Exclusive: Red Bull highlight pursuit of perfection with surprising qualifying admission

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Arguably, there is no such thing as perfection in Formula 1, but that does not mean F1 teams are not striving for it.

Given Red Bull’s dominance in recent years, you would say the team’s technical director feels that perfection is close, but nothing could be further from the truth. In an exclusive interview with RacingNews365, Pierre Wache made it clear he and his team still do not feel they have built the perfect car.

“I don’t know what the competition knows, but I do know that I don’t know everything and we are still working hard with the team to find out everything,” Wache responded with a laugh when asked if his Michelin background might give him an advantage.

After all, in his early days in F1, the Frenchman worked for tyre manufacturer, which at the time was a supplier to several F1 teams. “Therefore, I don’t know if it is an advantage that I worked at Michelin, but I do know that the knowledge I gained there helps me at the moment when it comes to the tyres we race with.”

He added: “In fact, when we make changes to make the tyres work better, you know that you also have to give up something in the car. It always comes at the expense of something when you try to save the tyres.

“You can see that in qualifying, for example, where we are not the best team. Sometimes we pay the price for that by not understanding something, I’m sure, because then we have to choose to set up more for race pace, but by doing so we sacrifice qualifying a bit.

“So if we understood that aspect of the car better, we could be good in both qualifying and the race. However, we still lack some information to make that happen.”

It is a statement that will no doubt make the competition shiver, given Verstappen’s dominance in qualifying. That it is difficult for Red Bull to be dominant in both qualifying and the race is partly due to the current generation of F1 cars. Something every team struggles with.

Current generation of F1 cars

“It is not only because of the current cars that it is more difficult to find a good setting and balance between the setups for qualifying and the race,” said Wache. “The tyres also play a role.

“For example, the rear tyres have gotten a lot wider. Added to that is the ‘ground effect’ of the current generation of cars. It is therefore more difficult to drive both with little and much fuel because the car comes to the ground very differently in both cases. That difference is noticeable for the driver, but also in terms of tyre wear that differs tremendously in both situations.

“It is therefore very difficult to find the perfect balance in an optimal setting for qualifying and the race. The combination of these factors, in my opinion, makes it very difficult to find an ideal setup for the current generation of cars.”

In addition to the practice sessions during a race weekend, however, it is an advantage for teams to be able to use simulations from the factory.

“They play an immeasurably important role in Formula 1 at the moment,” remarked Wache. “After all, a few millimetres on aerodynamics can make all the difference for the current cars.

“Subsequently, however, you still have to make some minor adjustments on the track, but the initial work is all prepared prior to the weekend.

“How important that work in the factory is, you saw last year in Singapore. There we went completely the wrong way and we couldn’t get that right during the weekend either.

“We couldn’t find our way back and that was really a loss for the entire team. We all played a role in that. So everyone will be motivated to not let that happen again in Singapore this year.

“On a circuit like Singapore or Monaco, for example, you do see that it is difficult for us. That’s because in qualifying we’re not quite on top yet.

“On street circuits, you can’t just compensate for that in the race, as drivers have a hard time overtaking there. Similarly, there were other races in 2023 in which we were not quite perfect but were still able to win the race. However, that was less obvious to the general public than the weekend in Singapore.”

Why did Red Bull opt for a different concept in 2024?

In referring to the fact Red Bull managed to win all but the Singapore GP in 2023, it seems like Red Bull is stringing together all simple victories, which is logically not the case.

For every race, the entire team has to pull out all the stops to claim a win. “During race weekends on street circuits, we do try to focus a little more on finding the right qualifying setting, but that is more difficult for us,” Wache added.

During the Australian Grand Prix, it became clear throughout the weekend that Red Bull was again struggling to find the right setup, although Verstappen did again take pole.

In that respect, the RB19 and RB20 are similar, albeit on the face of it the cars are different. So why did Red Bull choose such a considerable difference in concept in 2024, when they were so successful in 2023?

“Our aerodynamics team has done a fantastic job,” praised Wache. “They have developed the new package in such a way that ultimately there is more freedom to further develop the car within the current concept.

“Therefore, we don’t see the current concept as the ultimate version, but we have created further development possibilities. In addition, it is nice to see that everything works well with this concept and that the correlation between the simulations and the track also match exactly.”

Red Bull began developing the RB20 very early, in part because they were so successful in 2023. Even though the team still seems to have a big lead over its rivals at the moment, that does not mean they will proceed differently next year.

“Even though the rules are the same for this year and next year, it doesn’t mean that we won’t be at the start with a different concept again next year,” said Wache. “That all depends on what we find in the studies for the creation of the new car. If we see that another concept will give us a big advantage, then we will definitely go for that other concept.

“Looking back to last year, back then you knew there would be two seasons in the current regulations. So because of that, you also knew that if the concept didn’t work, you still had time to fix things. Therefore, you could take a risk. The natural process is that you continue on the basis of the current concept, but it is not out of the question that you switch to a new concept.

“You have to be open-minded every time. Standing still is going backwards in this world. That’s why we have to keep looking for how to improve ourselves.

“After all, what you manage to find new is what gives you the edge,” said Wache, who does not want to make the competition any wiser just yet. As in recent years, the hunger has still yet to be satisfied, both within the Frenchman and Red Bull Racing.

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