Felipe Massa, Williams, Albert Park, 2015

Mercedes ‘in a different category’ but expect an intriguing race behind them

2015 Australian Grand Prix pre-race analysis

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Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Albert Park, 2015The yawning 1.391-second gap between Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes and the next driver in a different car spelled bad news for their rivals.

It means the W06 was 1.61% quicker than anything else around a lap of Melbourne’s Albert Park circuit – a larger performance advantage than they enjoyed at any circuit last year. Their margin peaked at 1.24% at the Circuit de Catalunya last year.

“They’re in different categories,” said Felipe Massa, who qualified third. “They’re in the same category between them [Lewis and Nico] but in different categories between the others. For sure it is not great to see this difference but we keep working, we keep fighting and I hope we can get as close as we can.”

“If we have the same engine the difference should be in the car,” he added. “I hope we have the same engine. I believe we have the same engine, so it’s the car. Maybe.”

From looking at the speed trap it’s unlikely Massa has anything to worry about in terms of engine parity – the Williams were at the top of the table, as they often were last year. But it’s clear to see the huge progress Ferrari has made in this area over the winter. This was something many people expected to see happen this year once Ferrari addressed some of the basic shortcomings in their 2014 design compared to Mercedes’ power unit.

It’s also striking that the W06s are the slowest Mercedes-powered cars in terms of top speed, a clear indication of how much downforce the car produces.

However it’s clear how far Renault have been left behind in terms of performance. And as Daniel Ricciardo’s travails in practice demonstrated, reliability remains a weakness too.

Finally there’s McLaren. Not only are they last at the speed trap, they also clocked the lowest speeds at all three intermediate points around the lap. Honda explained they decided to use “conservative” engine settings to alleviate reliability concerns, but the warm temperatures on Saturday aggravated their problems. How they will fare in the punishing heat of Malaysia in two weeks’ time will obviously be a concern.

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Felipe Massa, Williams, Albert Park, 2015Mercedes’ rivals can console themselves with the thought that Melbourne often produces results which aren’t replicated later in the season, so this performance by Mercedes could turn out to be their peak for the year. There were certainly other drivers on the track who could have got closer to their time: both Ferrari drivers and Valtteri Bottas before he hurt his back.

Hamilton will be well aware that starting from pole position is no guarantee of victory at Melbourne. He went from pole to flag in 2008 but lost out to Jenson Button at the start in 2012 and a power unit problem last year spoiled his race right for the off. The run through the first corner at the Albert Park circuit is often the scene of incidents.

Nico Rosberg was quickest in both practice sessions on Friday and he’s sure the half-second gap between him and Hamilton in qualifying does not give an accurate picture. “On Friday, in the long runs, my pace was very strong,” he said, “so hopefully it can be the other way tomorrow”.

Behind them Massa will be trying to fend off the attentions of the two Ferraris, whose long-run pace on Friday looked good but may prove to have a greater appetite for fuel than the Mercedes.

What home favourite Daniel Ricciardo can do from seventh on the grid is another point of interest, partly because he’d done so little running prior to qualifying. If the Red Bull is reliable he could prove a surprise threat.

From 11th on the grid Felipe Nasr has a chance to give Sauber their first points since 2013 in a weekend which began in extremely difficult circumstances as they missed first practice due to Giedo van der Garde’s legal action.

The pace of the Toro Rossos is also not to be underestimated. Both Carlos Sainz Jnr, who qualified an excellent eighth, and Max Verstappen, who’s been close to his team mate on pace all weekend, have an opportunity to score points on their debut.

Qualifying times in full


Q2 (vs Q1)

Q3 (vs Q2)
1Lewis HamiltonMercedes1’28.5861’26.894 (-1.692)1’26.327 (-0.567)
2Nico RosbergMercedes1’28.9061’27.097 (-1.809)1’26.921 (-0.176)
3Felipe MassaWilliams1’29.2461’27.895 (-1.351)1’27.718 (-0.177)
4Sebastian VettelFerrari1’29.3071’27.742 (-1.565)1’27.757 (+0.015)
5Kimi RaikkonenFerrari1’29.7541’27.807 (-1.947)1’27.790 (-0.017)
6Valtteri BottasWilliams1’29.6411’27.796 (-1.845)1’28.087 (+0.291)
7Daniel RicciardoRed Bull1’29.7881’28.679 (-1.109)1’28.329 (-0.350)
8Carlos Sainz JnrToro Rosso1’29.5971’28.601 (-0.996)1’28.510 (-0.091)
9Romain GrosjeanLotus1’29.5371’28.589 (-0.948)1’28.560 (-0.029)
10Pastor MaldonadoLotus1’29.8471’28.726 (-1.121)1’29.480 (+0.754)
11Felipe NasrSauber1’30.4301’28.800 (-1.630)
12Max VerstappenToro Rosso1’29.2481’28.868 (-0.380)
13Daniil KvyatRed Bull1’30.4021’29.070 (-1.332)
14Nico HulkenbergForce India1’29.6511’29.208 (-0.443)
15Sergio PerezForce India1’29.9901’29.209 (-0.781)
16Marcus EricssonSauber1’31.376
17Jenson ButtonMcLaren1’31.422
18Kevin MagnussenMcLaren1’32.037

Sector times

DriverSector 1Sector 2Sector 3
Lewis Hamilton28.725 (1)23.090 (1)34.505 (2)
Nico Rosberg29.108 (4)23.192 (2)34.329 (1)
Felipe Massa29.249 (6)23.422 (4)35.038 (4)
Sebastian Vettel29.034 (3)23.533 (6)35.154 (5)
Kimi Raikkonen29.023 (2)23.522 (5)34.849 (3)
Valtteri Bottas29.135 (5)23.352 (3)35.238 (6)
Daniel Ricciardo29.388 (8)23.623 (8)35.317 (8)
Carlos Sainz Jnr29.311 (7)23.732 (13)35.259 (7)
Romain Grosjean29.530 (11)23.668 (9)35.351 (10)
Pastor Maldonado29.452 (10)23.615 (7)35.552 (12)
Felipe Nasr29.413 (9)23.693 (12)35.694 (13)
Max Verstappen29.613 (14)23.883 (15)35.320 (9)
Daniil Kvyat29.631 (15)23.675 (10)35.511 (11)
Nico Hulkenberg29.568 (12)23.685 (11)35.884 (15)
Sergio Perez29.611 (13)23.813 (14)35.785 (14)
Marcus Ericsson30.664 (18)24.136 (16)36.402 (16)
Jenson Button30.377 (16)24.285 (17)36.760 (17)
Kevin Magnussen30.523 (17)24.403 (18)37.111 (18)

Speed trap

PosDriverCarEngineSpeed (kph/mph)Gap
1Valtteri BottasWilliamsMercedes329.0 (204.4)
2Felipe MassaWilliamsMercedes327.6 (203.6)-1.4
3Sebastian VettelFerrariFerrari327.6 (203.6)-1.4
4Pastor MaldonadoLotusMercedes327.5 (203.5)-1.5
5Sergio PerezForce IndiaMercedes325.5 (202.3)-3.5
6Kimi RaikkonenFerrariFerrari325.3 (202.1)-3.7
7Romain GrosjeanLotusMercedes325.1 (202.0)-3.9
8Marcus EricssonSauberFerrari324.7 (201.8)-4.3
9Nico HulkenbergForce IndiaMercedes324.2 (201.4)-4.8
10Felipe NasrSauberFerrari323.8 (201.2)-5.2
11Nico RosbergMercedesMercedes323.1 (200.8)-5.9
12Lewis HamiltonMercedesMercedes323.0 (200.7)-6.0
13Daniil KvyatRed BullRenault319.1 (198.3)-9.9
14Daniel RicciardoRed BullRenault318.8 (198.1)-10.2
15Carlos Sainz JnrToro RossoRenault315.9 (196.3)-13.1
16Max VerstappenToro RossoRenault314.7 (195.5)-14.3
17Jenson ButtonMcLarenHonda312.8 (194.4)-16.2
18Kevin MagnussenMcLarenHonda312.5 (194.2)-16.5

Over to you

Who’s going to win the opening race of the season? How many cars will Mercedes lap?

Share your views on the Australian Grand Prix in the comments.

2015 Australian Grand Prix

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Author information

Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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58 comments on “Mercedes ‘in a different category’ but expect an intriguing race behind them”

  1. “If we have the same engine the difference should be in the car,” he added. “I hope we have the same engine. I believe we have the same engine, so it’s the car. Maybe.”

    Wouldn’t it help, for the sake of fairness, to make every manufacturer give the engines to the teams randomly? like they bring all the 8 engines Mercedes has, and they pick them flipping a coin or whatever? they do it here in touring cars when there’s more than 1 team using a certain type of engine.

    1. The whole point of homologating an engine is that the FIA has a sample power unit in a box labelled “Do Not Open ’til Scrutineering” from each engine manufacturer, along with full documentation. At any time, they could compare any Merc engine to the one they have, and if there are differences, Mercedes has some ‘splainin’ to do.

      So Williams has the same engine. Whether they have the same software, or the same codes to manage the engine, I couldn’t say.

    2. “For the sake of fairness” I’ve heard it all now. Why don’t we put hobnail boots on Usain Bolt to slow him down? That would be fair. Only in the pinnacle of motor sport do we get people hating the fact that somebody did a better job and should be punished.

      Bernie, you were right. Keep making insane rules to improve the show as F1 is NOT a sport. Keep the ‘fans’ happy.

      1. They did a better job the advantage is fair but should this advantage be ring fenced? As the years pass the opportunity to catch them is taken away bit by bit. This has never happened before. In theory if your aero is not as good you could bring a whole new car when available. Wings can be changed etc but with the engines you have limited changes. Have Ferrari really done a great job or could the greater parity in engines have occured a few month into last season had they been allowed. We are seeing 12 months engine development being introduced in 1 go as they were not allowed last year. I find that unsporting.

      2. Did you even read what he wrote? He was talking about engine manufacturers not giving their customers a weaker unit than their works team.

    3. HW wise they are the same – at least that’s what the homologation ensures – but these engines do a lot with software and fuel chemistry so differences are inevitable.

    4. Different teams use different cooling, intercooling, packaging, and software even with the same engine, at their choice. So there is no “same engine” issue. If Williams want exactly the same level and kind of performance from the engine as the factory team, they would be running a copy of the W06. And they obviously are not. Mercedes simply have a better car.

      1. I don’t doubt Mercedes have a better car, but I am very sure Williams will not have the same software to obtain optimal performance from the power unit. That’s why McLaren moved from Mercedes and why Red Bull will isn’t Mercedes powered.

  2. Simon (@weeniebeenie)
    14th March 2015, 15:22

    Is it just me that is wondering at what point in this season the FIA starts panicking and in turn start talking about kneejerk rule changes? I’m thinking we’ll hear talk of success ballast or something similar at some point this season….

    1. @weeniebeenie No, I think Bernie’s sprinklers are going to beat such a thing to it, especially if a team proves to be a rain specialist this year.

    2. 7 years of Schumacher, 4 years of Vettel, and now more than 1 year of Hamilton is enough to call for kneejerk changes? Do people dislike Hamilton THAT much?

      1. in schumacher and vettel era, it was fairer for competition, now it has become an engine championship, with not enough development allowed. vettel didnt even have the fastest car in 2 of those seasons.

        1. Which 2 seasons? I guess I can understand 2012, as the McLaren was generally faster in qualifying (but it should be said it was harder on its tyres in the races, and very unreliable so I would still say the Red Bull was the best car overall. McLaren only finished 3rd in the constructors that year anyway due to losing a ridiculous amount of points from pit crew errors and reliability problems).

          In 2010, 2011 and 2013 the Red Bull was clearly the fastest. I can only imagine you are talking about 2010, as the RB6 wasn’t as dominant in the races as the RB7 or RB9, but it often had a 0.3-0.5 second advantage in qualifying and took 15 of 19 poles, which clearly constitutes “fastest car” to me. Also, note the top rated comment on this reddit discussion – the RB6 clearly had a lot more downforce than the McLaren or Ferrari that year, it could take some corners much faster or even flat out that the McLaren and Ferrari couldn’t.

        2. Ravenouscartoon
          14th March 2015, 23:26

          Schumacher’s era was not fairer competition wise. Ferrari had basically a second team constantly testing and developing which led to the 2002 season where he finished on the podium in every race and the title was decided 6 rounds before the end!

      2. Relax, that’s not what he meant, he didn’t say we need them.

        And fyi, the FIA did pass some rules in the Ferrari days to try to limit their dominance, same for RBR. Double points was also a result of this.

        Calm down, no need to jump to defend Hamilton without even reading the comments properly.

        1. I did read the comments– But first, I’m sick of people saying Mercedes is only winning because of their engine. Williams, Lotus and Force India have the exact same engine, yet I see Ferraris, a Toro Rosso, and a Red Bull in the top 10. None of which have a Mercedes engine.

          I know that every time someone comes up with a clever idea in F1, it’s immediately banned for being a movable aerodynamic device, whether it’s movable, or aerodynamic. I know several rules were instituted to slow down both Schumie and Vettel, and still more rules (double points, single helmet design, sprinklers, shortcuts, rocket launchers) were all proposed by the mad dwarf… but my point is, it’s been ONE YEAR of Mercedes dominance so far, and apparently it’s time for kneejerk reactions? I’m not saying Simon was calling for them– I’m saying that ANYONE calling for them (including the FIA) is a bunch of monkeys.

          Oh well– I suppose it’s the instant gratification society we live in.

          And next time I’ll put sarcasm tags around my comments about Hamilton so it’ll be more obvious, ok?

      3. Chill out mate no need to defend Hamilton. It wasn’t directed at lewis at all. Smh

      4. Simon (@weeniebeenie)
        14th March 2015, 16:54

        Quite. I don’t want to see any kneejerk changes but with all the other issues going on in F1 I just get the feeling the FIA will at least bring something up if domination is so strong this year.

        That also answers your question of why not in previous eras of domination, F1 wasn’t particularly troubled then. Just look at the current grid, with limping teams, teams battling legal issues, teams with little to no sponsorship, and a team with pretty much all of those problems combined.

      5. “7 years of Schumacher, 4 years of Vettel, and now more than 1 year of Hamilton is enough to call for kneejerk changes? Do people dislike Hamilton THAT much?”

        To be fair, people were bitching about Schumacher/Vettel dominance well before they racked up that many titles…

  3. Hamilton will win easily, Rosberg’s qualifying pace was his saving grace last year, and this weekend it failed.

    Behind them the Williams vs Ferrari vs RBR will be great to watch, really looking forward to this race.

    1. I think its just Ferrari vs. Williams. Until Red Bull and Renault get their act together, I see them battling Toro Rosso and Lotus for 4th.

  4. So mercedes team are slowest merc engine in the speed traps. Eithir the’re running high downforce or sandbagging still .

  5. It’s also striking that the W06s are the slowest Mercedes-powered cars in terms of top speed, a clear indication of how much downforce the car produces.

    Surely their lack of speed relative to the other Mercedes-powered cars is a consequence of how much downforce they’ve chosen to run on the car (wing levels), not the overall amount of downforce produced by the car?

    1. Who knows? But I know that when RBR dominated it was always at the bottom of the speed charts and this was widely ascribed to RBR’s superior downforce, i.e., aero efficiency.

    2. Surely their lack of speed relative to the other Mercedes-powered cars is a consequence of how much downforce they’ve chosen to run on the car (wing levels), not the overall amount of downforce produced by the car?

      Generally, high-downforce cars need to use less wing as the car itself produces more downforce overall, which allows for more freedom in setup choices available with wings, ride height, etc in order to more easily adapt from one type of circuit to another. This is why RBR were so dominant with Newey as designer, for example. If it were primarily down to the amount of wing used, competition would always have been much closer in modern F1 than it has been.

  6. Incredible that F1Fanatic now provided more data that the official F1 website.

    1. I was wondering about that because Formula1.com now seems to put a lot of data, like speed trap data, behind a paywall now. I hope Bernie is not going to go after Keith now.

    2. Nothing new there

      1. @jmc200 is right, in 2014 we had sector times and speed available, now we don’t
        @dmw I paid the “F1 access” thing you are talking about, lot of glitches it’s not working properly and the “lot of data” is not available yet as the site is in beta :/

  7. Big challenge for Nico to make a race of this. Maybe collecting 18 points and rattling Lewis’s cage a bit is the best he can hope for.

    But I’m looking forward to a cat-and-mouse race between Massa and the Ferraris. I hope they keep showing the fuel gauges on TV for that one, and that Bottas is fit enough and Ricciardo fast enough to join in.

    Should be a good scrap for the minor points too. Grosjean, Maldonado and all those young ‘uns. Let’s hope they get further than turn 3 on the first lap…

    1. Well I really hope we don’t hear calls to slow down to save fuel but it wouldn’t surprise me if Ferrari decided that being fast but thirsty was better than being slow but frugal.

  8. Is there any good alternative to the now extinct results page in F1.com?

    I would have wanted to put those times and speeds in historical context, but now it is no longer possible to do on F1.com. As much as they can be congratulated to finally have overcome their 10 year retardation and now offer the said video content, in every other way, they have ruined the F1.com page.

    It would be nice to see something similar to what F1.com had on here, where you can easily find all the results on one page, switch between years/races/sessions/speed traps/sector times etc.

    Would that infringe on some copyrights? Do FOM own the results, surely they don’t, Keith?

    1. I have sent an e-mail to them on this case. Would you like to do the same thing?

      1. Yes, I would.

    2. http://www.fia.com/sport/championships/news/formula-1-world-championship

      There is everything you need on the official FIA-page. Laptimes for FPs + best sector times, speed traps, max. Speeds for every sector for qualifying + fastest laps, pit stop times, lap chart & lap analysis for races.

      It’s even better than what formula1.com used to be.

  9. Sebastian Vettel 29.034 (3) 23.533 (6) 35.154 (5)
    Kimi Raikkonen 29.023 (2) 23.522 (5) 34.849 (3)

    How come Kimi is slower then?

    1. I’m guessing because he didn’t put all those sectors time together in a single lap when it counted.

      1. Yep! He could had done a 1:27:4 if he had done “the perfect” lap!
        But it still is 1,1 sec slower than Merc speed light!

    2. It goes by the personal best sector timings of the session, it doesn’t mean for that lap itself.

  10. I have to love Felipe’s comments! Sounds like he’s not 100% convinced he has the same engine as Hamilton/Rosberg.

    I know there are many, many factors why the same engine in different cars can produce different results, reading his comments just struck me as very funny.

    1. I agree, I am certain the FIA has a process to ensure the engines are the same, so no conspiracy theory, but his comments read as though he’s thinking “where the hell is that 1.3s?!”

      Great job by Merc again…

      1. The engines have to be same but I doubt fia can do anything about the software and codes …

  11. The easiest fix to the whole thing is to relax the rules that kill aerodynamic design. Let the engineer’s brains overcome the lack of engine power. I mean, Adrian Newey is being wasted. Let the teams make more aggressive changes as the season moves on.
    I don’t want to watch a battle for third… nobody will look back in ten years and remember who finished third..

    1. I’m really sick of this purist deregulation mad skills development attitude brewing in the comments sections of any f1 related page.

      If you do as many of the puritans say and just delete half the rulebook, you will render Formula One a Ferrari customer series within 3 years. Nobody has the money to finance such a ridiculous amount of development. And nobody wants to see tandem racing amongst Ferrari drivers wearing pressure suits (because that WILL happen if you let the aerodynamics do what they can). Wanton deregulation was not a good idea before and it’s not a good idea now. It’s ugly, expensive and bad for the racing.

      1. Let them spend money. It is really frustrating to know that after one qualifying round, that we can expect another year of Hamilton vs Rosberg at every single race! If Mercedes let them race then maybe we would at least get to see them take each other at few races and let the other drivers gain points to make at least a four driver fight going into the final month.

    2. He’s not being wasted. It’s the same as it’s always been, you can be as creative as you want as long as you stay within the regulations.

      If it were purely engine, than Merc-powered teams would be 1-2-3-4

      1. @pastaman Imagine old Hockenheim last year… it would have been a Mercedes 1-8… they made the perfect engine for their old home track… but changed the track so that they can’t now dominate there :D

        1. *this year at the moment maybe Ferrari would take it to them, the slower customers at least.. RB/TR would be fighting Manor and McLaren adrift in last!

  12. HamiltonNumber1
    14th March 2015, 18:27

    Ive heard it all, “Engine championship”. Thats why every team can develope the engine thats why they could submit a new engine for the season. One team made a better job even n downforce Merc are unreal.

    1. funny how it was the other teams yelling and screaming they need to update there engines so they can catch up to Merc,
      i always said watch out what you wish for.
      serve them right they all should have just shut up improved on what they had.

  13. stumpy (@outlawpetrolhead)
    14th March 2015, 20:10

    you have got to give hamilton credit..

  14. I don’t care what anyone says, another year of Merc domination like this will kill the entertainment value of F1 and drive away New fans and sponsors.

    1. After 4 years of RBR domination and only 1-2 years between it and so many years of Ferrari domination you are still here and I have no doubt you would not be complaining if it were your fav team doing the winning. It isn’t perfect but given all the revenue being stripped out of the sport unlimited development just isn’t possible anymore.

      1. This is my issue though. F1 isn’t making any sense in the way they try to make money. Instead of getting more fans by making the sport more exciting, they just keep ‘retreating’ with their core fans…
        As an example: F1 takes $2.00 from 500,000 core fans instead of taking $1.00 from 1.5 million younger and newer fans…. Their strategy does not make sense to me.
        Mercedes, Renault, Ferrari, Honda… they could all be using F1 to fund their research into hybrid engines instead of ‘using’ F1 to do the research. We could have a lot more teams and engine providers if the sport actually treated the fans properly and marketed themselves better. There is no excuse for Sauber, Manor, and McLaren to have so few sponsors on their cars…

  15. I think half the problem lies with the rest of the pack being so close together, without mercedes we would possibly have the greatest ever battle for a WDC for years. Thats not Mercedes fault but it certainly makes this years F1 a lot less interesting.

    1. To bad the rest of the teams can’t just declare Mercedes the champs and tell them not to bother showing up lol… That way the rest of them could actually race.

  16. I think the Merc has good downforce but the true reason why they were weak in straight line is because they can afford to be draggy with their PU advantage. I think this fact makes broads their potential for improvement mid season.

  17. Hmm, was going through archives for last season. Interestingly enough, Hamilton’s gap to the nearest car (other than Rosberg) is exactly the same (to the thousandth of a second) as Rosberg’s gap to the nearest car during fp 3 last year. Of course, its an unfair comparison as fp3 is very different from qualifying but still an interesting coincidence I think.

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