What the GPS data reveals about how Verstappen must approach the Saudi GP

The runaway winner in Bahrain a fortnight earlier had taken a clean sheet over the practice sessions, finishing the three hours of running with a cumulative advantage of 1.3s.

After topping Q1 by 0.483s over teammate and eventual pole sitter Sergio Perez, the RB19 suffered a right-rear fault exiting Turn 10.

It forced the defending champion out of Q2, his earliest qualifying exit since opting not to run in Sochi in 2021 when he was charged with a grid penalty for an engine change.

But as the Belgian and Italian GPs from last season emphatically proved, Verstappen is more than up to the task of making a stunning comeback in this track-effect era of F1.

And judging by his upbeat demeanor when addressing the media straight after breaking down at the Jeddah Corniche Circuit, he believes another striking recovery is very possible.

Where Red Bull excels on the Saudi streets

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB19

Photo: Zak Mauger / Motorsport Images

Verstappen scored his first of a record 15 grand prix victories last season thanks to a DRS-inspired triumph over Charles Leclerc at the Saudi Arabian venue, with the top punch of the converted Honda engine proving decisive for the nimble Ferrari as Red Bull set the course. the speed traps.

But those features had apparently been swapped for the Bahrain round earlier this month.

The lighter-for-2023 RB19 proved quick through lower-speed acceleration zones, but eventually ran out of drag compared to the low-drag SF-23 when heading north of 180 mph.

This high-speed habit and leaving the extremely abrasive Sakhir tarmac, which exposed Ferrari’s tire degradation, should in theory have favored Leclerc and Carlos Sainz this weekend. But the GPS data from Saturday’s race in Saudi reveals the breadth of Red Bull’s capabilities, with the RB19 having the leg up on its red-painted rival on the flowing streets.

Even Verstappen’s Q1-topping lap of 1m28.761s (which would still have placed him third in Q3, with Perez leading the order with 1m28.265s) still had him near the top of the speed traps. The Dutch driver hit 206.3mph before hitting the brakes for Turn 1, which compares with Perez’s 204.4mph as Leclerc clocks 202.6mph to greatly eclipse George Russell. Fernando Alonso in the originally-worn Aston Martin AMR23, meanwhile, topped 198 mph.

Interestingly, the Aston, Ferrari and Merc trade places from Turns 4 to 10 as the RB19 is compromised through the higher speed, downforce determined changes of direction.

However, it is then able to stretch its legs significantly on the rear end to max out at 210mph – that’s 4mph better than the Ferrari and 6mph above the Merc and Aston.

While Perez’s pole lap shows him setting the pace into the tricky Turn 22, the RB19 looks set to pay a price through the next sequence as the Ferrari and Aston come to the fore.

Similarly, Red Bull are unbeatable for the sprint into the final corner, with Perez carrying most of the speed to the top before Alonso cannot be caught during the low-speed acceleration.

How these traits translate into racial strategy

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB19, George Russell, Mercedes F1 W14, Charles Leclerc, Ferrari SF-23, Oscar Piastri, McLaren MCL60, others practice starting procedures at the end of FP2

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB19, George Russell, Mercedes F1 W14, Charles Leclerc, Ferrari SF-23, Oscar Piastri, McLaren MCL60, others practice starting procedures at the end of FP2

Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

It is because of Verstappen’s driveshaft failure that Saudi GP organizers and F1 bosses will be rubbing their hands at the prospect of completing a hat-trick of thrilling Jeddah races.

An opening race gained notoriety for the repeated battles and collision between Verstappen and bitter title rival Lewis Hamilton to leave them level on points ahead of the Abu Dhabi showdown.

Last season’s edition served as part two of the Leclerc and Verstappen DRS detection duel.

This time all eyes will be on Verstappen’s recovery powers – albeit with the hope that it will take him longer than the 12 laps required at Spa in 2022 to climb from 14th to first.

Unlike making progress at the famous Belgian venue, Verstappen will surely need to bide his time more on the narrow concrete barrier Corniche circuit. While Verstappen is a precise and sharp passer, the emphasis will be on his ability to guess where his rivals will place their cars to avoid shunts.

Similarly, he may have to watch and let the first round unfold if there is a melee in the middle that he might otherwise be bundled into.

Also read:

But once the opening hours have set in, the set-up of the RB19 will be ideally suited to his recovery mission – although this optimization is somewhat accidental, with none of the Red Bull crew originally planning for Verstappen to be eliminated so early in qualifying.

When DRS is activated, the overtaking assist will be combined with the Red Bull’s already superior top speed to allow seemingly easy passes down the straights or for Verstappen to level with each opponent before advancing into each braking zone.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *