft 1:23.326 0.289
Hamilton Soft 1:23.326 Quickest
Alonso Soft 1:23.952 0.626
Sainz Soft 1:24.227 0.901
Ricciardo Soft 1:24.500 1.174

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