Rake Or No-rake For F1 Success

Rake Or No-rake For F1 Success

The biggest question in Formula One for season 2021 has nothing to do with raking the grass in the garden.

It’s all about the right rake to recover the rear-end grip that has been lost to a rule change for the latest grand prix cars.

The best thing for F1 fans is that the two quickest cars are taking opposite approaches to the rake question.

The Red Bull racer has a high-rake rear end, like a dog snuffling in the bushes, to accelerate airflow out of the tail while Mercedes takes a parallel approach with a car that has the same ground clearance both front and rear.

But McLaren is now in the middle, with a near rear-end diffuser design that could be quickly copied by the rest of the field …

There was no definitive answer from pre-season testing or the first race in Bahrain, where the Red Bull RB16B was the quickest car but the Mercedes-AMG W12 E Performance won.

So, with totally different conditions coming this weekend, as the F1 circus sets up its tent at Imola in Italy, no-one is really sure what to expect.

“I think it’s going to be very tight with Mercedes and we’re going to see if the fight is circuit related,” said Sergio Perez, the new recruit as Max Verstappen’s team mate at Red Bull Racing.

Perez is obviously talking about the question of rake, as Bahrain is almost totally flat while Imola – which is hosting the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix named after the local region – has plenty of elevation changes and the sort of lumps and bumps that come at a circuit which was designed long before the latest series of join-the-dots Tilke-drome tracks.

Imola returned to the F1 Covid calendar last year and has held its place, among ongoing uncertainty about the 2021 season.

The Canadian Grand Prix is looking doubtful, after cancellation last year, and F1 insiders say there is almost zero chance of the Brazilian Grand Prix going ahead while Covid continues to ravage the country.

But there is some light for the Miami Grand Prix, which could come to the calendar in 2022 if an upcoming vote by the local council gives the go-ahead for a race around a street course near the Hard Rock Stadium.

Looking to Imola, Perez is expecting another close contest with Mercedes with – hopefully – none of the pre-race dramas that cost him any chance of starrting at the front.

“It will be intersting to see how we are in Imola, on a very different track to Bahrain, and see how we compare against them,” he said.

2021 Bahrain Grand Prix, Saturday – LAT Images