The setups of Red Bull and Mercedes in Sochi – Motorsport Week


The technical battle between Red Bull and Mercedes continued in Sochi, at a phase of the season that marks a key moment in the battle for the world title between these two equal teams.

On the route of the Russian Olympic Park, the Mercedes W12 confirmed what was expected; that it was preferred over the RB16B. Red Bull itself knew that it had to pursue a defensive strategy against its Anglo-German rival, particularly due to the three-place penalty awarded to Max Verstappen for a collision in Monza.

It was no coincidence that Sochi decided to introduce Power Unit number 4 on Verstappen’s car, which significantly eased the three-place penalty, as the Dutchman had to start from behind.

The Milton Keynes team diversified the set-up again between Verstappen and Sergio Perez, and again the RB16B was confirmed as one of the single-seaters with the Skinner wings. In the case of Verstappen in particular, a flatter rear wing was chosen than that of his teammate in order to increase the straight-ahead speed so that he can recover during the race.

The carrying flap at the top of the mobile DRS flap has been removed from Perez’s car. In car # 33, the main aircraft is more unloaded, almost neutral in the outermost part, but the Gurney flap on the DRS edge has been retained. The technical choice of the Verstappen car also provides for a simplified end plate in which the fringes under the words “ESSO” are missing. This solution has been adopted in pure routes with low downforce and is quite extreme for a route like Sochi.

Red Bull knows it can rely on its floor to provide enough downforce that creates strong grip in the fast corners and gives it options on how many wings to run, I’ve never seen deck wings as the season progresses assumed, not even on routes like Monaco and the Hungaroring.

Some setup comparisons were also carried out on the Mercedes front at the weekend, but Toto Wolff’s team always tends towards solutions with more rear wings than Red Bull. but Hamilton and Bottas tested the two different mobile flap configurations on Friday.

This year’s regulation also restricted the number of usable rear wing configurations, so that a maximum of two different DRS flap specifications must be approved. Mercedes has often done a setup similar to that in Sochi this year, comparing a wider flap and one with a reduced string. Hamilton used the thinnest setting on Friday while Bottas used the version with the most downforce, as he has done in several races (such as Portugal and Azerbaijan).

Due to the rain on the Russian race weekend, the Brackley team unified the choice for both drivers and opted for a W12 with more downforce.

The W12 still seems to have some rear stability issues leading to oversteer from slow corners, an issue that affects Hamilton more than Bottas.

During the course of Friday, the Brackley engineers also had Bottas try out a new front wing configuration, which was new in the layout of the last flap at the top.

The last flap, modified in the outermost area, strives for a greater washout effect at the expense of a larger wing shape and brings the air flow from the front wheels to the outside. The wing was then set aside for qualifying as it was supposed to unload the front. A change that goes in the same direction as that of Ferrari and Aston Martin, which made changes only to the two flaps that regulate the total dip that are intended to be used at low loads. This of course allows you to change the front downforce without having to take on completely new wings.

Below the budget ceiling and with the technicians fully focused on 2022, this is the only alternative that the teams have to find to other aerodynamic solutions without overloading their budgets.

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