At first thought, comparing maximum speeds at the same venue week-over-week might seem like an exercise of limited value. But a relative analysis nevertheless offers a certain degree of interest.
Comparing top speeds in qualifying provides little information as conditions on Saturday in terms of temperatures and wind differed from a week ago.
At 320.5km/h, Alfa Romeo’s Kimi Raikkonen topped the speed trap readings – registered between Turns 3 and 4 – by a comfortable margin and almost 3km/h faster than last week’s maximum speed, courtesy of McLaren’s Daniel Ricciardo.
But that’s not really what we’re interested in, so let’s focus on the relative speed differences between the front-runners.
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For all the scrutiny over Red Bull’s top speed lately, Max Verstappen’s RB16B was once again far from being the fastest car in a straight-line although his velocity has changed little week-over-week: 315.9km/h in qualifying for the Styrian Grand Prix and 315.5km/h in Saturday’s qualifying.
Furthermore, the poleman’s edge over Mercedes’ drivers last week was about 1.6km/h, while it was 2.2km/h on Saturday. So the Mercs are still losing out to their rival on the straights, which provides another validation of Red bull’s superior overall package.
Another relative point of interest is the top speed improvement enjoyed by Ferrari. Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz were the field’s laggards last week, with 309.8km/h.
This week, the pair clocked in at 316.0km/h and 314.0km/h respectively. Conditions likely account for the improvement but the increase is also probably rooted in a few aero tweaks. And yet, both Scuderia drivers failed to make the cut in Q2.
However, they could be the cars to watch in Sunday’s race, especially if they quickly move up the order after the start.
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