Red Bull can be more resilient to graining after Melbourne

Red Bull continues to be the dominant team in 2024, but its race performance was less convincing in last month’s Australian Grand Prix, in which Ferrari looked to edge ahead.

The Melbourne race was marked by heavy front graining, which is believed to be a factor in why Ferrari was so strong relative to Red Bull.

Max Verstappen’s early retirement meant it was much harder to make comparisons, but team-mate Sergio Perez finished a distant fifth as Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc secured a 1-2 finish for the Scuderia.

Shanghai could be another venue where Red Bull might struggle more to show the RB20’s full potential, with lower temperatures and uncertainty over the state of the tarmac all factors that could see the tyre graining phenomenon return.

As the first sprint weekend of 2024, teams will only have one practice session to get a handle on their set-ups and won’t have time to try out all tyre compounds, so their understanding will be limited.

But Perez believes the experience from Melbourne means the Milton Keynes team is in a better position to mitigate the issue, which makes surface rubber shear off and stick to the tread, causing a loss of grip.

«There are so many uncertainties with the tarmac, it’s been five years since something has been here,» Perez said when asked about whether or not graining could return to be an obstacle for Red Bull.

Photo by: Sam Bloxham / Motorsport Images

«So, it will be an interesting FP1 and we’ll see from there. Obviously, it looks like a front-limited circuit, where potentially we can struggle a little bit more.

«We’ve learned a lot from Melbourne, we have some understanding of things we did over there, so we just have to remain optimistic.

«If we were to be in the same boat, hopefully with the things we’ve learned we can have a much better resilience to the graining.»

Team-mate Verstappen said Red Bull had made set-up changes before Melbourne qualifying that made his car feel better in race trim, but his retirement on Lap 3 meant he was unable to show it.

Nevertheless, he pointed out that Shanghai’s technical layout is different enough from Albert Park to go into the weekend with too many preconceptions about Red Bull’s form.

“I think Australia, the Friday wasn’t ideal. Maybe the Saturday morning wasn’t either, but we made some changes to my car that I felt better with. Unfortunately, I couldn’t show that,» he said.

“I don’t think that Australia is the same as here. Australia had a lot more faster corners. Here there’s a little bit more low speed, so it’s a little bit different. We just have to wait and see, really.”

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