Formula 1 | Test findings from Bahrain: Expert decodes Red Bull’s dominance

Max Verstappen and Red Bull are once again one step ahead of the competition before the start of the season in Bahrain (live on RTL and Sky). At, F1 expert Christian Danner explains what makes the Bulls so strong, why Ferrari and Mercedes have also made progress and why Nico Hülkenberg can hope. He sees a team “at a crossroads.”

What remains from the Formula 1 test drives in Bahrain is a scene away from the racetrack. Beyond the time monitors into which engineers and experts stared spellbound during the three-day dress rehearsal before the start of the premier motorsport season. No long run, no tire comparison, no sector time provides the most important insight, but rather a Max Verstappen in a good mood – one who is in too good a mood.

The world champion appeared in front of the cameras in the paddock after the first day of testing in his Red Bull car to draw a positive conclusion. The RB20 “immediately felt good,” the test went “smoothly,” “the balance was exactly in the right window from the start,” Verstappen commented on the premiere trip on his new bull. The Dutchman had just completed 143 laps and set a clear fastest time. So far, so sober. Verstappen-like. And yet there was more to be read.

“The words he chose are actually an understatement of what’s going on inside him,” says RTL and Christian Danner. “He was beaming like a horse, his eyes were shining, he was totally happy. His face and his eyes were shining so much that you have to assume: This is exactly his thing, it’s his car, everything fits even better than last year. You could see it on the tip of his nose.”

According to Danner, Verstappen’s radiance was “the absolute decisive factor” in all his analyses. At least if you look at the balance of power at the top of Formula 1 before the start of the season on Saturday in Bahrain (live on RTL and Sky) want to measure.

“There was a lot of speculation before the test drives: It’s sensational here and sensational there, this one invented this, that one invented that. Then they drove and realized: everything is the same,” the RTL commentator sums up laconically: “Red Bull is ahead everyone else, behind them an incredibly compact field of pursuers, about half a second behind, maybe even a little more. And then comes the rest, who sometimes move a little forward, sometimes a little back.”

Formula 1: Cool Red Bull geniuses are once again the best at the nuts and bolts

How comfortable Verstappen immediately felt in his new company vehicle “could be seen with the naked eye,” says Danner: “The thing was like it was glued on. Big compliments to chief designer Adrian Newey and the entire Red Bull team. From a super -Making the car a better car again – that takes a lot of brainpower.”

Red Bull has obviously worked mainly on the cooling of the RB20. “Apparently Red Bull has revolutionized the cooling concept,” Danner alludes to air ducts and “mini slots” on the side pods of the car and explains: “The fewer radiators I have, the more aerodynamic a car is.” And there is “hardly any sign of cooling” on the Red Bull. The engineers and designers “developed a cooling concept that obviously worked because the car didn’t overheat. Verstappen drove and drove and drove. I guess that’s where the main source of the advantage lies.”

Last year, the Red Bull had “relatively a lot of air resistance with a lot of downforce,” said Danner: “I think they were able to improve this ratio quite a bit.”

In other words: Red Bull has once again found a solution that puts the world champion team one step ahead of everyone. Verstappen has created a tailor-made, extremely efficient vehicle. Best answered the crucial question: How do I build a car that has little air resistance and a lot of downforce? “L over D, Lift over Drag” is what this law is called in F1 speak. “This is the be-all and end-all that every aerodynamicist recites like a mantra,” says Danner.

For the Red Bull competition and all fans’ hopes for an exciting world championship fight, Red Bull’s renewed strength is initially a blow in the engine pit.

Mercedes is much better to drive this year

After all, Danner also sees the potent Red Bull challengers Ferrari and Mercedes on the right track. In addition to the air resistance/downforce ratio, the “driveability” factor is the second crucial factor, explains the F1 expert. “If you follow the long runs and read what the drivers say, both Mercedes and Ferrari have made great progress. Both cars are obviously less critical to drive and more pleasant to handle. Significant deficits have been eliminated, especially on the rear axle,” praises Danner the pursuers.

While the Ferrari pushed the tires too hard last year, the black Silver Arrow W14 was a bitch to the power of ten, doing this in one corner with Lewis Hamilton and George Russell, doing that in the other corner and performing extremely differently from track to track. Ferrari and Mercedes have got their fundamental problems under control. The only problem is: Red Bull hasn’t stood still, but has already advanced into the next dimension with a bold concept.

“It’s clear that Ferrari and Mercedes have to find more performance,” emphasizes Danner: “Now we’re going into the classic competition for further development.” Because of the resources in Maranello and Brackley, the 65-year-old sees Red and Silver as Verstappen’s “closest pursuers”. “McLaren and Aston Martin are a little behind.”

Alpine: How long will CEO de Meno continue to watch the tragedy?

In the midfield of Formula 1 there is now a clear loser in the test drives: Alpine. For years, despite all the Renault power, the French factory team has not come close to meeting its own standards. During the tests at the Bahrain International Circuit, Esteban Ocon and Pierre Gasly once again looked like gray desert mice in their Alpine cars, clearly chugging along behind their direct competition.

“They were really slow,” says Danner, who even sees the French behind the Racing Bulls (formerly AlphaTauri) before the start of the season. “I’m curious to see how long Renault and CEO Luca de Meno will look at this. If I get into Formula 1 as a car manufacturer, I have to win. I can’t say: I’m sliding around too, I’m also there, but the others are But they’re better.”

The TV expert believes that the Alpine team is at a “crossroads”. “Basically speaking, they are at a point where something will happen soon.”

Hülkenberg’s Haas is no longer a tire monster

And at the back? Haas has taken a clear step forward, says Danner. The new VF-24 is no longer the tire-eating monster of last year and the tire problem has fundamentally been solved. “Just like at Ferrari and that certainly has to do with the rear axle, which Haas gets from Maranello,” said the 36-time Grand Prix starter. He doesn’t see “that the Haas has become particularly faster.” But: “Nico Hülkenberg’s time was not bad. I don’t think Haas is automatically selected for the Red Lantern.”

Of course, Nico Hülkenberg also gave interviews in Bahrain. Like Max Verstappen, the German didn’t shine. After all, he didn’t look particularly sad either.

Martin Armbruster