First race shows Mercedes have pulled further ahead

2015 F1 season

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The first race of the season left Mercedes’ rivals with the worrying impression that far from gaining on the team which dominated last season, they have been left further behind.

Lewis Hamilton lapped the Albert Park circuit in Melbourne almost 1.4 seconds than any of his teams’ rivals managed. Analysis of all the lap times during the race weekend indicates most of Mercedes rivals are further behind than they were at the same venue 12 months ago.

Which team has improved the most?

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Aside from Manor, who failed to run at all, the only team which turned up in Australia with a slower car than they had last year was McLaren. Honda opted for a conservative approach with its new engine, one which at least saw Jenson Button reach the chequered flag. However their best lap was the best part of nine tenths of a second off what they managed last year.

There is some encouragement for McLaren fans, however. With the chequered flag in sight Button pumped in a couple of quick laps at the end of the race.

He got within two seconds of the lap time he’d done in qualifying, which was much closer than any other team managed. The likes of Mercedes, Ferrari, Red Bull and Williams were all 3.7 seconds or more off their qualifying pace. It suggests McLaren have already begun finding their missing lap time, and perhaps chose to turn the engine up late in the race once they were assured of finishing.

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Which team got closer to Mercedes?

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Mercedes were three seconds a lap quicker at Melbourne this year compared to last season. Part of that will be because it rained during part of qualifying last year, so the cars never lapped as quickly as they could have done. That was true for all teams, however, so by factoring out Mercedes’ three-second improvement we can get a sense of which of their rivals have done the best job of cutting their deficit.

Unsurprisingly Lotus, who endured a dreadful start to last season with their unreliable E22 but reached Q3 this year with their new Mercedes-powered car, have made the biggest gains.

While Ferrari appear to have closed the gap to Mercedes, and qualified fourth and fifth this year compared to sixth and eleventh last year, this has been achieved at least in part because the other teams have not done as well. The clearest example of this is Red Bull, who fell nearly a second further behind in Melbourne compared to last year.

That no doubt goes a long way towards explaining their frustrating with Renault and Christian Horner’s calls for the FIA to step in and clip Mercedes’ wings.

Top speeds

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The graph above shows the top speeds registered by each power unit in qualifying at the Albert Park speed trap, which is shortly before turn one, and at the first intermediate point, located shortly after the quick turn five. This gives a sense of the cars’ maximum speeds and how much speed they were able to carry through quick corners.

Since the new engine regulations were introduced last year, power unit performance has played a far greater role in defining overall car performance. As noted after qualifying, it’s clear Ferrari has made considerable inroads to Mercedes over the winter.

However Renault are barely at the level Mercedes was 12 months ago. And Honda’s conservative approach sees them lagging well off the pace.

The coming races will help us develop a clearer picture of how successful the rival manufacturers have been in closing on Mercedes, and how much more progress they can make this year, Mercedes having already used more engine development tokens than anyone else.

2015 F1 season

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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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88 comments on “First race shows Mercedes have pulled further ahead”

  1. Really cool graphs, I especially like the third one. Will this be a regular post-race feature, Keith?

    I assume the speed trap figures for 2014 were from Q1? Even so, it looks like Honda are at about the same level as Renault and Ferrari were at the start of 2014, which is somewhat surprising to me, as they looked to be nowhere this weekend.

    1. @adrianmorse

      I assume the speed trap figures for 2014 were from Q1?

      Yes that’s right.

    2. I’m slightly confused by the last graph. If the problem was power from the engine then you would expect them to be relatively quicker in the corners compared to their straight line speed, but they don’t seem to have any corner speed either? The drivers keep saying it’s predictable and good to drive too so there shouldn’t be any issue with getting on the power out of the turn.

      1. I presume you’re speaking about the McLaren? I thought the same thing.

        1. @splittimes
          Hah yes, perhaps should have mentioned that.

      2. Well the 2015 Honda is in just one car so those stats are obviously from the McLaren however the 2014 Renault engine was in 4 cars so I expect the speed trap figure is from either the Lotus or the Toro Rosso and the intermediate 1 figure is from the Red Bull. It suggests that the Honda does generate more power than the Renault engine but the amount of downforce was less than what was on the Red Bull which is to be expected if they were running with a turned down engine so as not to loose too much time on the straights.

        It also suggests that the Red Bull only has the downforce level of the 2014 Ferrari and is behind the 2014 Mercedes but that is also likely due to the fact they are running with less downforce to compensate for the power deficit they have

    3. +1

      Liking the graphs Keith. I hope this is a regular thing.

    4. ColdFly F1 (@)
      19th March 2015, 23:26

      Absolute love the quadrant graph, especially comparing straight line and corner exit speeds.
      Great to compare between teams and/or drivers to assess how good the car is and how different set-up/designs impact the mix between both.

  2. I’m sorry all I can think to this great illustration and the headline is, you don’t say!

    1. lets look at another way pSynrg,
      Red Bull influences Berine into clipping Mercs advantage then next will be Ferrari then we will have Honda who would have caught up who now need clipping,
      in the end what is the point Red Ball is still behind.
      either they catch up like any normal team would or stop moaning like babies throwing their dummy out off the cot.
      best of all just tell them to pee off.

  3. I hope though that Mercs advantage this year is going to decrease massively by the Barcelona 2015, it might not mean much, it may stay worse than 2014. Merc improved massively on aerodynamics and reliability which has made them even more solid but I’m sure that after the delayed aero updates from RBR, Mercs won’t ease off that well in high aero tracks which make up the bulk of the calendar. However that may not matter if Renault won’t sort themselves out. Renault and Honda are far away with Ferrari closer but still not quite there anyhow improving the PU is paramount so there’s still a lot to unlock from Ferrari RBR and McLaren, a glimmer of hope?

    1. I read somewhere when winter testing was going on, that laptime difference between a long nose and short nose is about 0.5 – 0.8 seconds per lap and both Ferrari and RBR have failed to pass crash test with their version of short nose. So once they will pass their crash tests with short nose, the field behind Mercs will bunch up and provide more competition to them. Of course these laptimes differences are all relative, but I feel things will improve when upgrades will be added in cars.

  4. Will Mercedes lose any races this year? I wonder what the bookies would give you on that?

    1. Simon (@weeniebeenie)
      19th March 2015, 14:45

      You can get 11/4 on Mercedes winning every race. Betway will also offer 500/1 odds for Lewis to win them all.

      1. Interesting @weeniebeenie ! No way I’ll be betting on Hamilton to win them all, he’s probably better than Rosberg on average but he’d never dominate him like that. Throw in reliability, slow pit stops or random acts of nature and he has no chance.

        1. @twentyseven Hence 500/1 odds… You should be bookie!

  5. Mercedes really should sandbag a bit more, It’s in their interest to keep the racing entertaining, even if they artificially slow themselves down a bit. Maybe they already are sandbagging a few seconds a lap ?! It’s clear they’re going to walk away again this season, they can afford to have some fun and create some positive headlines.

    1. You can bet they’ve already though of that. Which probably means they already ARE sandbagging.

  6. Last year, I was happy to see that the Mercedes designers and engineers nailed the new formula, and took home a well deserved constructor championship. I was happy to see Hamilton get his second driver’s championship. I was particularly happy to see the resurgence of Williams F1, even if it was due in large part to the Mercedes power unit. It certainly appears that Merc will pocket the big prizes again this season, but I really like what I’m seeing from Ferrari. There seems to be a fresh attitude and an upbeat atmosphere in Maranello since all the big changes, and I’d love to see them hit their stride and challenge Merc for race wins this year. Maybe even something will click over at McLaren/Honda, and they can work their way up to the pointy end as well. That would be awesome. As for Red Bull, I’ll be polite and just say that I won’t mind seeing them picking up the scraps left by the teams that got it right, and who aren’t crying for the FIA to legislate Mercedes down to their level.

    1. @schooner: At this point I wouldn’t discount Redbull.. They maybe be down, but not out…

  7. The question is, will the FIA alter the rules/regulations to cut Mercedes’ advantage this season? I’m not saying that I would want it to happen but we saw in 2011 that they removed the exhaust blown diffuser for Silverstone in order to cut Red Bull’s advantage. Can they do something similar in 2015 I wonder?

    1. Well that’s going to hard for the FIA, because they’ve first got to identify what’s the real cause of the Mercs dominance. Everyone says its the power unit, but is it that really though?

      1. It’s not hard really. Success ballast would equalise the teams, whatever the reason for their advantage. You could use Mercedes data from their ballast in the pre-season tests to callibrate the effect of ballast. Teams would still be able to boast about the ballast they carry, demonstrating their success, but the racing would look more equal for Bernie and others who do not understand the technicalities.

        1. ColdFly F1 (@)
          19th March 2015, 23:33

          Success ballast

          And I will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger those who would attempt to poison and destroy my‘ sport.

        2. Mercedes have dominated one season. One. Ferrari are on an upward curve, we don’t know where Honda/McLaren may end up, they seem awfully positive for a team so many seconds behind the leaders, suggesting they have the potential to leap frog the chasing bunch.

          And everyone was complaining how slow Formula 1 was getting. So the best idea is to slow down and penalize a quicker team??

          It’s like punishing Messi by getting him to play football standing on his head. Too much about F1 now is about faking spectacle: fake new race tracks, fake new audiences, fake rubbish tyres, fake overtaking. At least Mercedes are setting genuine quality as a bar for the others to reach.

          1. +100 Well said!

    2. The FIA can’t technically change the regulations during a season. Not without complete unanimous support. Where they’ve made ‘changes’ in the past, it has been in the form of technical directives clarifying an area of ambiguity (read loophole) in the rules, or covering something completely untouched by the rules.

      Although for Mercedes to be so far ahead, you’d have to assume that they have found some kind of clever aero loophole which isn’t outwardly apparent. The power unit is supposedly the same spec as the one in the other Mercedes powered cars, so in theory all that extra pace is down to aero. Either that, or they are doing something with the mapping on their cars which unlocks some big performance potential not available to the customer Mercedes teams. That would be extremely underhanded if that were the case.

      Either way, Mercedes GP seem to have found the holy grail of developments – something which gives them a massive performance advantage which is legal and completely invisible.

    3. Without killing Lotus, Williams and Force India?

      1. C’mon, do you think Lotus, Williams & Force India are faithful to Merc? They are customer teams for crying out loud.. They will abandon ship as soon as they get a better engine supplier, who are interested in supplying it to them… Look at Williams in last 5 years, Cosworth, to Renault to Mercedes…

        1. I don’t see how they could make a switch to be honest.

          Each engine supplier can supply up to four teams. Which means the only supplier able to take on new teams is Honda, and I’m fairly sure they have no plans to take on additional customers.

        2. The point I was trying to make had nothing to do with “loyalty”– it had to do with the FIA introducing rules that would deliberately handicap 3 non front-running teams, simply because they have Mercedes engines.

          As for your other point, Williams left Renault in 2014 because Toro Rosso decided they had to have Renault engines, and Renault can only supply 4 teams. Silly Toro Rosso… I bet they’d rather have a Ferrari engine now.

    4. And if memory serves that hurt McLaren most of all. The Red Bull was still the faster car, it brought Ferrari closer, but the win was a typical Alonso performance.

  8. I don’t know why Toto doesn’t smell the coffee and turn the engines down or take off a bit of downforce. He’s poking Bernie with a stick winning by 30s. Why not win by 5s, or even take the heat right off by losing a race or two early on?

    If they’d let a Ferrari win Oz Horner and Bernie would have been completely nobbled, and it would have been easy enough to make it up later in the year. He needs to be thinking 2 seasons ahead, at least, not motivating everyone to Get Mercedes.

    1. Good point. Toto has basically painted an even bigger target on his back!

      Although if they were ever to throw a race it could cause major repercussions. Especially as WDC & WCC aren’t in the bag *just* yet.

    2. @lockup I remember, how much of an hue and cry Hamilton made, when Seb pulled a 30s gap in Singapore 2013, even suggesting that Redbull might have TC..

      1. Do you work for Rbull, 4 years and 4 WC. Let Ham have a few damn.

    3. The thing is Mercedes could probably pull much more than a 30s lead – pretty ominous! I don’t think they turnt the engines up at any stage in Melbourne.

    4. I don’t know why Toto doesn’t smell the coffee and turn the engines down or take off a bit of downforce.

      I thought F1 was a sport and in sport you try to win? Except it seems in F1. Still waiting for other sports to catch up with F1 and disqualify people because they are better than others.

      1. It seems lately the entitlement epidemic has now reached F1 fans, in other sports, if you are the best and you’ve d worked hard you are allowed to dominate, without the governing body deciding to change the rules to help the weaker teams.

        1. It has nothing to do with the fans @scepter. It has to do with Bernie and how badly he wants to hobble Mercedes in 2016, 17 and 18.

          You gain nothing winning by 30s apart from hubris, you just motivate BE to work more desperately to hamper you.

          Front lower wishbone suddenly being ‘aero’, is my bet.

          1. In a way it does, when Bernie starts hearing threats from disgruntled fans about wanting to switch off from watching, he’ll think about the effect this will have on his bottom line, and will act accordingly. Now whether removing the engine freeze/tokens is the the way only time will tell, but i’m afraid of F1 turning into a engine war because of the costs involved.

          2. Hopefully, BE won’t be around to see ’16, ’17 and ’18.

    5. If I remember correctly, someone in Mercedes said that their goal is to collect 19 (20?, 18?, I don´t know) 1-2s throughout the season. It wasn´t possible last year due to their reliability problems, but they have sticked to that goal this year.

    6. I doubt the engines are turned up. Last year the team wanted them kept down but by Bahrain the drivers took it into their own hands. The new Mercedes team orders prevent that, so I am sure Mercedes are playing safe with only four engines for the whole season.

    7. @lockup I wholely reject your notion of Merc winning by less, or even throwing a race or two and letting Ferrari win, in some theoretical attempt to keep BE away, like he’s stupid and the rest of us are blind. Never mind the pride factor, the integrity factor, the moral and ethical factor.

      I don’t see Merc sinking to a low like this, diminishg F1 completely and making a mockery of the very sport they are trying to succeed at. Ie. I doubt it is their goal to make F1 a sham and then try to both feel and claim great pride and accomplishment at winning an empty series, a reduced series created by they themselves with race fixing. I doubt they would insult Ferrari by letting them win only because they chose not to.

      More I could say on this but I’ll leave it at that before I start another novel.

      1. I dunno about your premise @robbie that there’s a moral duty to win by as much as you can. Lauda was never criticised for his policy of ‘win as slowly as possible’, which various other greats have said too. If you’re running an F1 team surely your duty is to win as many years as you can?

        Bernie as he’s openly said will try to cheat Mercedes out of their advantage, for the show. Why not toss him a bone? Focus on winning 2017, 2018 and on.

        The notion that Merc owe Ferrari anything doesn’t work for me either. Who broke up FOTA for an unfair advantage?

        1. @lockup Well in terms of morals you suggested much more than just winning as slowly as possible. You suggested they actually hand Ferrari a few races, so no, I would never agree to that notion, nor would they entertain it I’m sure.

          As to your comment about BE…I’d like to read that quote directly. Did BE actually use the word cheat, or are you using it like you use it to describe NR?

          And how you figured out that I’ve suggested Merc owe Ferrari anything is beyond me, other than I suggest they owe them professional respect, but it is you that suggested Merc hand Ferrari a few wins, so if that doesn’t work for you, why did you suggest Merc hand Ferrari a few wins to begin with?

          This is ridiculous.

          1. Didn’t you read about Bernie’s ‘equalisation mechanism@robbie?

            That’s the threat to Toto’s team, not performance. He could neutralise that threat by detuning his cars for a race or two, especially to the point where they don’t even win.

            It would simply be the smart thing to do. Because otherwise someone else will do it, and then he won’t be able to turn them back up again.

          2. @lockup ya I read that the other day, and Lol and oh boy. Ok so BE didn’t use the word cheat, which is what I thought, but nonetheless, Merc should ‘cheat’ ie. fix things, to try to ward off BE’s ‘cheat’ aka magic eraser.

            I think I just need to go home and hide under my bed in the fetal position for a while. Sad thing is, if I don’t come out beforehand, I’ll at least come out for the next quali session.

        2. Lol @robbie, see you then.

          Yes no (as Horner would say) Bernie is pretty good at self-deprecation, but not THAT good :)

  9. Some very interesting graphs there. Seems Ferrari have not improved as much as they’d like everyone to think.

    1. @hic142 On the contrary, I think it’s the graphs that are a bit misleading – picking only the best laps of the weekend is a bit of a tricky proposition now, me thinks.

      Especially given that now every single other data point point towards a huge Ferrari step forward (e. g. speed trap figures, race pace, etc.), as well as paddock snippets from for example Williams. On the top of that, we wouldn’t know for sure as of yet whether it’s Mercedes who’s the implied target of the new restriction on fuel flow measurement.

      I’m a huge fan of this site and I like Keith’s relentless strife for precision, quality content-generating and stuff, but I think this one article is a bit missing the point. (Regarding Ferrari and consequently the article title as well.)

      1. All the ‘data’ may point to Ferrari making a step forward, but as illustrated by Keith’s analysis it’s all relative – to Mercedes. If you don’t want to reference the best laps of the weekend, you can also look at the gains Ferrari made in the race result compared to last year:

        2014 – ALO +35.284 behind the winning Mercedes
        2015 – VET +34.523 behind the winning Mercedes

        1. The biggest difference really is that in 2015 there were no McLarens between Ferrari and Mercedes, hence why the finishing position was better this year than last. In terms of relative performance, it doesn’t look like Ferrari have gained anything compared to Mercedes. Though obviously both teams have taken a step forward in terms of performance.

          1. Based on speed trap performance, Ferrari has improved almost twice as much as Mercedes– they’re still slightly behind, but if they’re really working on a shortened nose, they could easily catch up.

          2. Speed trap data is almost meaningless when assessing car performance. RBR won race after race, championship after championship, while showing some of the slowest speeds through the trap. Last year Williams were consistently faster through the speed trap than Mercedes with the same power unit, but were blown away by Mercedes when it came to races. If a car has gotten faster through the speed trap, it could be down to more power, it could be down to different aero, could be a number of factors. The thing that really matters is race pace and laptime.

        2. But you have to keep in mind that both Ferraris lost over 20 sec to Rosberg in the 2014 race before the SC-period (fist 11 laps) and that Rosberg just drove as fast as he was told by the team.
          So those 34 sec are definately an improvement over last year, but still not enough to even think about challenging the Mercedes.

        3. @MazdaChris: Keith spent 3 paragraphs on it. I offered an alternative interpretation of the data.

      2. Took me a minute to realize the speed trap data is “best from each engine manufacturer”, not team… so the 329 kph speed trap value is Bottas in the Williams. The best speed trap time from Mercedes AMG Petronas was 323, or 11th fastest (which is more in line with what I remember from watching the race weekend).

        The graph would be more useful if it was the average speed trap value per engine manufacturer:
        For 2015, 325.6 for Mercedes, 325.4 for Ferrari, 317.1 for Renault and 312.7 for Honda.
        For 2014, 313.8 for Mercedes, 305.9 for Ferrari, and 304.7 for Renault.

        That’s a 3.75% increase for Mercedes, a 6.37% increase for Ferrari, and a 4.07% increase for Renault, and shows that Ferrari isn’t very far behind Mercedes, and that Honda can probably challenge Renault easily.

    2. This is only comparing Ferrari in March 2014 to Ferrari in March 2015. Ferrari didn’t seem as bad in Australia last year remember. They seemed to lose pace over the year. So, Ferrari have certainly gained more if you compare Novermber 2014 to March 2015.

      1. THIS!!! I really hope this year they go in the right direction because last year they were a “lot better” at the start of the season than in Abu Dhabi were it was just sad how bad they were!

  10. there’s some interesting stuff from an interview with Yasuhisa Arai (from honda) on this page of f1technical forum ( it just sounds like they were woefully under prepared – not surprising given how testing went.

    jenson’s quick laps at the end were purely down to him having saved fuel – they did not change the maps or any ERS settings; just full rich on the fuel because he had saved a lot over the race.

    1. @frood19 So… there is 1 positive thing to take away from the race for Honda then? That they weren’t able to put a lap at full speed, to the point that Button didn’t need to conserve fuel. If they can make the car driveable and get over the ashtmatic phase like Lotus Renault did in early 2014, then at least they have a chance of moving up the grid a little

  11. Just goes to show how bad that Renault engine is, when Lotus have made such a huge leap in performance after ditching it.

    Also seems to indicate that Ferrari haven’t actually gotten any closer to Mercedes this year, despite other teams dropping back perhaps flattering their performance.

    1. I saw a statement from Renault today, in effect saying that their woeful performance in Australia was because they had given into pressure from RBR to rush through an “aggressive” but not fully evaluated version of the engine @mazdachris.
      And that they were now thinking that was a big mistake (ignoring their internal procedures for clearing a design). On the other hand, as reliability fixes are permitted, maybe it will work out for them in the end?

      1. @bascb I suppose we can only guess really. They’ll know internally what the situation is. It does seem strange that RBR has fallen back towards STR, when all things being equal you’d expect them to have a fairly decent advantage. I don’t necessarily buy this line some people have suggested, that RBR have simply not made a very good car. It’s possible, sure, but the team has a long and well established history of making some of the best chassis on the grid. So I guess running untested parts could be a factor. I haven’t seen the statement, but if they have said something like that then it does support the notion that relations between RBR and Renault have deteriorated.

      2. I was wondering about that, because the STR drivers didn’t seem to have those issues and in the end they were about as fast as the RBR cars. If verstappen hadn’t stopped with his engine issues he might have even finished ahead of Ricciardo. At least his dad and Max claim he would have finished 6th, but that also sounds a bit like Massa always claiming he would be on the podium if only … didn’t happen.

  12. I don’t think we can definitively judge Mercedes’ advantage based purely on the qualifying performance in Australia, it wasn’t really a conventional session – there were very tricky windy conditions, so the 1.4s qualifying advantage likely had more of a driver influence than normal.

    For example, both Ferrari drivers said that they didn’t extract the maximum from the car in qualifying, saying that they could have been 3rd (Raikkonen said he lost 0.3s with a mistake, which would have brought Mercedes’ advantage down to about 1.1s). Bottas was also suffering from his back problems, so the only Ferrari/Williams lap that was actually representative of what the package was capable of what Massa’s, and he has generally been 0.1-0.3s behind Bottas in qualifying (plus the Williams seems to be the 3rd best car at this stage anyway) so I think the other cars can go quicker and would be surprised if Merc are actually 1.4s ahead in future qualifying sessions.

    The idea that it was a bit of an anomaly is supported by Raikkonen saying that Ferrari were much closer in race pace than qualifying pace – possibly suggesting that Ferrari didn’t get the maximum out of the car in qualifying.

    From Mark Hughes’ qualifying summary on Motorsport Magazine:
    “It was a tricky old session, with falling track temperatures and a gusting wind that was giving everyone real problems into turns 1, 3 and 15.

    As ever, in changeable conditions – in this case the gusting wind and falling track temperatures – Hamilton’s improvisation and confidence gave him a crucial advantage. Asked how come Mercedes’ superiority had apparently stretched since last year, a senior team member wasn’t convinced that it had. “I think actually a lot of that was just Lewis. The car’s superiority was probably more like how Nico’s lap showed it – maybe around 1sec. Lewis’s was just an amazing lap in those conditions. He’s in the midst of contract negotiations and suddenly you see the difference that calibre of driver can make.” “

    1. @polo You have to ignore a lot of caveats in this article to come to the conclusion I have “definitively judged” Mercedes’ performance advantage.

      1. @keithcollantine I apologise, I shouldn’t have used the word definitively (I promise I did read the article first!) – I didn’t really intend this comment as a direct response or argument to the article, but rather just of a bit of speculation about how Mercedes qualifying advantage might not be as great as it seemed in Australia.

        Apologies if I sounded presumptuous or anything – for the record, I thought this was a very interesting and well-constructed article.

    2. Furthermore, Massa lost a whole FP2, and had to compromise FP3. So his set-up should have been better anyway if he had a smooth Friday.

  13. Ferrari is catching Mercedes. Last season the gap was a massive 1.5 seconds per lap and now this season at Melbourne it was only 5 tenths per lap, that is a massive difference from last season when the gap was 1.5 seconds per lap. I thought Mercedes would have won every race by about 15 seconds and more and thought Mercedes would have beat McLaren’s record, but seeing the gap was 1.5 seconds per lap last season and at Melbourne the gap was only 5 tenths per lap, I don’t think Mercedes will win every race, I think at some point in the season Ferrari will be fighting with Mercedes. At some point this season they will be fighting with Mercedes, even Hamilton and Toto said it, your dominance won’t last long, looks like Mercedes couldn’t dominant as much as Red Bull. So like I said at some point this season Ferrari will be fighting with Mercedes, and no I’m not a Ferrari or a Red Bull fan. Even Raikkonen said after far from Mercedes on race pace. Would have liked Mercedes to dominate for another season or two but looks like Ferrari will be fighting with Mercedes at some point this season.

  14. First season following F1 here. Going to apologize ahead of time for the TON of annoying newbie questions I’ll be asking throughout the year. Here’s the first one: why are the qualifying laps so significantly faster than any during the races? 3-4 seconds is quite a gap!

    1. @smartrip Good newbie question! In qualifying they only need to carry enough fuel to do a lap out of the pits, a flying lap, and an in-lap. In the races they have to carry fuel for 305km – 58 laps in Melbourne. And even by the time that fuel load has lightened at the end of the race, by then the tyres are much more worn than they would be on a qualifying lap.

      1. And on top of that you dont wanna stress the car like that. In a Race its about what position you end up in and not how fast you do it, destroying your tyres and engine and possibly running out of fuel is not a good tradeoff for a couple of laps at qualifying speed.

        1. Ah, that makes a lot of sense. So much to learn! haha. Thanks for the explanation, @keithcollantine @rethla

  15. Considering that Lotus barely completed a lap in the race, how are the lap times calculated for them? Also it might not be clear from these graphs but Ferrari do appear to be closer to Mercedes compared to last year based on the lap times.

    With Kimi battling through traffic and Vettel stuck behind Massa, it might not reflect the true pace of Ferrari. Once Vettel got past Massa, the only thing he had to do was to keep ahead of him, which he did comfortably.

    I believe if Ferrari had been third from the beginning of the race, Mercedes would have probably pushed further (assuming they didn’t already since there was no incentive for them to do so) and Ferrari would have shown a little more pace if they had Mercedes in their sights or if they had been in clear air (am considering that Ferrari didn’t push as well since they had secured the podium).

  16. Negatives, positives, controversy, engine formula, noise, pay drivers, german grand prix, etc… while the talking points surrounding F1 are not what most dire hard fans would prefer, there can be no doubt there is plenty to talk about and there are no shortages of story lines for F1.

  17. In the US they aired a Mercedes special one hour show following the team through 2014 right up to just before Melbourne 2015. There was one remark from some engineer that really had me worried (as well as every rival engineer who heard it). The team was packing up to send the cars to Melbourne an they caught some engineers chatting and the remark was, “there is still a lot wrong with the car, a LOT wrong.”

    1. Well if that’s the case, I shudder to think what would happen when they get it “right”.

  18. Looking at Force India’s progress you’d have to say that the engine alone is giving less than 2 seconds extra performance.

    So even if the engines are equalised, Mercedes have just nailed the chassis in this formula.

    As a team they are just better at the minute. And when you have form that gives confidence. McLaren and Ferrari spent the last era running around like headless chickens wondering what they could do to stop Red Bull and every year Red Bull just came on like an unstoppable force. All the while Mercedes kept their head down knowing it was only a matter of time if they made the right choices.

    Ferrari and McLaren have seen this and are now following suit and playing the long game.

    Red Bull need to remember when they were on top, none of the rule changes stopped them because they were just a better team. Change what you like, Mercedes will adapt better in the short term just like Red Bull did.

  19. The more I think about it, the more I feel that the power unit debate is a bit of a red herring. Mercedes have created a great engine, that much is beyond doubt. The engine appears to be powerful, driveable, and generally reliable (though clearly not indestructible). But can the power unit alone explain the performance of the Mercedes cars? I don’t see how it can do. If you ignore the Mercedes factory team, the result of the race was very close, with cars powered by all three power units competing against one another. Or, to put it another way, there doesn’t seem to be any significant advantage for any team running a Mercedes engine except for Mercedes themselves.

    When Brawn GP were dominating, we knew it was because they had a fancy diffuser. RBR dominated due to a number of different innovations – flexible wings, exhaust blowing, and so on. Ferrari’s domination of the early noughties was thanks (in part only) to fancy Bridgestone tyres. Because we could see that each of these dominant cars had a significant part (or system, or combination of parts) responsible for its excellent performance, there was no consideration really given to the relative strengths and weaknesses of the noisy bit in the back pushing it along the circuit. And of course, at the time we knew that the different engines were all roughly equivalent to each other. So when the Brawn (notably effectively the same team now dominating once again) was over a second quicker than its rivals running the same engine, there was no question what was the cause.

    Mercedes GP have rolled out a pair of cars which are over a second a lap faster than any other team running the same power unit. Power units which we understand from the regulations are effectively identical, and presumably running similar power levels. If the advantage were down to the power units, then all of the Mercedes-powered cars would be rounding out the top spots on the grid. Yet clearly that isn’t happening.

    What I’m getting at is this – there’s something else going on. Something which can’t surely be explained by simply saying that the Mercedes has a really good chassis. I mean, I’m sure it does. It has a fantastic chassis. You can see how the cars turn in cleanly and sharply, and then launch out of the corners, applying the throttle earlier than anyone else is capable of. But never in the modern age of F1 has a team managed to find such a huge advantage by simply having a conventionally good chassis. There’s something else there. Something we can’t see. Something like the double diffuser; a clever interpretation of some aspect of the rules which facilitates an innovation, a device of some sort – probably aero-related – which only Mercedes have thought of. The double diffuser of the post-2014 generation.

    Who knows what it is; it could be an aero part, or it could be some clever electronic system, perhaps utilising some device on the power unit which is otherwise un-used on the other Mercedes-powered cars. We know that the Mercedes cars have passed scrutineering, so whatever it is, it’s something that the FIA have either failed to notice or have already judged to be legal under the regs. We know that the cars look outwardly conventional – there are no telltale parts of greebles which suggest something unusual going on under the skin. We also know – as Horner pointed out – that there are torque sensors on the cars so the FIA should know whether or not the power unit in the Mercedes is making significantly more power than the ones in the other Mercedes-powered cars.

    As I see it there are three possible scenarios here.

    1 – The power unit in the Mercedes cars is making significantly more power than the ones in the other Mercedes powered cars

    2 – The power unit in the Mercedes cars is making the same power as the ones in the other Mercedes powered cars, and there is some other device or innovation on the Mercedes cars which is delivering all of the extra performance.

    3 – The power unit really is the thing that’s making the difference; the chassis of the Ferrari and the Red Bull are roughly equivalent to the chassis of the Mercedes, but they’re being held back by a simple lack of power. This seems the least likely answer, given that it would mean that the chassis of the Williams, Force India and Sauber are all so poor that they are all over a second a lap slower than the Mercedes with the same power levels.

    Obviously in the above I haven’t made any reference to Honda. We know that they’re running in a very de-tuned state, so we have no idea where it may potentially sit once they do get it running properly so it doesn’t provide any kind of useful baseline by way of comparisson.

    1. I suspect it might be something to do with the ERS. There are the MGU-K and the MGU-H. Isn’t there a restriction on how much energy you can extract use? 2 or 4 MJ? The thing is; I think it only applies to the MGU-K. In other words, there is no limit on the energy recovery from the MGU-H (i.e. from the turbos). Just a thought.

    2. I think cus mercedes can build an engine that can work best with their own chasis and not other cars.

  20. Hamilton’s won’t just win a 3rd WDC this year, should he sign on with Merc and if the rules stay till 2017 he’ll have at least 4 to 5 WDC easily. It happens in F1 all if not most of the time historically. Back to the best of the rest for some battles.

    Juuuust maybe, McLaren when they come to terms with their engine which is not on full power yet will be able to beat Merc but that’ll be quite a while. And will Alonso be back at Sepang? and if he does come back how will his form be, we will never know. Something to look forward to.

  21. LMAO at where the Honda 2015 power unit shows up on the graph. I’m sure if Fernando saw that graph right now, he’d be in tears

    Honestly, looks like Ferrari have made the biggest gain on Mercedes. People say that Mclaren Honda might be the team to topple Mercedes, but I think Ferrari should rise to the occasion in a season or two and start fighting at the front

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