Catalunya, turn 7
The dust has only just settled from the Verstappen/Kvyat swap as they take to a scorching track in their new mounts – and in these first exploratory laps they are not attuned to them.
Verstappen pugnaciously pitches the Red Bull into Turn Seven and finds it responds instantly - actually turning him directly to where he steered, rather than initiating a slide to where he was anticipating, so much more front-end grip does it have than what’s he’s been used to. A few seconds behind, on the approach to that corner, Kvyat stands on the brake pedal – and locks up the Toro Rosso’s front wheels, so much less grip does it have than the Red Bull. That turn is preceded by the downhill kink of Turn Six and it’s all taken as one sequence, 165mph down to about 90 – but with a variety of feasible approaches.
The two Mercedes drivers – running in tandem but about 20sec apart – are demonstrating the extremes. Lewis Hamilton is going for the challenging method: further to the outside through the kink, making less of a turn of it, hanging on wall-of-death style, taking more speed but covering a greater distance than Nico Rosberg’s more conventional method.
As they shoot out of there immediately into the braking zone for Seven, the Hamilton technique requires more braking and from a compromised angle. Just as the fronts are about to surrender, ready to understeer him wide, he comes off the brakes and turns in at the same time. It’s exquisite in its timing – every time. Rosberg, because his line through the kink has him arriving in the braking zone at lower speed and four-square on a straighter trajectory, isn’t troubled; can just stand hard on the left pedal without any latent instability, requiring no conjuring tricks to get the car turned in. Which is quicker against the watch? Only the data analysts could tell you that, but Hamilton’s way requires a more acrobatic approach.