Mercedes had a clear performance advantage over Ferrari in Malaysia but couldn’t make their tyres last for long enough to beat them.
Malaysian Grand Prix lap times
All the lap times by the drivers (in seconds, very slow laps excluded):
|Carlos Sainz Jnr||120.068||108.634||108.819||131.863||139.148||154.84||108.881||108.418||108.163||108.707||109.251||109.236||109.556||114.338||126.593||106.997||107.317||106.786||107.28||107.917||108.852||106.824||107.285||107.529||107.314||107.471||107.354||107.311||108.885||108.62||108.172||112.066||126.765||106.558||107.65||105.97||105.507||105.779||105.801||105.857||105.698||105.81||105.844||105.858||105.944||105.741||105.914||108.085||106.008||106.352||106.119||106.899||107.757||108.249||107.242|
On the face of it Ferrari’s victory over Mercedes in Malaysia is something of a surprise. The W06’s fastest lap was a clear second and a half better than anything Sebastian Vettel managed.
As Vettel pitted twice and both his Mercedes rivals used three-stop strategies, his pace didn’t need to be as quick. But what really helped Vettel was that he could make the tyres last longer at those speeds than either of the Mercedes.
That seemed especially true of Lewis Hamilton, who over his final stint made only moderate progress in catching Vettel while his team mate in the other Mercedes closed the gap. While Hamilton set six lap times which were quicker than anything Vettel could do, Rosberg in turn did six quicker than Hamilton managed. Had he not lost so much time earlier in the race in traffic after the Safety Car period, we could have seen a fight for position between the two Mercedes.
Jenson Button was compromised by the Safety Car for a different reason. Roberto Merhi, driving his first race for Manor, appeared not to fully grasp F1’s complex Safety Car rules, and held Button up when the race restarted.
“Merhi was in front of me and he obviously hasn’t read the rule book because he didn’t try and catch the Safety Car,” Button explained. “I know they’re not faster but they’re quicker than that.”
“I think he was just sitting at the Safety Car delta, which you’re only supposed to do for two laps, I don’t think he realised, so we didn’t catch the pack when the Safety Car went. So we were sort of four or five seconds back.”
Malaysian Grand Prix fastest laps
Each driver’s fastest lap:
|Rank||Driver||Car||Fastest lap||Gap||On lap|
|8||Daniil Kvyat||Red Bull-Renault||1’44.514||2.452||41|
|9||Max Verstappen||Toro Rosso-Renault||1’44.579||2.517||42|
|11||Nico Hulkenberg||Force India-Mercedes||1’44.822||2.760||46|
|13||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull-Renault||1’45.312||3.250||42|
|14||Sergio Perez||Force India-Mercedes||1’45.345||3.283||37|
|15||Carlos Sainz Jnr||Toro Rosso-Renault||1’45.507||3.445||37|
2015 Malaysian Grand Prix
- Perez apologised for Sepang collision – Grosjean
- Emphatic Driver of the Weekend win for Vettel
- F1 bounces back with lively Malaysian Grand Prix
- Could Ferrari have won without the Safety Car?
- Power unit problem delayed Grosjean in Malaysia
30 comments on “Mercedes couldn’t sustain their Ferrari-beating pace”
29th March 2015, 17:19
Bit misleading to compare the Mercedes final stints as they were on different tyres.
If Hamilton had options for his last stint he’d have had a sniff at Vettel but hindsight is a wonderful thing. Well done Ferrari.
29th March 2015, 17:27
When Rosberg was on the Harder tyre and Hamilton on the Medium tyre in the middle of the race, their pace was similar. So I don’t know if Hamilton would have caught Vettel so easily on the medium tyres at the end of the race.
Mike Dee (@mike-dee)
29th March 2015, 17:27
Not sure because he would have had to make his last pit stop later in this case as he wouldn’t have been able to keep the options in good shape for quite as many laps.
Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine)
29th March 2015, 17:28
@f1bobby I see where you’re coming from but it’s not as if Hamilton was substantially quicker than Rosberg in the third stint when he was on the softer tyres, so I think it’s fair to give Rosberg credit for swinging the pendulum more the other way when he had the advantage of softer tyres.
29th March 2015, 17:31
@keithcollantine Exactly what I wanted to express in my comment above, but my english lacks a bit of finesse sometimes ;-)
30th March 2015, 2:59
With lighter fuel loads and more rubber on the track, Mercedes should have done what Rosberg did with both cars.
Rosberg used his mediums on a better situation to suit them.
29th March 2015, 18:03
Hamilton missing all of P1 and most of P2 with his engine problem would have compromised his race preparations. IIRC he didn’t do any timed laps in P1 before breaking down, so in P2 he had to use the setup from Australia for his race/quali preparation, plus he didn’t get to do as many laps as most drivers because he only came out for the last half hour. So I don’t think he really had tyre/race preparation really covered this weekend.
29th March 2015, 19:13
Shame, man. Hamilton showed cracks . Rosberg must hope for a 2 year contract with Merc or he is looking for a job in LMP’s end of the year.
29th March 2015, 17:23
I don’t think a lot of people will agree with me, but I still think Rosberg’s pace hasn’t been that bad in the first two race (Comparing him to Hamilton last year). You have to take into consideration that he underwent a slow double-stacked pitstop today and had to pass more cars to get back into clear air. Of course the split strategies make comparison more difficult, but I am not writing Rosberg of completely already this season. For example, he held is own on the Hard compound when Hamilton was on the Medium compound
+ Mclaren looked a bit better today, pace-wise
+ Vettel was in his comfort zone today and had some great last laps
+ Red Bull looked like the junior team of Torro Rosso today
29th March 2015, 18:24
I agree :)
29th March 2015, 17:25
A key part of the picture is how slow the field was after the sc and how slow the MBs were getting through traffic, especially Rosberg. This allowed Vettel both to pull a 10s gap and to come out clear of traffic. I think MB expected that Vettel would come out mired in traffic—which is maybe why they were going so slow through traffic, thinking it didn’t much matter. But after he stormed off so fast, they should have reacted aggressively. At the end of the day MB violated a key principle of racing in electing to give up track position. Indeed they even stacked the cars and gave up a surfeit of position.
Ivan B (@njoydesign)
29th March 2015, 17:39
Thanks to Force India at the top of that train =))
29th March 2015, 19:23
@dmw I recall Ross telling Rosberg to “give it everything” in order to pass the cars ahead.
29th March 2015, 20:33
Considering those cars finished 1 minute behind, the laboring seemed excessive. I heard the pit wall call here as, get the lead out, Nico.
29th March 2015, 17:26
Honestly, I just would like to know if the strategists at Mercedes are good or doing their job properly. Last year I remember them making strategy mistakes, one being Hungary where they could have put Hamilton on 2 option stints rather than the primes for the race win challenge. Another one was today, I do not know, correct me if I am wrong but after the 2nd stop of Hamilton, they let Rosberg stay out for an extra 2 laps where it was clear that Vettel was very quick. Last thing is today, with the safety car. I already knew that once they pitted, that it might have cost Hamilton and Rosberg the race win. I wonder how are the strategists working at Mercedes… haha
29th March 2015, 18:20
Everyone is prone to off days but I don’t think Mercedes did much wrong today Vettel just had the pace. Pitting during the safety car makes sense if you were on a three stop (which they were by the end of the race) and Rosberg had to stay out longer in order to get to the end of the race on used Mediums, Hamilton would have had to do the same but chose to pit earlier and finish on the Hards. I think what ruined Mercedes’ race was pitting onto the Hards after the first pit, this gave Vettel the opportunity to have track position so he didn’t have to spend a lot of time trying to pass either driver.
At the end of the day Ferrari was able to get way more life out of the tyres and that’s why they won.
29th March 2015, 18:57
“I think what ruined Mercedes’ race was pitting onto the Hards after the first pit, this gave Vettel the opportunity to have track position so he didn’t have to spend a lot of time trying to pass either driver.” But that’s precisely what pitting during the safety car did, if the Merc’s had stayed out they are basically managing their tyres instead of trying catch the Ferrari after the safety car, and taking more life out of them.
29th March 2015, 19:37
Mercedes had assumed that more cars would be pitting under the safety car so that there wouldn’t be too much traffic, but – to their surprise – barely anyone pitted and they had a lot of cars to work through. This probably wouldn’t have been much of a problem last year, but this year their car isn’t particularly quick on the straights (slower than all their customer teams and the two Ferrari-powered teams IIRC) due to the high downforce and high drag approach. In that sense, this year’s Merc is much like the Red Bulls of recent years: very quick on ultimate lap time in clean air, but prone to getting bogged down in traffic. Also looks like this year’s Merc has worse tyre deg than last year’s.
29th March 2015, 17:29
I think this was a template Vettel performance. He loves being in clean air and building up a gap and since the speed differential was not enough to take the Mercs on similar strategy, they went with their strengths to use the tires come into play. The main advantage Vettel gained was extending his initial stint for a long period at a very good pace and coming out in front of Rosberg after the second pitstop. He then only had to wait for Hamilton to pit, to regain #1 spot since he had already taken Rosberg at T1.
There was no room for error today and Ferrari executed their strategy perfectly to gain an unlikely maximum.
Joao Pitol (@)
29th March 2015, 17:33
I think Mercedes was expecting rain and their setup was more conservative as they didn’t expect Ferrari to beat them in the dry anyway. I we had rain Mercedes would have won, with the higher downforce setup, but Ferrari gambled on dry and won.
30th March 2015, 10:32
That’s not really borne out by Qualy in the wet though is it.
29th March 2015, 17:36
In many ways it was a perfect storm. A wet qualifying session that put Vettel on the front row, an early safety car to give Vettel track position, a strategic error from Mercedes, a poor race balance in the W06 and infinitely better degradation on the SF-15T allowed Vettel to take the win. Hamilton finished ten seconds behind Vettel on an asymmetrical three-stop strategy with two stints on the sub-optimal hard tyres; with a symmetrical strategy with just one stint on the primes, he most likely could have won…just. Today, in this day in history, Ferrari were capable of winning the race, and duly took advantage of the opportunities Mercedes gave them.
Yes, Ferrari were fast today in the highly specific conditions of Sepang, does this mean they are going to be championship challengers? Probably not yet…
29th March 2015, 18:00
Well said and that factually summarizes Race 2. I’ll add that the Merc’s were slower at times trying to preserve their tires.
bull mello (@bullmello)
29th March 2015, 18:24
@countrygent – Excellent analysis. Ferrari have certainly given the Mercedes strategists something to think about for future races.
29th March 2015, 18:47
Excellent summary, add Vettel’s record at this track, and it’s was just another hurdle for them.
29th March 2015, 20:30
If the rules are already too difficult for the drivers, what about the viewers?
Add DRS, other bizarre safety car rules and complex tyre strategies into the mix and it gets pretty hard for non-F1 people willing to watch a race.
29th March 2015, 20:51
I am not at all convinced by this statement, and I don’t see anything in the lap charts which would support it.
Ferrari was AT LEAST on par with Mercedes on race pace today, IMO.
31st March 2015, 3:26
Yes i don’t know why people say that. Ferrari was faster than Mercedes in Malaysia and Mercedes wasn’t even more distant because they only lost 10 sec in first pit stop instead of 25-30sec which is a normal pitstop. They could have managed better the tires with a regular pitstop bit it would be at maximum less 2 or 3 laps per stint. If they managed say 1 sec – optimistic – improvement due to that it would only reduce the 25 sec to 14 sec(25 minus 9 sec). Still more than the 10 sec they lost.
Ferrari was faster because they could make 2 pitstops(Kimi with damaged car couldn’t) while Mercedes didn’t.
29th March 2015, 22:09
Looks like the two cars are evenly matched in speed on new tyres, and Merc’s pace quickly faded away due to tyre degrad.
1st April 2015, 14:28
Max Verstappen Toro Rosso-Renault 1’44.579 2.517 42
Carlos Sainz Jnr Toro Rosso-Renault 1’45.507 3.445 37
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