Nico Rosberg, Mercedes, Red Bull Ring, 2015

Mercedes’ rivals have fallen further behind in 2015

2015 F1 season

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It was supposed to be the year Mercedes’ rivals hit back. But in the first half of 2015 Mercedes have raised their game and left the opposition even further behind.

Last year was a Mercedes rout of the sort which made Red Bull’s previous dominance pale in comparison. Mercedes had the kind of performance advantage over the rest of the opposition F1 hadn’t seen for almost two decades.

Depressingly for their rivals and fans hoping for a close season, that advantage has only increased, as the figures below demonstrate.

2015 versus 2014

Mercedes – 0%

+0.88 Ferrari – 0.88%

+1.31 Williams – 1.31%

+1.63 Red Bull – 1.63%

+1.89 Toro Rosso – 1.89%

+2.04 Lotus – 2.04%

+2.31 Force India – 2.31%

+2.64 Sauber – 2.64%

+3.28 McLaren – 3.28%

+6.57 Manor – 6.57%

Nico Rosberg, Mercedes, Red Bull Ring, 2015The graphic above shows how far each team has been away from the quickest lap time seen at every race weekend so far this year. Below you can see the same data for 2014 on the same scale.

As Mercedes have taken pole position at every race so far this year, they have been zero percent slower than the quickest lap time seen at every race. The next-quickest team, Ferrari, have been almost 0.9% slower on average – more than eight-tenths of a second around a typical one-and-a-half minute lap.

However the real key to understanding why Mercedes is facing much less competition is this: out of their seven closest rivals at the end of 2014, Ferrari are the only ones to have gained on them this year.

While Red Bull’s troubles, which it has largely blamed on its Renault engine, have been well-publicised, Williams has failed to advanced its position following a strong 2014. The FW37s have been more competitive in recent races, however, and should suit the high-speed Spa and Monza circuits coming up next on the schedule.

Mercedes – 0.02%

+0.83 Williams – 0.85%

+0.94 Red Bull – 0.96%

+1.12 Ferrari – 1.14%

+1.42 McLaren – 1.44%

+1.85 Toro Rosso – 1.87%

+1.97 Force India – 1.99%

+2.6 Sauber – 2.62%

+2.67 Lotus – 2.69%

+4.31 Marussia – 4.33%

+6.55 Hide – 6.57%

Ferrari: Closer, or just less far behind?

Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari, Red Bull Ring, 2015One of the most interesting questions this raises is how real Ferrari’s apparent change in fortunes is. After enduring a win-less 2014, Sebastian Vettel has taken them to two victories already this season.

That would seem an unwelcome turnaround for former driver Fernando Alonso following his switch to McLaren, which is languishing among the Q1 rejects this year. However Alonso’s interpretation is that Ferrari has made only modest gains and reaped much from it because other teams have failed to make the expected advances.

While one might expect Alonso to sceptical of Ferrari’s resurgence and even bitter about his departure, this analysis has a ring of truth to it when you look at the data. They may have reduced their deficit to the pace-setters to 0.88% this year, but in four of the five seasons Alonso drove for them they were closer than that.

There’s no doubt Ferrari has improved its performance and has become the number two team to Mercedes this year, but it’s also clear Mercedes’ other rivals have dropped the ball. But with Honda and Renault planning engine upgrades for the second half of the year, we could yet see some big changes before the season is over.

Car performance in the first half of 2015

The graph below shows how far off the pace each team was (as a percentage) at every round so far this year.

http://www.f1fanatic.co.uk/charts/2015teamcolours.csv

AustraliaMalaysiaChinaBahrainSpainMonacoCanadaAustriaBritainHungary
Mercedes0000000000
Red Bull2.321.081.841.362.31.262.011.811.380.92
Williams1.610.991.220.881.22.90.951.080.841.47
Ferrari1.640.370.940.440.9210.830.521.230.88
McLaren5.862.383.652.673.642.662.533.332.943.1
Force India3.341.573.262.034.022.281.641.21.542.2
Toro Rosso2.530.552.722.041.721.932.221.691.522.02
Lotus2.591.042.221.683.072.231.072.132.212.18
Sauber2.861.082.332.343.4842.511.752.63.44
Manor6.486.596.637.617.46.375.945.556.58

2015 F1 season

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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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  • 73 comments on “Mercedes’ rivals have fallen further behind in 2015”

    1. I can only think that in today’s age of tyre management and racing laps so much slower than in qualifying that this kind of analysis is far less useful than it was in the refueling era especially when racing laps were completed on low fuel much closer to the car’s limit.
      Clear air is as much a differentiating factor as the advantage gained running in clear air is clearly over 1% when you look at how faster cars on the same tyres can’t pass slower cars ahead if they’ve sat within 2 seconds of the car in front for more than a couple of laps. Today’s racing is as much about staying with the cars ahead and through the pit stop phases to find free air to extract maximum efficiency from the car than passing on track or getting ahead on Saturdays.

      1. yep you hit on the nail right there Alec,
        once in front of Merc your likely with the right strategy to stay there,
        all because its impossible to stay within 1sec to get help via DRS,
        just shows how this needs to change if we want proper racing.

    2. Little error: last graph has the German Grand Prix label instead of Hungary.

      1. @stefanauss Thanks for that – got it.

    3. The above graphs are all true for qualification. In races however i feel Ferrari has been much closer (as was Williams in Silverstone).
      Maybe it is all down to engine mapping, meaning Mercedes factory team has the most beneficial and aggressive mappings for one lap, but on the longer distance other Mercedes engine teams and Ferrari are much closer.

      1. Mr win or lose
        13th August 2015, 14:25

        True. The race pace of the Ferrari is much more impressive than its qualifying pace. Last year no team came really close to the Mercedes’ in the race, while this year the Ferraris tend to be faster in the longer runs, because they manage their tyres better. This and better strategy calls explain why Vettel is still a threat for the Mercedes drivers in the championship.

      2. It’s not engine mappings. You can’t change your engine mappings during a race. Mercedes has some sort of “boost mode” for the engine which nobody else, not even the other Mercedes powered teams, has.

        In “normal mode” they’re already as quick or quicker than anyone else, but they use the “boost mode” in qualifying and at various strategic points in the race to achieve an undercut, to prevent somebody from undercutting them, or just to pass one of the other fast cars – Hamilton used it to pass Ricciardo in Hungary.

        1. There is also the fact that Ferrari chassis is not really impressive. That sort of thing has effect on tyre management and warming them up.

          1. So how do you explain vettel being just a 0.05s off hamilton in sector 2 in hungary and faster than rosberg and red bulls.
            ?

            1. Depends on circumstances. Sometimes it’s good for 1 lap, but not so much for race conditions. Sometimes vice versa. It wasn’t so close in the race for example, Ferrari was slower in 2nd sector most of the time. Not to mention the fact that drivers can make the difference on some parts of the track like Hungary 2nd sector. Especially in quali. I mean, Hamilton and Vettel did almost the same time for that sector and Rosberg along with Ricciardo was a couple of tenths off.

            2. I’ve been watching live timing troughout the race and vettel was always much faster than anyone else trough S2. Only hamilton was faster by a tiny margin when he was in free air. Others were miles behind.

          2. If Mercedes simply had a better chassis than Ferrari (and everyone else) then they would be consistently quicker on every lap. But what we frequently see is that they’re the same or just a small bit better than the second and third best cars – but they have the “magic button” ability to go much faster for a lap or so when they need it at key points in the race. That is qualifying, opening laps, the laps around pit stops, and when needed to carry out overtakes. So that looks a lot more like a special mode in the engine than it does the chassis. And radio transmissions during the races tends to bear this out.

            1. They ARE consistently quicker on every lap. You don’t need a magic button to slow down. Everyone has aggressive modes for engine, Mercedes surely have more power in hand then everyone else though, especially with Canada reliability upgrades. But they don’t even need to go fast every lap. They are already mighty fast without pushing the buttons. Do you really believe they don’t have a better chassis then anyone else? Ferrari chassis has been notoriously bad anyway. Red Bull chassis is getting better, and it’s said they would be as fast as Merc with a better PU, but who knows…

            2. What does Mercedes have to do, draw you a picture? I believe it was in Bahrain last year that Nico and Lewis abused the “full power” button to race one another other, after which Mercedes cracked down and restricted its use to specific situations.

              “Everyone” may have different engine settings, but none of the other Merc powered teams have the ability to unleash a super-fast lap – a second or more per lap quicker than normal – the way the Mercedes works teams does. That’s not their chassis at work, it’s their PU.

            3. It’s really weird. Some people know how to write but don’t know how to read.

        2. The regulations restrict the engine maps for the internal combustion engines, but do not place such limits on the hybrid power systems – it is therefore possible that Mercedes have developed a system that enables them to use a more aggressive harvesting and deployment of the electrical power, probably from the thermal energy recovery systems, to give them a short term performance boost in qualifying trim, but then turn that down in race trim to avoid overloading the battery system.

          It is true that, in race trim, Ferrari do seem to be closer this year than their rivals were last year – it probably would be fairer to try and develop a way of comparing over a race stint, rather than just in qualifying, given that Ferrari have consistently tended to be stronger in the former rather than the latter over a number of years.

          1. And improving and developing hybrid systems is what this era of F1 is all about, Mercedes will no doubt lead the world in the power and economy stakes for luxury cars,( only Tesla will do better ) but even Renault and Honda should learn enough to gain an advantage over their rivals.

          2. sunny stivala
            14th August 2015, 9:49

            The maximum electrical power and time per lap to the crankshaft is regulated by the rules. as are the harvesting by “K” per lap. as also is maximum battery capacity. when the boost button is used battery power is shard by “K and H”, whit “H” spooling the turbo with waste gates open.

          3. The only thing for free in the ERS system is the use of the MGU-H, both in harvesting mode as well as in motor mode, BUT, as for the MGU-H supplying the ES or the MGU-K, the ES maximum capacity is 4mj and the maximum power the MGU-K is permitted to supply to the crankshaft is 4mj per lap, there is no limit as to it (the MGU-H) spinning the turbo and or controlling its speed.

    4. But ferrari would be only on average 2-3 tenths off if you only use seb as he has outqualified kimi by almost 6 tenths on average, so yea. Ferrari only have to get within a tenth or two and vettel will win the WDC

      1. @keithcollantine, that is interesting, which times are used, or always an average of both drivers?

        1. @xtwl The fastest.

      2. Most of the quali data is from Vettel probably. Except for Canada and Silverstone. Considering he is half a second faster, if he were to be faster than Raikkonen in Canadian GP and British GP, in the end it would amount to 1 tenth on average at max. There’s like a 0.8 sec difference from Mercedes to Ferrari. Well, it would have been 0.7 sec then.

      3. This is the fastest lap from the team so if Vettel outqualifyes Kimi then its Vettels time that stands against the best of Mercedes (Hamilton if nothing unexpected happened).

        1. You a Hamilton fan? It’s obvious from your wording. He he.

        2. ohhhhhhh k

    5. The Blade Runner (@)
      13th August 2015, 14:53

      And this is why F1 Fanatic is the best F1 site in the world.

        1. Anyone else who read that with the voice of Jeremy Clarksson? ;)

    6. nice stats as always!

    7. Toro Rosso should be at #4 in WCC point not #7.
      They had close their gap to Redbull alot this year.

    8. Crisp & compelling analyses – a solid complement to the driver rankings.
      Thank you @Keithcollantine, great job!

    9. I think this proves how good the Mercedes PU is. You don’t have to look at the Mercedes graph though but the Williams one. The engine remained the same over the two seasons, or almost and still somehow Williams failed in their chassis development to drop another .46%. With that engine they last year could have seized second in the championship. They must praise Renault for making their engine worse so they could jump Red Bull this season or they would be fourth behind them and Ferrari.

      1. A lot of people are saying the Renault engine is down on power compared to last year but I’m just not seeing it.

        Look at some of Ricciardo’s qualifying times for 2014 vs 2015.

        Bahrain: 2014- 1:34.051. 2015- 1:33.832
        Monaco: 2014- 1:16.384. 2015- 1:16.041
        Hungary: 2014- 1:23.391. 2015- 1:22.774

        Ferrari are not ahead of RB because RB got slower, but because Ferrari got faster. Everybody got faster (apart from McLaren) but not everybody got equally faster.

        1. You also need to factor in the new tires as well.

          1. Tyres are the same as last year, apart from the super-soft.

            1. No. They are all harder. And rear tyres are different.

            2. They are all harder. And rear tyres are different.

              I guess nobody told Pirelli and Paul Hembery.

              http://motorsportstalk.nbcsports.com/2015/01/29/pirelli-2015-f1-tires-an-evolution-of-last-years-compounds/

            3. Even if the tyres are identical to the year before, on any single track you also have to take track temperature into the equation and having done so understand that a temperature advantage for 1 chassis may be a disadvantage for another.

        2. renault might not be less powerful than it was last year at this point, but the gap between renault and mercedes has increased this year anyway.

        3. You are looking at the wrong Grand Prix.
          Let’s compare power-tracks instead (RIC):

          Canada 2014: 1:15.589
          Canada 2015: 1:16.114
          Austria 2014: 1:09.446
          Austria 2015: 1:10.482

          1. The RB Ring, aka Monaco In The Mountains, is a “power track”?

            1. RB ring is a almost a definition of power track. Long straight, hard stop, long straight, hard stop, long straight, hard stop. You see where we’re getting here?

          2. You are looking at the wrong driver.
            If you looked at Kvyat’s times, you would see he isn’t as slow as Ricciardo in neither occasions.
            Canada 2015: 1:16.079
            Austria 2015: 1:09.694

            1. Daryl, anyway still slower. Rm, nobody calls it Monaco in the mountains. And yes people say it’s a power track because it has 3 long straights.

          3. For comparison heres the same number for ROS
            Canada 2014: 1:14.874
            Canada 2015: 1:14.702 (1:14.393 for Ham)
            Austria 2014: 1:08.955
            Austria 2015: 1:08.655 (1:08.455 for Ham)

        4. I think the expectation was that they would be up on power this year (without losing any reliability)

        5. it’s foolish to compare times from different years – track/air temperatures are different, tyres are different, etc.

    10. Nice article, very interesting. I would have thought the gap had closed slightly with a couple of teams.

      It would be interesting to see the same stats with best lap time from the races only instead of over the entire weekend. I think the race paces may be tighter but that’s pure speculation on my part.

    11. At last a sensible and pragmatic analysis of the season, much better than Andrew Benson and the BBC can manage. And well done to Mercedes for beating everyone into the ground. Ferrari, Renault and Honda simply have to work harder, and not complain about testing restrictions.

      1. ColdFly F1 (@)
        13th August 2015, 17:04

        Ferrari, Renault and Honda simply have to work harder, and not complain about testing restrictions.

        I would have said (@junior-pilot): “Ferrari, Renault and Honda simply have to work harder, and be able to test what they come up with.”

        1. Did Mercedes have unlimited testing when they roled out the W05 last year? Rhetorical question….

          They did the exact same thing as everyone else by doing the work on the dyno, CFD, wind tunnel and various other areas.

          So can you imagine what they could’ve achieved if they had unlimited testing?

          So the call for unlimited testing is just ridiculous, because that was not one of the reasons behind their success.

          There’s a video on YouTube with the behind scenes of the 2014 car and you’ll see the problems they had trying to start the car.

      2. Ferrari, Renault and Honda simply have to work harder, and not complain about testing restrictions.

        I wish you knew just how little sense you make. They all want to work harder, but there’s pretty much everything done to prevent you working hard. Both scope for the development and means for developing are severely restricted. One through stupid token system, and the other through limited testing, limited this, limited that…

        1. But limited testing was around long before 2014. It’s not like they said, let’s change the regs and ban testing at the same time, it was already in place. So that’s not really a valid excuse.

          The token system was agreed on by everyone, so for now to complain about it is just ridiculous yet again.

          Martin Brundle said he spoke to Andy Cowell the man behind the Merc engine and he said with the 25 tokens available, he could’ve built a brand new power unit from scratch. He also said, that had they gone with the original implementation date of 2013, they would’ve been in the same situation as Renault and Honda.

          The power units weren’t tested on track relentlessly, it was dyno work.

          Every limited thing you’re talking about, was already in place before Ferrari, Renault and Honda made such a pigs ear of their design.

    12. “They may have reduced their deficit to the pace-setters to 0.88% this year, but in four of the five seasons Alonso drove for them they were closer than that.”
      Why are you comparing 2015 Ferrari to 2010-2013 years? Well, someone else might just point out something like Red Bull being closer to the front of the field from 2010-2013. Doesn’t say much about whether they made progression from last year, does it?

      1. The comment was in reference to people asking Alonso if he made a mistake by switching to the lackluster McLaren Honda. Obviously they made a step forward, but it wasn’t where Alonso hadn’t been before, that is being the second fastest.

    13. This really highlights how poorly Virgin/Marussia/Manor are doing. I’ve been a supporter of backmarkers for a long time. It’s tough to compete on an uneven playing field. But, their continued lack of pace, at this point, is just ridiculous. They’re really just trundling around to collect their money from last year’s windfall. It really is something of an embarrassment for the sport, in my opinion.

      1. Agreed. If they are not going to get better, they need to get out.

      2. @azwing On the contrary, as they are using the same car and engine in both seasons, we can use them as a benchmark. With the lost 2015 car (Haas bought it as a base for 2016) and a 2015 engine, we can say they’d probably be as close to McLaren as Ferrari or Williams are to Mercedes – so still last, but not too far off the back of the grid.

        With McLaren and Red Bull halving their deficit to Mercedes by 2016, you’d say Haas would want to be where McLaren are now at the very least when they launch, and anything better would be a bonus (and show how much integration they have with Ferrari).

      3. Had they been fairly compensated for racing in previous years they may have been able to upgrade for this year and be ahead of McLaren, the embarrassment should be Bernies but he is immune to it.

        1. well said. All progress they made in the last years was more or less stalled by going bust. Now they race with that seriously compromised 2014 Ferrari engine and with a car that is basically still the car they raced mid last season (but probably heavier because of the adaptations made), apart from some new bits in the last few races.

      4. This year was always going to be a struggle given the circumstances they faced pre-season.

        The fact there using modified 2014 cars & 2014 power units is the most obvious thing to point out but something less obvious is that that lost some of there equipment & a lot of the data that they had gathered over the previous 5 seasons as all there computers were wiped (Its why they couldn’t get the cars to run at Melbourne).
        The power unit is also a significant issue as the 2015 Ferrari unit is so much better than what they had last year. Its more drivable, Its more efficient, More reliable & pumps out more power.

        If they had the 2015 car & a 2015 power unit they would almost certainly be closer.

        1. good point about the loss of data. I think that is very significant

    14. This is NONSENSE. Ferrari is much closer to silver!

    15. In qualifying, yes.

      On race pace, Ferrari is closer to Mercedes than anyone was in 2014. In Malaysia for instance, Ferrari beat Mercedes on pure speed, something that no one managed last year.

      1. Pure speed where? Sepang had freakish weather conditions which didn’t affect Ferrari compared to the others and Hungary, they were only quicker than Rosberg. But you guys will continue to say they were faster.

    16. It’s all just stats… we crunch the numbers the whole day but what we see on track, clearly shows that Mercedes is losing their edge. And it comes from someone who earns his money on crunching the numbers :)

    17. We can talk about sector times, lap times, boost mode, mapping etc… And we would not agree on all of those… But there are facts that is indisputable, which is, Mercedes is still number 1 and their advantage is still the same, Ferrari is 2nd by virtue of Redbull and Renault’s struggles, the unimproved Williams and the problematic Honda engine, Ferrari didn’t really improved, it’s just that others is not there to split Mercedes and
      Ferrari, the gaps is still the same on average, Vettel is not better than Alonso, Vettel is just lucky to be in the right place at the right time. So you can talk about times, races and all, but you cannot change the facts above.

      1. “Ferrari didn’t really improved,”

        And you talk about facts?

      2. “Ferrari didn’t really improved,”
        “Vettel is not better than Alonso,”

        Those two statements contradict each other, considering that Vettel has 160 points after 10 races while Alonso had 97 points last season after 10 races. Pick just one ridiculous statement, please.

    18. Mercedes have really made that extra step of ironing out the issues and probably are able to get more use from their max engine settings this year too. While Ferrari did do a good job to get back from their bad choices last year, they have not really gotten all that close.

      It will be interesting to see where Williams will be able to improve and get back in the mix and one has to wonder whether Red Bull will be strong in races like Singapore etc where they have often dominated or shown very well with Vettel, or maybe they can even find some real form at other tracks, well and for the next years too. McLaren? Hard to tell, but one would hope they will find an upward show of form.

      All of that might make it closer behind, and maybe we could be in for a widely contested title next year. But this year, really its up to Hamilton to not lose his form, or Rosberg to find a way to get at Hamilton. If both mess up in the process, we might actually see Vettel sneak in though.

    19. How in the world does anyone expect there to be any real competition when there is NO testing to speak of…. those lucky enough to be good or very good out of the box will always dominate because of a lack of testing. It is almost if not totally impossible to improve, of course there are always some exceptions…. the slower teams will make some improvements but the faster teams will also make some improvements so it is what it is for the remainder of the year. Thansk, Norris

    20. Mercedes, who have improved their engine by a reputed 50-60bhp, still lead the way, but Ferrari have closed the gap by adding as much as 80bhp to theirs, borne out by the car s improved performance in the speed traps. The Red Bull chassis again appears strong, but Renault has made the smallest gains of any manufacturer over the winter – only 30bhp or so – with the result that their works team looks to have fallen further behind Mercedes.

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