Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari, Red Bull Ring, 2015

Mercedes braced for attack from Vettel’s “seriously quick” Ferrari

2015 Austrian Grand Prix pre-race analysis

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Lewis Hamilton, Nico Rosberg, Mercedes, Red Bull Ring, 2015Last year problems for the Mercedes drivers in qualifying allowed Williams to beat them to the front row. However this time errors by both Mercedes drivers on their final laps served to hinder their rivals.

With Lewis Hamilton spinning at turn one on the start of his lap, and Nico Rosberg running off at the final corner at the end of his laps, yellow flags were shown forcing some of their rivals to back off.

The yellow flags also meant DRS was disabled at some points on the track. Sebastian Vettel and Valtteri Bottas – arguably the two biggest threats to the Mercedes drivers in Q3 – were both unable to use DRS for part of the final laps. Bottas was unable to improve his time and qualified sixth, while Vettel was less than two tenths of a second off beating Rosberg.

In other championships drivers are penalised if they make a mistake and affect a rival’s lap time in this way. Mercedes can feel relieved F1’s rules are more lenient.

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For Hamilton, his seventh pole position of the season was a relief – Q3 was the first time he’d led a session all weekend. “It was really quite a bad qualifying session all around for me,” he admitted.

“I was off Nico for three or four tenths each session and each run, each lap and I just didn’t have the confidence in the balance I had at the time, and the temperature of the tyres and the brakes.”

Hamilton had a similarly scruffy end to qualifying at the Red Bull Ring last year, but qualified ninth instead of first after his turn one spin. He said it was “a bit similar to what happened last year in turn two here.”

“I definitely do that quite often in this car. Not sure why. Got big feet I think.”

Hamilton looked uncomfortable in practice as well as qualifying, and his struggles in Q3 last year give the impression this is not a track he has clicked with since it returned to the calendar. But in the race last year he drove superbly, making up five places on the opening lap and pressing Rosberg hard for victory as they overhauled the Williams pair.

Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari, Red Bull Ring, 2015The best hope for a scrap for victory lies in Vettel’s Ferrari, which starts third on the grid. “Normally between Saturday and Sunday we’re able to close the gap a bit, so hopefully the same will happen tomorrow,” said Vettel.

The Ferrari driver chastised himself for holding back at the start in Canada two weeks ago. He surely will not do the same if he’s wheel-to-wheel with a silver car tomorrow, which he has a good chance of doing as he starts on the racing line. And the long straights at the beginning of the lap offer great opportunities for slipstreaming and passing at the Red Bull Ring.

With most drivers likely to make a single pit stop the strategic options open to the front runners are limited. But even with only one Ferrari starting near the front of the grid, Mercedes’ Toto Wolff is alert to the threat from the red cars.

“Ferrari did some seriously quick long runs yesterday and today and they looked quicker than us,” he said. “It will be a tough battle”.

Qualifying times in full

DriverCarQ1

Q2 (vs Q1)

Q3 (vs Q2)
1Lewis HamiltonMercedes1’12.2181’09.062 (-3.156)1’08.455 (-0.607)
2Nico RosbergMercedes1’10.9761’08.634 (-2.342)1’08.655 (+0.021)
3Sebastian VettelFerrari1’11.1841’09.392 (-1.792)1’08.810 (-0.582)
4Felipe MassaWilliams1’11.8301’09.719 (-2.111)1’09.192 (-0.527)
5Nico HulkenbergForce India1’11.3191’09.604 (-1.715)1’09.278 (-0.326)
6Valtteri BottasWilliams1’11.8941’09.598 (-2.296)1’09.319 (-0.279)
7Max VerstappenToro Rosso1’11.3071’09.631 (-1.676)1’09.612 (-0.019)
8Daniil KvyatRed Bull1’12.0921’10.187 (-1.905)1’09.694 (-0.493)
9Felipe NasrSauber1’12.0011’09.652 (-2.349)1’09.713 (+0.061)
10Romain GrosjeanLotus1’11.8211’09.920 (-1.901)
11Pastor MaldonadoLotus1’11.6611’10.374 (-1.287)
12Marcus EricssonSauber1’12.3881’10.426 (-1.962)
13Carlos Sainz JnrToro Rosso1’11.1581’10.465 (-0.693)
14Daniel RicciardoRed Bull1’11.9731’10.482 (-1.491)
15Fernando AlonsoMcLaren1’12.5081’10.736 (-1.772)
16Sergio PerezForce India1’12.522
17Jenson ButtonMcLaren1’12.632
18Kimi RaikkonenFerrari1’12.867
19Roberto MerhiManor1’14.071
20Will StevensManor1’15.368

Sector times

DriverSector 1Sector 2Sector 3
Lewis Hamilton16.806 (1)30.364 (2)21.285 (2)
Nico Rosberg16.882 (2)30.204 (1)21.219 (1)
Sebastian Vettel17.061 (5)30.365 (3)21.384 (3)
Felipe Massa17.025 (3)30.535 (4)21.519 (4)
Nico Hulkenberg17.026 (4)30.611 (5)21.641 (7)
Valtteri Bottas17.061 (5)30.696 (6)21.562 (6)
Max Verstappen17.272 (11)30.764 (7)21.527 (5)
Daniil Kvyat17.231 (10)30.805 (9)21.658 (8)
Felipe Nasr17.078 (7)30.854 (10)21.694 (9)
Romain Grosjean17.111 (8)31.013 (11)21.796 (12)
Pastor Maldonado17.165 (9)30.791 (8)21.785 (10)
Marcus Ericsson17.283 (12)31.045 (12)21.911 (13)
Carlos Sainz Jnr17.287 (13)31.129 (13)21.936 (14)
Daniel Ricciardo17.379 (15)31.276 (14)21.789 (11)
Fernando Alonso17.361 (14)31.411 (15)21.964 (15)
Sergio Perez17.808 (17)32.042 (17)22.672 (16)
Jenson Button17.724 (16)32.068 (18)22.840 (17)
Kimi Raikkonen18.060 (19)31.848 (16)22.959 (18)
Roberto Merhi18.043 (18)32.601 (19)23.427 (19)
Will Stevens18.480 (20)33.261 (20)23.621 (20)

Speed trap

PosDriverCarEngineSpeed (kph/mph)Gap
1Lewis HamiltonMercedesMercedes326.1 (202.6)
2Nico RosbergMercedesMercedes325.4 (202.2)-0.7
3Sergio PerezForce IndiaMercedes324.5 (201.6)-1.6
4Pastor MaldonadoLotusMercedes324.5 (201.6)-1.6
5Kimi RaikkonenFerrariFerrari324.0 (201.3)-2.1
6Felipe NasrSauberFerrari322.2 (200.2)-3.9
7Nico HulkenbergForce IndiaMercedes322.1 (200.1)-4.0
8Felipe MassaWilliamsMercedes322.1 (200.1)-4.0
9Sebastian VettelFerrariFerrari321.9 (200.0)-4.2
10Romain GrosjeanLotusMercedes321.9 (200.0)-4.2
11Valtteri BottasWilliamsMercedes320.9 (199.4)-5.2
12Daniil KvyatRed BullRenault318.8 (198.1)-7.3
13Marcus EricssonSauberFerrari318.6 (198.0)-7.5
14Daniel RicciardoRed BullRenault316.4 (196.6)-9.7
15Fernando AlonsoMcLarenHonda315.7 (196.2)-10.4
16Max VerstappenToro RossoRenault315.7 (196.2)-10.4
17Carlos Sainz JnrToro RossoRenault314.9 (195.7)-11.2
18Will StevensManorFerrari311.7 (193.7)-14.4
19Jenson ButtonMcLarenHonda309.3 (192.2)-16.8
20Roberto MerhiManorFerrari306.7 (190.6)-19.4

Over to you

Is the Ferrari threat to Mercedes real? How will the upgraded Williams fare at a track where they impressed last year? And what can Kimi Raikkonen salvage from 14th on the grid?

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

2015 Austrian Grand Prix

Browse all 2015 Austrian Grand Prix articles

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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47 comments on “Mercedes braced for attack from Vettel’s “seriously quick” Ferrari”

  1. I seriously hope this much talked about thread from Ferrari finally materializes. I expect Vettel to have the same pace as the Mercs. So maybe he could overtake Rosberg, but surely Hamilton will be out of reach by then.

    Once more kudos to Hulkenberg. He really did a stellar job today. Should be interesting to see if he can stay within the top 10 tomorrow.

    1. The difference is that Mercedes aren’t entirely comfortable this weekend. They seem to struggle a little and make a lot of mistakes than usual.

      This could open up chances for Ferrari although I think Vettel should really do Rosberg in the first lap and set after Hamilton. Mercedes will try to create a gap between Hamilton and Vettel if Rosberg is in the middle. Let’s face it, Rosberg hasn’t been a threat to Hamilton in the race this year, so the only threat is from another team (Ferrari).

    2. lest you forget, Ferrari won the Malaysian GP

      1. Whilst it is true that Ferrari won the Malaysian GP, it has to be said that it was in abnormal conditions given the extremely high track temperatures (65ºC). It could be said that Ferrari have looked reasonably competitive elsewhere, but overall Mercedes do seem to have had that slight advantage in terms of outright pace when they’ve needed it.

  2. Haha Mercedes say that every time! Sure they will still have the edge on Vettel.

  3. Overtaking is difficult on this track despite the long straights. What I would be worried as a Mercedes fan is the Ferrari’s longer stint. What Mercedes should be worried is about the longer stints as here it is difficult to follow a car as Hamilton proved last year, unable to overtake Rosberg. Vettel will surely be near the Mercedes tomorrow. However, it seems like as it mostly showed, Mercedes have it under control since Malaysia, excluding Monaco.

    1. I bet Ferrari willl stop sooner than Mercedes.
      They have the pace advantage to be saving tyres and still maintaing a gap to the Ferraris.

      Vettel will see himself on a position where he is unable to attack and the undercut will be his only option. And Mercedes will cover him, as always.

      1. did you see the state of the Merc tires after their off track experiences,
        i would be surprised if they could go longer the Vettel.

        1. They won’t be using those tyres for the race.

  4. There’s been a bit of talk recently about how fast drivers should go in Q2, if they go fast they know the limits of the car better and will perform better in Q3 but will take more out of the race tyres and vice versa if they go slower. Seems here that this wasn’t the case, Rosberg really pushed and Hamilton less so, yet Hamilton went on to set a great lap and make sure his race tyres are in good condition. Rosberg has so much work to do, would be surprised if Rosberg can go on to get close to Lewis in the race, he may be prey to Seb.

    1. I agree @williamstuart. I’d say Lewis is a bit less dependent on rhythm than Nico. Seb is the same I think – they can be fast earlier in a session or on a new track, just through that unfair advantage of extra talent.

  5. “The yellow flags also meant DRS was disabled at some points on the track. Sebastian Vettel and Valtteri Bottas – arguably the two biggest threats to the Mercedes drivers in Q3 – were both unable to use DRS for part of the final laps.”

    Hmmm, I recall the uproar last year at Monaco how Rosberg should have been punished for causing a yellow and securing pole for himself. Many were calling for harsh penalties for drivers that caused a yellow and should have their fast times disallowed.

    Nary a peep today, yet surely Vettel suffered as much as Hamilton did last year.

    1. @uan Well, they are acknowledging that Hamilton’s spin caused the yellow and affected Bottas, Vettel. That is the best we can get from this situation :)

      They could have gone “What?? No way they were disadvantaged. So what if he can’t use DRS, we don’t like its presence in F1. The lesser it is used, the better” or some other funny excuse :)

      1. @evered7

        lol.

        Though to get really conspiratorial, my very first reaction when Hamilton went off was this feels like Monaco, then Rosberg went off at the last turn and I thought well, Rosberg was well ahead and one wouldn’t impact the other….

        …but, if Rosberg didn’t go off at T9, he wouldn’t have had DRS and may have missed pole by just that margin because of Hamilton’s off.

        Nah… ;) (I actually don’t believe any of that, but the dots are there lol)

        1. @uan I posted about it in the qualifying related thread as well, as to how Hamilton has been making mistakes all through practice and again got one at a crucial time in Q3.

          But that crap is for Mercedes to deal with. Seriously hoping that Ferrari give them headaches in tomorrow’s race and not let those children play with themselves.

          1. everyone was making mistakes in practice,even vettel.

          2. You should make mistakes in practice. That’s how you learn.

    2. Well the Monaco incident was a bit different as it was clear that Rosberg had nothing to lose and all to gain. Both of the Mercedes drivers had nothing to gain this time, Rosberg threw away probable pole and Lewis did not affect Nicos lap has he had already passed it.
      But then again i am all for deleting lap times and i would love to see both Nico&Lewis make their way up from 5th row :)

    3. Well, today both risc wrecking their cars, while at Monaco Rosberg simply went slowly and safely to a run-off area. He even reversed to go back and celebrate his achievement!

    4. Its because the Rosberg incident was suspected as deliberate action. Your comparing apples and kiwi fruit.

  6. Apparently Hamilton’s spin may not have been driver error:

    “I thought I had made a mistake into Turn One, but I’ve just been with the engineers and it doesn’t look like it so we are now investigating to try and understand it,” he said.

    “So that is comforting for me as I was angry at myself, but it is a combination of things.

    “I thought I had just braked too hard really, but I braked the same as I did on the previous run. When I had the spin here last year it was immediately when I hit the brakes, but [with] this one the car was slowing down and perhaps with the gearshift the rears just locked completely.

    “It was pretty strange so they are going to look into it and I am sure we will get to the bottom of it.”

    Johnny Herbert pointed out that Hamilton’s spin was odd, as it was the inside rear that locked, when you would normally expect it to be the outside one. He suspected it may have been an energy recovery issue.

    1. Makes sense. Rosberg’s off seemed more typical, missing his braking point under pressure, Hamilton’s looked weird and I’d assumed it was a mechanical issue at the time until Hamilton said he was responsible.

    2. It was not weird, he clearly put his left rear on the white line at the edge of the track, which was wet and slippery, that throw the car around. No technical problems simple driver mistake.

    3. I just hate these new “power units”. The drivers use the pedals and hope that the software that controls the engine, brakes and the various electric motors and energy recovery systems work as intented. When it doesn’t, they spin, like Hamilton and Raikonnen last race. I want to see when a software bug causes a huge crash, what will the FIA say. Also who tells me that this software is not able to “correct” mistakes made by the driver.

      Plus that hey sound so horrible that makes me want to mute the on board sound.

      1. Things go wrong sometimes on race cars. Ask Lauda about suspension parts.

        I doubt Hamilton was a car issue. Track is bumpy here so any wheel can lock due to this under heavy braking.

  7. With all the focus on Ferrari’s threat to Mercedes tomorrow, does no one else think that Massa’s long run on Friday warrants some attention? It was as quick as Raikkonen’s and slightly longer. If it stays dry I think the Williams looks perfectly capable of having a say tomorrow.

    1. last year Mass did a 1 08 750sec lap time for pole position,
      considering all the so called improvements the cars seam to be going backwards instead of forward,
      ether Williams updates are not working or they have lost the blot i dont know.
      wish them luck though…

      1. @lethalnz, given that this circuit is so short, even a relatively large improvement to the cars has a fairly small impact – Vettel, for example, is only a few tenths faster than Alonso was last year, and we know that Ferrari’s 2015 car is substantially more competitive than the 2014 car was.

      2. William’s first ss fast lap was from Q1 in the whole weekend. I think they just preferred to evaluate their new parts rather than fully preparing for Q

      3. Given that it was a drying track I don’t think you can read too much into qualifying times from last year as a comparison. I think it makes much more sense to use the long run comparisons: Massa managed a 25 lap run on Friday with very good speed; in fact, if you compare it to last year’s practice session, Massa was 1-1.5 seconds per lap faster than last year.

        1. Which indeed means they might be in the hunt for podium this year Quant.

  8. It’s interesting that the sum of Rosberg’s best sector times is 1:08.305 and of all best sector times 1:08.229. I had bet 1:08.317 as the pole time based on the rate of improvement in pole times of the last few races. The last four had improvements of -0.66%, -0.65%, -1.17%, -0.64%. Monaco is the outlier, either Hamilton was trying extra hard or the track was just better this year (makes sense for a street circuit). The pole time was only a -0.44% improvement though so it seems those last lap incidents really slowed down the pole time. The strung together best sector times would be -0.71% which would be right on track.

    1. Nice analysis you did there @pedrocr :)

      I completely forgot the predictions this weekend…

      1. For a moment there I hesitated giving away my awesome pole-prediction method… :)

        1. @pedrocr Nice, and remember Monaco had a slight track change (a bit shorter this year) which could account for that outlier. I was doing the same but going by feel, and managed to get one of the recent poles spot on to the hundredth.

          Interesting that Rosberg had the faster sector times overall, but was too inconsistent to put it together, as I always say..

          1. Had forgotten about the layout change, that could help indeed but probably not the full 4 tenths difference in just that one corner.

        2. Here I am reviewing your method! :D

          1. I’ve got a better method this weekend! :)

  9. why Ferrari run only single lap each time during Q2&3 while others such as Mercedes do 3 lap to increase tire tempreture?

    1. Saving tyres for the race I guess

  10. As expected for such an unremarkable layout the % gap was actually wider than usual. I can’t see how do so many people remain blind and hopeless. The 1st sector is all about the top speed and the 2, 3 kph Merc has on top of probably higher downforce they can run do spread the timesheets, that said it would have been nice to see both the MErcs and Ferrari have clean laps.

    1. the reason they dont have clean laps, is the cars are so hard to keep on the track,
      but no you cant see how hard these things are to drive,
      you believe any kid can jump in an drive one of these cars.
      stop moaning this is a form nerves and feel, how far one can you push without slipping off the track,
      your so boring.

      1. well look how well Verstappen, a 17 year old was driving at this track yesterday, super fast in the wet – probably the fastest, and did great in qualifying beating mercedes powered cars. if it was wet in quali 3, i would have tipped him for pole

      2. @lethalnz I’m talking about this article. In spite of the lack of corners and short lap time the gap is wide between Ferrari and Mercedes, how can’t the op and members of the site remain hopeless that Vettel can change the outcome of the race. @davidnotcoulthard The track is unremarkable, which doesn’t mean I don’t love the scenery and it’s high speed nature.

    2. @peartree That so many laps weren’t clean surely meant the layout was not quite as unremarkable as you’re making it out to be?

  11. Sigh! All this talk about Ferrari challenging Mercedes is simply hilarious! Funny thing is that Mercedes are the ones that keep talking this illusion up the most. It is all smoke and mirrors to pacify the fans and keep up the illusion that they can actually be challenged. And people seem to believe it!

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