“Monza result ‘a loss for Mercedes but a victory for Formula 1’. I think it is so refreshing to see the podium and the young guys fighting in front. I looked at the podium and it was great. They all deserved it. Their teams made the right calls, they drove very well, the battle for the victory was good and seeing them up there is very good news for the sport… You have to see it from that side and they provided great entertainment”, says Wolff.
As podium and race finish without a driver of the wealthy top 3 teams on the podium was celebrated as a victory for Formula one. Due to some incidents the driver positions on the track was mixed up and there was even close racing for the first position since nor Hamilton, Bottas and Verstappen were leading the race. Previously we often only saw battles outside the top 10 positions and close racing for the last point.
Ferrari was no where near the top positions as seen during most of the races in 2020, Red Bull didn’t find the right pace in Monza and scored no points. Only Mercedes with Lewis Hamilton was able to have a good start and lead the race until Magnussen had to stop the car near the pit lane entry. Mercedes made a quick pitstop with Hamilton in the lead but missed the pitlane closed warning and Hamilton got a 10 second stop-and-go penalty. In a normal race Hamilton would have been able to get back in the middle of the field and get back to the podium positions. Unfortunately, Leclerc had an accident that caused a red flag and the race was stopped. Then all drivers changed their tires before the restart.
With a good car a good driver is able to overtake many competitors.
Hamilton was in front at the restart but had to stop directly after the first round and tried to get back to the podium positions. He finally finished seventh and could overtake 10 other drivers in only half the race distance.
Kimi Räikkönen was in the top 3 at the restart of the race but due to the poor performing Ferrari engine and the lack of downforce he was not able to defend this position well. Each lap at the first corner a competitor past him which shows that to be able to win you need a good performing engine, a well-balanced car and enough downforce with good top speed.
Without power boost overtaking of a strong competitor becomes very hard.
Without the Power boost (forbidden to use from this race on) which Mercedes previously used also for overtaking in a race, Bottas was not able to overtake the (normally) slower cars in front of him and this although the distance was constantly under 1 second and his DRS was enabled. In normal clear track race pace Bottas would have been able to drive maybe half a second to one second faster than these competitors, but now even with DRS and a better car he had no chance of overtaking top 10 drivers.
What can be learned from Monza and the Formula One season so far.
It is great to see a battle for the podium positions until the chequered flag and secondly it is good for Formula One to see other good drivers on the podium and win a race.
Normal Formula One races are the opposite; no battle for the podium and definitely not until the end of the race and we don’t see many different drivers having the opportunity to win a race or finish on the podium when they are not driving for a top team.
Overtaking a Mercedes with their strong engine and very well performing car is nearly impossible or they must have some issues like the tire problems in Silverstone. A Mercedes overtaking other cars that are in qualifying more than a second slower normally would have been not a big issue, but now since they are not allowed to boost their engine for overtaking anymore, it is even becoming hard for the Mercedes drivers to overtake top 10 drivers. Yes they can overtake a Williams, Alfa Romeo and a Haas, but a Renault, McLaren or Racing Point is very hard.
A big hurtle for overtaking is the performance of the brakes which results in a very short brake distance and even with the new regulations and different aerodynamics the top brake performance will still be there. What if DRS and power boots are not allowed anymore, where can drivers have the opportunity to overtake? Then overtaking under full braking on the limit into a corner, side by side is the only opportunity. How many of these actions will see winners?
Can the 2022 Formula One race cars make racing more attractive?
We have seen many regulations changed in the past to make Formula One racing saver and trying to bring the filed closer together. Most of the time only 1 team came out as winner and dominated the first years after a regulation change. Overtaking was never easy under normal circumstances and overtaking was done if the blue flag was shown to drivers that got lapped by the top drivers, as in Barcelona where only the top 3 drivers were in the same lap, all the others got lapped although they all know the track very well.
Who will design the best car and win all the races in 2022? Overtaking with good brakes and on a normal race track we still be the same. Even for Mercedes without power boost. Top qualifying positions will remain the biggest target for constructors when designing the new cars if not reversed starting grids are going to be introduced. With reversed starting grids the constructors will have to focus on well performing cars in turbulent air. Then they are designing cars for overtaking and battles without overheating engines and tires. Even the front spoiler will be flexible and strong enough to withstand a bang so the driver who is in a battle can continue his race even when he got a hit on the front side.
With a reversed starting grid and no power boost Mercedes will not win races.
Ross Brawn: “Monza was a candidate for a reverse grid sprint race when we were considering testing the format this year. Unfortunately, we could not move forward with it, but the concept is still something we and the FIA want to work through in the coming months and discuss with the teams for next year. We believe that yesterday’s race showed the excitement a mixed-up pack can deliver and with next year’s cars remaining the same as this year - our fans could be treated to the similar drama we saw this weekend at Monza.
Of course, with a reverse grid sprint race, teams will set their cars up differently. Right now, Mercedes set their cars up to achieve the fastest lap and then to control the race from the front. If they know they have to overtake, they will have to change that approach. We will continue to evaluate new formats with the aim of improving the show but always maintaining the DNA of Formula 1.”
The differences between the cars in race pace can roughly be grouped in 3 levels: top teams, competitive teams and middle teams. For each driver of a level it is very hard or nearly impossible to overtake a competitor from the same level. A driver of a competitive team can overtake a driver from a middle team but has to do a good job. A driver from a top team can overtake a middle team driver rather easy but will have a though job in overtaking a competitive team driver. Even drivers from Mercedes and Red Bull in the 2020 cars will have trouble.
So a reversed starting grid will make it very hard for the top team drivers to reach the podium. They probably can follow the competitive team drivers well (until overheating issue arise), but overtaking is going to be at the edge. Often resulting is complains, damaged cars and accidents. And as the top team drivers have their problems overtaking, so will the competitive team drivers have their problems in overtaking the middle team drivers.
Reversed starting grids will lead to close racing but not much overtaking and top teams drivers will get frustrated than they got stuck in the middle of the pack. All the drivers will be defending their position as hard as possible and can concentrate less on overtaking.
A reversed starting grid will need to have a Tracksplit to get the best out of this and give the best teams and best drivers a fair chance of finishing in the top.