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How a hot, breezy Sunday afternoon could end Ferrari’s hopes of a Baku F1 victory

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Once Sergio Perez got rid of pole-sitter Charles Leclerc in the Formula 1 sprint at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, victory appeared to be smooth sailing.

The Mexican, the 2021 champion here and a driver who has been going strong in the Azerbaijani capital, stuck with Monaco on the lap six restart of the safety car and waited until DRS became available.

He shrugged off the Ferrari’s wake on the long stretch to the start line and was underpowered internally, with Leclerc offering little in return as Perez took control of the race.

While Leclerc was initially neck-and-neck with Perez and held the lead on his DRS track, it was inevitable that Perez would be able to shed that one-second gap, especially as Leclerc began to battle the degradation of the Red Bull tyres. While it appeared that, on lap 13, Leclerc might have moved closer to Perez and provided an unexpected challenge for victory until the end, the briefest flutter of the DRS flaps was not enough to restore parity. Instead, Perez made 17 laps of the race unquestionable, tripled the gap to 2.1 seconds at the start of round 15, and continued to widen his advantage until the final gap between the pair was 4.4 seconds. .

However, Leclerc did manage to keep Max Verstappen behind him as the Dutchman neared the end of the race. But the No. 1 Red Bull was injured in a fierce battle with George Russell on the first lap, leaving a gap in Verstappen’s sidepod. While not the most serious injury, it was enough to prevent Verstappen from getting close to Leclerc and breaking through at the death, with Red Bull making it 1-2.

In addition to the Russell and Verstappen spat, there were more infamous moments on the first lap; Yuki Tsunoda hit the wall before Turn 14 and the right rear tire came off the rim. Contact with teammate Nick de Vries at the third corner broke the Japanese driver’s front wing and, with no downforce, Tsunoda charged into the barrier, bringing out the initial virtual safety car. This turned into a full safety car as the debris strewn across the track became all too obvious.

Perez won the Baku sprint under Leclerc, with the strength of the Red Bull tires a key advantage over his Ferrari rivals

Perez won the Baku sprint under Leclerc, with the strength of the Red Bull tires a key advantage over his Ferrari rivals

Photography: Mark Sutton/ motorsport pictures

Can Ferrari beat Red Bull in full race?

Despite Ferrari’s strong results in Azerbaijan, especially after already feeling like it had made a breakthrough with its setup choices in Australia, there seems to be one common theme running through its fortunes this season: tire degradation.

The SF-23 simply can’t match the Red Bull RB19 in terms of tire savings, which is still important in the Baku sprint – even if the run is short. It wasn’t until lap 13 that Leclerc was able to maintain a similar pace to Perez; after reaching within a second, he was unable to maintain this pace and began to chip away at times over the next few laps.

Perez was more than a lap quicker on laps 15 and 16, with Leclerc’s time intertwined with Verstappen’s – despite the Dutchman being forced to limp due to a hole in the bodywork Going in a swerve, which naturally reduces time and drastically reduces aerodynamic performance.

“Once you start with tire degradation, that’s when Checo starts to go away. Max starts to come back. From that moment on, we were kind of at the disadvantage” Charles Leclerc

Pretty much everything went according to Perez’s plan, saying he needed to get past Leclerc early and then start to control his pace and be at the front – just like you do when you’re hoping to win a race. But Red Bull may have suspected that Ferrari would struggle in the race – as did Ferrari itself, despite its impressive qualifying performance.

“Charles had a very, very strong position initially,” Perez recalled after the sprint. “Then we had the virtual safety car and then the full safety car, so it was important to stay close to Charles on the restart. The DRS is a lot shorter now so it was very important to stay within a few tenths to be able to move. Once I started moving, Charles was pretty much stuck on my DRS so I got a good look at him and then I was able to slowly move away.

“I think my pace is faster than what I showed today, but it’s hard to know because if you’re at 100% pace, the tires can have problems, so I think I’m just driving to the full capacity of the tires.”

Leclerc was also on pole at the Grand Prix, giving him a second glory

Leclerc was also on pole at the Grand Prix, giving him a second glory

Photography: Andrew Ferraro / motorsport pictures

For his part, Leclerc reiterated his doubts that Ferrari could play a significant role in this race. While Ferrari is struggling to try and find a solution to tire degradation issues that have hampered its performance in races, Leclerc believes the extra familiarity from him and garage engineers has ensured improvements over the first three rounds of the calendar.

“We’re still lacking some speed in the game and that’s definitely what we’re focusing on right now. It’s been a long time now,” he reflected. “So we’re working on that, trying to set the stage for the race. In qualifying we seemed to be ok, saying I believe we’ve taken a step forward. If you look at Australia and here, we’re better. We’re still there Not at Red Bull’s level, so there’s still a lot of work to be done, but I’m much happier with the car.

“Once you start with tire degradation, that’s when Checo starts to go away. Max starts to come back. From that moment on, we were kind of at the disadvantage.”

Of course, there are different conditions for participating in a full Grand Prix; for one thing, the race will be two hours earlier and the track temperature should be higher compared to Saturday.

It will be harder on the tires, especially the softs – Alfa Romeo’s Valtteri Bottas reports that the least durable compounds are “melting” in the colder sprint climate. Among other things, the cars will fill up their fuel tanks to circumnavigate the Baku circuit. This will put more load through them in the early stages, so saving tire life in the early stages can be a battle.

For Ferrari, in that race, it would be too much of a bridge. Unless the team can concoct some kind of tire alchemy with its strategy to overtake Red Bull, or if Leclerc is able to defend his pole position against all odds, it looks like the Milton Keynes team will start to play its part once the lap starts Already finished and dusted. From there, it will be a battle between the two blue drivers as Leclerc’s tires start to wither in Sunday afternoon’s hot and breezy drive.

Grand Prix appears to be gearing up for another all-Red Bull fight

Grand Prix appears to be gearing up for another all-Red Bull fight

Photography: Mark Sutton/ motorsport pictures

Can Perez challenge Verstappen?

Throughout the race, the roles were reversed; Perez was third, with Verstappen and Leclerc in the front row. Leclerc started the sprint better than both Red Bulls, and Verstappen conceded early on, leaving him with an unnecessary battle with Russell in the opening corner. A repeat of the situation would certainly see Verstappen fall into Perez’s grasp, and while the battle of wits within the team should have been non-contact, a close-quarters duel could lead to the feared tensions in the Red Bull camp.

Perez was strong all weekend — in fact, he’s notoriously strong at this track. At Red Bull he won in 2021 and finished second in 2022, and at Force India/Racing Point he picked up two thirds in a season where podiums were tougher. Sure to be on the podium again, barring any misfortune, he will be hoping to win again, being the driver to ruin the strange statistic that no one has won two F1 races in Baku.

“Starting with high fuel loads and higher track temperatures, so they actually do something for everyone on the tyres. I think the most important thing is to get through that one and then you’ll see how the car goes Do” Max Verstappen

Given the aforementioned caveats, it’s hard to read too much into the sprint race, and Verstappen’s car was clearly far more taxing than his teammate’s intact chassis. But it stands to reason that with Perez’s strength in Baku, he should be able to show his talents if the situation allows. If it’s simply a battle between the Red Bulls, the title race needs to be on Sunday for Perez.

“Of course, tomorrow will be a little bit different, starting with high fuel loads and higher track temperatures, so they’ll actually be tougher on everyone’s tyres,” Verstappen estimated. “I think the most important thing is to get through that one, and then you see what the car is going to do in terms of how it responds. And then generally, we have a good race rhythm.”

Perez had an early advantage with a sprint win, but can he make a difference in the grand prix?

Perez had an early advantage with a sprint win, but can he make a difference in the grand prix?

Photography: Zak Mauger / motorsport pictures

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Vandoorne to drive Aston Martin F1 car in Pirelli tyre test at Spa

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Aston reserve driver Vandoorne will share driving duties with team principal Lance Stroll, while Lando Norris and Oscar Piastri will each drive a day for McLaren.

It will be the Belgian’s first time driving an active F1 car on track since December 2020 when he represented Mercedes in Abu Dhabi testing.

While the Spa test will focus on Pirelli’s no-carpet tyres, it will give Vandoorne a valuable opportunity to sample the 2023 car, helping him correlate with Aston Martin’s simulator work.

If either Stroll or Fernando Alonso were unwell at any point for the rest of the season, his life would also be made easier.

The 31-year-old shared the Aston substitute with defending Formula Two champion Felipe Drugovich, and the two took turns on call.

Dubovic drove the AMR23 for two days during the Bahrain test in February, when Stroll was not present, and he had the opportunity to test drive the AMR23. Since then, the Brazilian has continued to rack up more miles in private testing of the 2021 car.

Stoffel Vandoorne, Reserve Driver, Aston Martin F1 Team

Stoffel Vandoorne, Reserve Driver, Aston Martin F1 Team

Photography: Mark Sutton/ motorsport pictures

As well as his role at Aston, Vandoorne is one of McLaren’s backup drivers and his performance at Spa will also make it easier for him to step into the MCL60 should the need arise.

As well as giving him a general feel for downforce levels for 2023, the two cars share the Mercedes powerplant and thus have similar settings on their respective steering wheels.

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Vandoorne made his F1 debut for McLaren in Bahrain in 2016, replacing current Aston team-mate Alonso.

He then completed two full seasons in 2017 and 2018, the first with Honda power and the second with Renault. He finished 16th at the World Championships in both seasons, with a best finish of seventh.

He was dropped by McLaren at the end of 2018, but has since rebuilt his career in Formula E, winning the 2021-22 championship for Mercedes and serving as an F1 substitute.

He currently drives for the DS Penske Formula E team and is also a substitute for the Peugeot WEC team.

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McLaren “true contenders” for F1 best of the rest tag

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McLaren has only scored one point after three rounds in 2023 as it struggles to find the car competitive.

But both Lando Norris and Oscar Piastri have seen plenty of upgrades in recent races, allowing the former to finish second in a row, while Piastri has finished in the top five in each of his past two races.

Despite being 136 points behind second-placed Mercedes in the constructors’ championship, Russell believes McLaren is a real threat for the remainder of the race behind leaders Red Bull.

“Obviously they’re a real contender for second fastest team,” Russell said of Woking.

“Oddly enough, Aston Martin was clearly second at the start of the year.

“And they don’t seem to be that competitive now. Ferrari haven’t made much progress. McLaren has made huge progress.

“So without McLaren we’d be very, very happy with the progress we’ve made. Leading the midfield, widening the gap and closing in on Red Bull.

“McLaren has just fully embraced it. But that makes you optimistic that bigger strides are possible.

“I believe in my team. I think it gives us the confidence and optimism to take this step towards Red Bull.

“We’re not too focused on McLaren, Aston or Ferrari. We’re focused on Red Bull. We’re trying to make that big step.”

George Russell, Mercedes F1 W14

George Russell, Mercedes F1 W14

Photography: Steve Etherington/ motorsport pictures

Russell fought his way back from 18th on the grid at last weekend’s Hungarian Grand Prix, jumping to sixth at the checkered flag after Mercedes strategists told him 11th was his favorite.

Russell was pleased with the final result, but felt it was “proof” of a “missed opportunity” for Hungary.

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“The strategy tells me that if we maximize everything, the P11 is the most realistic, the P7 is the most realistic,” Russell told Autosport.

“Sixth place without a safety car, without a VSC, it’s a really great result.

“But it also proved that this weekend could be a missed opportunity. I believe I could have gone there with Lewis yesterday, it’s one of my favorite circuits and the car always does well here.

“When you have two cars out there, fighting for second gives you more options, and Lewis is also very strong. If things turned out a little differently, he would also be P2.

“So as a missed opportunity we will learn from it. But the positive side is we are leading Aston and Ferrari.”

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Top speed, car sizes, race weekends and more compared

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Formula 1 has relied on junior classes to develop the next generation of drivers, and its teams are eager to snag their brightest talent.

The ‘old’ Formula 2 car was a ruleset rather than its own separate entity, sometimes sharing the grid with F1, and later rule changes made the two cars separate championships.

The second class was renamed the F3000 in 1985 as the series switched to a naturally aspirated engine formula and extended the life of the earlier Cosworth DFV lineage. Throughout the life of the F3000, different engine and chassis suppliers came and went, with companies including Reynard, Lola, Ralt and March among them, all producing cars before the championship became a single specification.

When the F3000 championship began to fade due to declining team interest and declining track quality, the second level of racing was reborn in 2005. Bernie Ecclestone tried to bring the junior championship to F1’s bottom line and, along with Flavio Briatore and Bruno Michel, helped build the GP2 series.

GP2 became the FIA ​​Formula Two Championship in 2017, but many key hallmarks of GP2’s early series have stood the test of time. The GP3 series, a third-tier category designed to compete with the myriad Formula 3 championships around it, was added to the F1 Act in 2010 and became FIA ​​Formula 3 in 2019.

There are major differences in the way F2 is run compared to F1, there are subtle changes in form and there are big differences in the overall performance of the cars. The following are the key areas of comparison between F1 and F2.

F1 vs. F2 – key differences

car

Formula 1

Formula Two

top speed

220+ mph

208 mph

Minimum weight including driver

798 kg

788 kg

DRS?

Yes

Yes

engine size

1.6 liter V6

3.4 liter V6

Approximate Power

1,000 horsepower

620 hp

car size

5.63m x 2m x 0.95m

5.22m x 1.9m x 1.09m

tire size

18 inches

18 inches

game every weekend

One (two for sprint weekends)

Two (one sprint, one feature)

game length

305 km/190 miles

Sprint – 120 km/74.5 miles

Features – 170 km/105.6 miles

team

10

11

driver

20

twenty two

2023 Pole Times – Red Bull Ring

1 point 04.391

1 meter 14,643

2023 Pole Times – Monaco

1 meter 11.365

1 meter 21.053

2023 Pole Times – Silverstone

1 meter 26.720

1 meter 39,832

Current single-spec F2 cars can be seen as simpler, smaller versions of F1 cars

Current single-spec F2 cars can be seen as simpler, smaller versions of F1 cars

Photography: Simon Galloway/ motorsport pictures

What is the difference between F1 and F2 racing?

In F1, each team designs its own chassis according to a set of well-defined technical regulations laid down by the FIA. For the 2022 ruleset, the FIA ​​has updated the wording of the rules to better define the bounding box within which bodies can be developed and build a system more in line with the proliferation of available CAD products.

It features a range of safety systems such as a roll cage, halo and anti-intrusion panels mounted around the monocoque. There are also anti-collision structures on the side, front and rear of the car to minimize the impact on the driver in the car.

F2 is a single-spec series with all teams using the Dallara F2 2018 model. The car and driver must weigh a minimum of 788kg and feature F1 standard safety features such as the aforementioned crash structures and halos. Use only parts supplied by Dallara, Hewland or sold by F2 promoters.

F2 cars use floor venturi tunnels, which F1 adopts in 2022, 40 years after banning ground-effect aerodynamics. These designs aren’t as extreme as those in F1, but they work on the same principle, and the car is also enhanced with front and rear wings to create downforce. Like F1, F2 cars are fitted with a Drag Reduction System (DRS), which operates on the same parameters as its parent series.

While F1 cars typically reach speeds in excess of 220 mph during a race, with DRS switched on, an F2 car could theoretically hit 208 mph at full low downforce.

What is the difference between F1 and F2 tires?

Pirelli supplies all championships on the official F1 ladder, and F2 and F3 also use the Italian company’s rubber.

F2 started using 18-inch tires in 2020, two years before entering F1. F2 tires are slightly narrower than F1 tires and generally have less grip because of the naturally lower speeds of the junior series cars.

There are four dry-weather tire compounds for the F2: hard, medium, soft and supersoft – with the first three using the same white, yellow and red color coding as the F1. Extra soft textures are indicated by purple text on the side walls. Each car is supplied with five sets of dry weather tires per wheel, consisting of two of the prescribed compounds, with a set of “premium” tires to be returned after practice. Three sets of wet tires are also available – the F2 has no intermediate compound.

Tire blankets are banned in F2, meaning drivers must warm up their tires naturally. This often creates a larger offset during the pit stops, with drivers leaving the pits vulnerable to those who have already completed laps in the new group.

The “primary” and “option” compounds (harder tires are the main tires and softer tires are the options) must be used during featured races, and pit stops are required to replace them. Tire parking is allowed during a sprint, but not mandatory. Since only two dry compounds are used each weekend, Pirelli and F2 decide which tire to use before the weekend. There may be a single step in the compound (for example, medium and soft), or there may be a larger step for greater excursions (for example, medium and extra soft).

620bhp Mecachrome F2 engine

620bhp Mecachrome F2 engine

Photography: Sutton Images

What is the difference between F1 and F2 powertrains?

F1 has used a turbo-hybrid system since 2014, with a turbocharger and a motor-generator set on the rear axle to form a hybrid package. The internal combustion engine is a 1.6-liter V6. By 2022, F1 engines run on E10 fuel, where 10% of the fuel composition consists of combustibles of biosourced origin.

The MGU-K in an F1 car can produce up to 160bhp for a total power output of around 1000bhp. Figures for F1’s current four powertrain manufacturers (Ferrari, Mercedes, Renault and Red Bull Powertrain) vary but are all believed to have efficiencies in excess of 50%.

F2’s single-spec powertrain is produced by French manufacturer Mecachrome, which briefly participated in F1 in 1998 and 1999, and took over Renault’s engine program. The Mecachrome unit was a 3.4-litre V6 engine, virtually the same one used in the F3, but with a modified turbocharger from Van der Lee. It produces around 620bhp and is driven by a six-speed Hewland gearbox.

To ensure fairness in powertrain supply, Mecachrome units are randomly assigned to teams, as there may be minor differences in overall power output.

F2 is currently being used as a test bed to assist F1 in developing more sustainable fuel, using Aramco-produced fuel with 55% of its content from sustainable bio-sources, with the aim of increasing this figure to 100% by 2026/27. The Saudi oil brand replaced longtime supplier Elf as the sole producer of the F2 fuel.

How much does F1 cost compared to F2?

In recent years, Formula 1 has been constrained by a cost cap of about $135 million through 2023, with some minor adjustments for inflation and other ancillary costs. The cost cap covers most development and operating costs, but excludes driver salaries, salaries of the team’s three highest-paid employees, travel costs and marketing expenses. As Red Bull found out in 2022, violating this cap carries a range of penalties depending on the extent of the overrun.

The bulk of this budget comes from the FIA’s prize money, investment and sponsorship mix. Some teams, such as Red Bull and Mercedes, are self-sufficient in terms of bonuses and sponsors and do not require direct input from their ownership structures.

F2 teams have much smaller budgets, and with the series’ fairly limited reach, teams will rarely start the season with a full sponsor portfolio ready to fund every race. As such, drivers should pay for their rides through their own sponsors or a driver academy.

Depending on the team, the budget of an F2 driver can vary from 2 million to 3 million euros, and can even exceed this budget to get a seat in a better team. To keep costs down, F2 limited the number of employees working on each car on race weekends and designed the cars to be relatively cheap. A team can buy a complete F2 car, without the engine, for around 500,000 euros.

George Russell, Lando Norris and Charles Leclerc are recent notable F2 graduates entering F1

George Russell, Lando Norris and Charles Leclerc are recent notable F2 graduates entering F1

Photography: Glenn Dunbar/ motorsport pictures

How do drivers get from F2 to F1?

To compete in F2, drivers must hold an A or B international FIA license. They cannot conduct private tests on F2 machines, only the group tests offered by the series. There are also restrictions on the single-seater cars that drivers can test in private, and if a driver is double-duty in another category, they must commit to racing in F2 in the event of any conflict.

Depending on a driver’s final standing at the end of the F2 season, they may receive Superlicense points to help qualify for F1. To obtain a super license to compete in F1, a driver needs to earn 40 points.

The distribution of Super License points is:

end of season position

SL points

first place

40

second place

40

third place

40

fourth place

30

the fifth place

20

sixth place

10

Number 7

8

number 8

6

No.9

4

No. 10

3

These can be applied cumulatively over the course of three seasons.

F1 VS F2 weekend format

F1 has been running in the same basic format for years, with FP1 and FP2 taking place on Fridays, each one hour long. FP3 races are also one hour long and take place on the Saturday before the three-stage qualifying format in place since 2006. F1 races must be at least 305 kilometers in length (excluding Monaco) and must not exceed two hours in duration, with a three-hour window if any red flags are raised.

However, sprint weekends are different and that changes for 2023. The only practice session kicked off with Friday’s race, followed by qualifying for Sunday’s Grand Prix. Sprint qualifying and the race are both held on Saturdays, with 2023 seeing six sprint weekends for added variety.

F2 has a practice session lasting 45 minutes on Friday, with a half-hour qualifying session later in the day. It’s effectively a time trial and drivers just need to maintain the fastest lap at the end of the race to secure pole for Sunday’s race.

Many F1 teams have junior drivers in F2 teams

Many F1 teams have junior drivers in F2 teams

Photography: Red Bull Content Pool

The sprint race takes place on Saturday, using the same grid as qualifying, but with the top ten swapped. The number of laps “equal to the minimum number of complete laps over a distance of 120 km (100 km in Monaco)”, according to the 10-8-6-5-4-3-2-1 scoring system, the score is finally dropped to eighth place, and the fastest lap points are awarded to the top 10 competitors.

The F2 weekend’s featured race “should be equal to the minimum number of complete laps over a distance of 170km (140km in Monaco, 160km in Budapest)”. It features mandatory pit stops where drivers must use both primary and optional compounds during the race. If a driver pits before completing the sixth lap, the mandatory stop does not count. This information is also not recorded if a driver stops under the Virtual Safety Car unless they are already in the pits when the VSC is triggered.

F2 attempted three weekend races in 2021, but the practice was generally unpopular and canceled for 2022 due to gaps left on the calendar. Prior to this, the main race was held on Saturday, and the starting position of the sprint race was determined by the results and the reversal of the top eight.

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