Red Bull has had a strong 2022 Formula 1 season, but it hasn’t been perfect – Max Verstappen admitting the team have been ‘not amazing in qualifying’.
Ferrari was the best performer in qualifying, winning seven out of 11 pole positions, with Red Bull having the rest. Verstappen took three, Sergio Perez the other.
But Red Bull has the better record on race day, winning seven times (and winning both sprints), meaning Verstappen leads the drivers’ championship with 38 points over Charles Leclerc.
“We’re still a bit, I would say, not amazing in qualifying,” Verstappen said.
“But it doesn’t just have to do with the car, we’re still a bit heavy.
“When all the fuel comes out, it’s just a limitation we have. So we have to lose weight with the car, which we’re working on.
“But that’s why in the race it’s a bit less of an issue because first of all you can’t push like in qualifying so that probably helps a bit with the way we have the car. And that weight problem with a full tank is a little less visible.
Red Bull was estimated to be around 15kg overweight in pre-season, but The Race understands they have reduced that to around 7.5kg by the time of the Miami Grand Prix in May.
However, later upgrades to the car are believed to have increased this weight slightly to potentially around 10kg. This may be due to more robust components or more complex and therefore potentially heavier aerodynamic parts. On the other hand, Ferrari is believed to be at or at least close to the minimum weight of 798kg.
Around one lap, an extra 10kg is estimated to cost 0.3-0.4s in lap time depending on the track configuration. But even so, increased aerodynamic performance and improved balance characteristics may be worth the sacrifice, especially if enhancements that add weight are part of a development path that will generate compound gains down the line.
All teams have fought to achieve the minimum weight of 798 kg this season. The minimum mass regulations were changed ahead of the season, with 3kg added to the original figure of 795kg due to difficulties.
Most teams struggled more or less with the minimum weight, although Alfa Romeo started the season in the best shape. Ferrari also had to work on its weight to get where it is now, while Mercedes reportedly started the year about 15kg overweight.
Overall, Ferrari have had the advantage in qualifying this season over Red Bull. Even at the Red Bull Ring recently, Verstappen took pole position but only by a margin of 0.029s. Ferrari then had a comfortable pace advantage in the race thanks to its tire degradation advantage.
But weight is only part of the equation. Work has also been done on balance to create a stronger front end, which Verstappen is particularly adept at making the most of.
In the development war with Ferrari, the two have delivered regular updates that have left both teams perfectly balanced on mid-season performance.
However, Red Bull is not focusing on qualifying pace rather than race pace, with the sole aim of achieving performance gains that help in both scenarios. This includes any weight savings, with any extra weight less noticeable in race stints but still having an effect.
“We can only influence our own performance, not what Ferrari does. So our challenge is to get the most out of our package within the constraints we are operating under this year,” said Chief Engineer Paul Monaghan.
“If we have managed to put a bit more performance on our car, then it will serve us well for qualifying as well as for the race. You wouldn’t do one against the other, you’re looking to do both – otherwise it’s a bit of a fake game potentially.
“So we’re going to continue, where we can, trying to find ways to give the car a bit more pace.”