Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari, Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez, 2015

Vettel denies Ferrari engine is a match for Mercedes

2015 Brazilian Grand Prix

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Sebastian Vettel has rejected Niki Lauda’s claim that Ferrari’s power unit is not a match for Mercedes.

Speaking in today’s FIA press conference ahead of the Brazilian Grand Prix, Vettel denied Ferrari were only lagging behind Mercedes on chassis and aerodynamic performance.

“As a fact we are not yet a match otherwise this season would have been very different,” said Vettel, who has won three races this year.

“But I’m very happy with the season so far, with the progress we’ve made, and also with the things I think we have in the pipeline for the future.”

Vettel suggested Lauda had been talking up Ferrari as Mercedes’ closest rivals. “Now Niki is usually is not the best one to trust, let’s put it this way, he’s changing his opinion very quickly. Sometimes what he says makes sense and other times it doesn’t make any sense.”

“The more he’s talking about us, the better it is for us, because he can feel that maybe we’re coming so hopefully that’s good news.”

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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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Posted on Categories 2015 Brazilian Grand Prix, 2015 F1 season, Sebastian Vettel

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  • 37 comments on “Vettel denies Ferrari engine is a match for Mercedes”

    1. Keith, I think you should drop the ‘not’ in your first sentence as that reverses what Vettel is saying.

      “Sebastian Vettel has rejected Niki Lauda’s claim that Ferrari’s power unit IS a match for Mercedes.”

      1. I was also confused by that.

        I like how Vettel basically calls Lauda crazy. That’s how you talk about your senile grandpa.

      2. I was very confused by the title and first line being contradictory.

        1. But it did make me read it to find out which it was.

      3. I think the ‘not’ should read ‘now’. It makes sense that way, and I suspect the error is a simple typo:

        Sebastian Vettel has rejected Niki Lauda’s claim that Ferrari’s power unit is now a match for Mercedes.

      4. yes, I don’t not disagree…

    2. In Mexico, the 0.3 seconds Vettel lost to pole position were all in sector 1. He absolutely matched Rosberg in the downforce sector (S2) and the mechanical grip sector (S3). Ferrari’s three wins have also came around circuits that rely on chassis performance more than engine power. To put it in perspective, in the races Ferrari won, McLaren-Honda also did relatively well at (compared to how they usually are).

      1. Thank you, someone finally can see what is right in front of them. The press and many observers seem to have got caught up in the stereotype that Ferrari have a poor chassis and a good engine. No doubt both have to be improved but the engine maybe more so than the chassis. Look how Ferrari run less wing on high speed tracks to be competitive on top speed with Merc teams and then it costs them in the corners, Spa being the best example of this.

        1. Yeah, I don’t think Ferrar have a bad chassis, although it might still be somewhat less flexible with setup, which amplifies the differences on various tracks.

          And no, Ferrari have not fully catched up yet. But they have made very solid progress. That said, I think the message from Lauda was meant not towards Ferrari but to those saying that next year will be a Mercedes walkover again, pointing out that Ferrari has more or less gotten back into it and will be a serious factor in the title battle next year.

      2. while i think you are right and Mercedes PU has more grunt than Ferrari’s, the same result (behind on the straights, equal in the curves) can be achieved by running more down force on the car.

        1. But for the race it is better to have the speed on a straight so you can defend and also overtake. Faster in the corners is good for ultimate lap time but leaves you vulnerable in the race where the points are scored.

      3. @kingshark, in the qualifying session for the Mexican GP, Vettel was losing time to Rosberg in the middle sector – Vettel’s best sector time was 31.336s for the middle sector, whereas Rosberg recorded a best sector time of 31.208s.

        If we accept that the middle sector was one where aerodynamic performance was key, then Vettel was still losing time to Rosberg – the sector times do not support your claim that the time losses were solely in the first sector.

        Furthermore, if we look at the timing data from other circuits, they do not seem to particularly back up your assertions. For example, the first sector of Suzuka is considered to be a particularly strong test of chassis performance in medium to high speed corners – in qualifying trim, Vettel was only 6th fastest and 0.44s behind the two Mercedes drivers (who set virtually identical times).

        At venues like Silverstone or Barcelona, or in the sectors of circuits where high speed cornering stability and outright chassis performance is important, Ferrari have consistently been losing time to Mercedes and Red Bull.

        You cite the Malaysian GP as an example of the prowess of Ferrari’s chassis but, again, the timing data does not provide especially strong evidence for your claims. Throughout qualifying and the race, Vettel was losing time through the middle sector of the lap, with most of his performance coming from the first and last sectors of the lap. By your reasoning, the long straights in those sectors should have favoured Mercedes – however, the timing data seems to suggest that it didn’t.

        All in all, whilst I am not saying that Ferrari’s chassis is poor, I wouldn’t say it is a great chassis either – I would say that it is perhaps towards the upper end of the field, but certainly not class leading.

        1. in the qualifying session for the Mexican GP, Vettel was losing time to Rosberg in the middle sector – Vettel’s best sector time was 31.336s for the middle sector, whereas Rosberg recorded a best sector time of 31.208s.

          At the start of the season, where the car was nowhere near as developed as it currently is; and 0.128 s is not exactly huge. For instance, when you compare Ferrari’s performance relative to Williams in Silverstone to Suzuka, or Monaco to Silverstone, it becomes abundantly clear that Ferrari has been constantly improving their car around both high speed and low speed circuits.

          At venues like Silverstone or Barcelona, or in the sectors of circuits where high speed cornering stability and outright chassis performance is important, Ferrari have consistently been losing time to Mercedes and Red Bull.

          I do not recall Ferrari losing time to Red Bull in Barcelona or Silverstone? Also, engine is pretty important, especially in Silverstone, where Williams was comfortably the second fastest car in the dry.

          You cite the Malaysian GP as an example of the prowess of Ferrari’s chassis but, again, the timing data does not provide especially strong evidence for your claims. Throughout qualifying and the race, Vettel was losing time through the middle sector of the lap, with most of his performance coming from the first and last sectors of the lap. By your reasoning, the long straights in those sectors should have favoured Mercedes – however, the timing data seems to suggest that it didn’t.

          The wings they were running doesn’t matter? Ferrari was running less wing than Mercedes. This made them faster in S1 and slower in S2. The same can be said about Suzuka, Ferrari run less wing than Mercedes in order to compromise for their lack of engine power. It’s not as severe as it is for Red Bull or McLaren, but they still do it. Around both Hungary and Singapore, Vettel dominated. Interestingly, Red Bull finished second in both races, as David-A pointed out. The fact that Ferrari are strong around the same circuits where Red Bull are strong is no coincidence.

          1. To me it feels like Ferrari got the best mechanical grip, Reb Bull Best aero and Mercedes the most power.
            The Only thing McLaren has is the smallest engine which theoreticly would allow them to have the best aero but they simply dont. Imagine a car that nails all these 4 aspects, it proves all the teams got things to work on.

          2. @kingshark, I am confused how you can argue that data was “at the start of the season” – I was referring to the Mexican GP, which is the one which has only just passed. Equally, you can cut that time loss of 0.13s in different ways – when you compare it to the overall delta between Vettel’s best time and that of Rosberg, it means that 35% of Vettel’s lap time losses occurred in that middle sector, and I would argue that is still a significant proportion of the overall lap time loss around the circuit.

            As for Silverstone, there were parts where Red Bull were faster than Ferrari – both Red Bull’s were fractionally faster than the two Ferrari drivers, in the middle sector of the lap, despite the fact that Ferrari had a significant straight line speed advantage (8-10kph) over both Red Bull drivers.
            If, as you state, engine power is an advantage at Silverstone, then by rights Ferrari should have had an advantage over Red Bull – so the fact that Ferrari were slower overall despite having a noticeable straight line speed advantage suggests that Red Bull have to have higher apex speeds through the corners.

            I guess it is going to be a case where we have to agree to disagree on the performance of the chassis. As I’ve said before, I do not think that it is a poor chassis – I think that we would agree that there are multiple teams, such as Lotus or Sauber, who have clearly worse cars – so I do not agree with the line of reasoning that they’ve only improved because they’ve got a good engine.

            It is more the case that I think that the car has a number of areas where the design is very good, but doesn’t truly excel in any one particular area – in other words, a design that has traded a little bit of outright performance for greater versatility.
            Because of that, I do not think that it is the outright best chassis in the field, but still towards the upper end of the field. Would you say that around 3rd would be a reasonable evaluation of its performance?

            1. @anon
              3rd sounds about right, I have seen people rate it as low as 5th though. I don’t think there is much between Mercedes, Red Bull and Ferrari. If I had to pick one chassis, I would think that Red Bull edges it, just.

        2. Sector time analysis is not sufficient if you don’t know the car setups. Cars with modest power can be setup so that they lose some time in corners with the advantage of losing less time on the straights while cars with the best power performance can be setup to excel in corners because they don’t lose much time to other teams in the straights.

      4. @kingshark Also Red Bull were second in the last 2 races Vettel won.

        1. Williams exposes just how good the Ferrari chassis is. In the wet and low grip tracks Ferrari dominates them. Without that Mercedes engine Williams would be playing ball with Sauber.

      5. It depends on the down-force level Ferrari are running. The other Merc engined cars were slower in the first sector too. Notice Vettel didn’t deny whether the engine alonewas a match or not but he knows the entire package isn’t.

      6. @kingshark, Yet Ferrari were only 2 tenths behind in Monza. That’s the circuit where the engine matters most. Both Raikkonen and Vettel were ahead of Rosberg. Both Williams cars were behind that. Vettel was faster than Rosberg in the race as well.

        So it’s obvious that at that time Ferrari’s powertrain was significantly behind Mercedes’. Otherwise they would have been behind the Williams cars.

        The tracks where Ferrari really lose out is on the mixed high speeds high downforce circuits. Like Spa, Silverstone and Australia. The tracks where Williams performs very well. Which means Ferrari are lacking efficient aero.

        On tracks like Hungary and Monaco, Ferrari were actually well behind Mercedes in Q3. 0.72 and 0.75 seconds. Which is about their average gap. So it’s not like they have a massively great chassis that gets them really close on those tracks. Not at all.

        If we look at the three races Ferrari which won, it’s immediately obvious where the actual difference is:
        Malaysia: Mercedes lost because they were eating the tyres.
        Singapore: Mercedes couldn’t get anything done because they didn’t get the tyres to work at all.
        Hungary: Ferrari just got lucky that Hamilton and Rosberg were hurting each other and things went massively wrong for both of them.

        So the main difference seems to be the ability to get the tyres to work. Besides that they are lacking a tiny bit on engine power and a lot on their chassis.

        Lauda is right.

      7. Yet Ferrari were only 2 tenths behind in Monza. That’s the circuit where the engine matters most. Both Raikkonen and Vettel were ahead of Rosberg. Both Williams cars were behind that. Vettel was faster than Rosberg in the race as well.

        It is convenient that you didn’t mention race pace, probably because Mercedes absolutely destroyed Ferrari around Monza in that respect.

        Ferrari might have only been 0.2 seconds behind Hamilton, partially because Hamilton’s lap was poor (missed the apex at the 2nd chicane and didn’t run as wide as he could have at Ascari), and because Rosberg had to run a 7 race old engine. And even with that 7 race old engine, he was faster than Vettel and catching him before it blew up.

        The tracks where Ferrari really lose out is on the mixed high speeds high downforce circuits. Like Spa, Silverstone and Australia. The tracks where Williams performs very well. Which means Ferrari are lacking efficient aero.

        Those circuits you mentioned also require a powerful engine, especially Spa. Likewise, Ferrari have been improving in aero ever since the start of the season. For example, they were much better in Suzuka and Austin than before.

        On tracks like Hungary and Monaco, Ferrari were actually well behind Mercedes in Q3. 0.72 and 0.75 seconds. Which is about their average gap. So it’s not like they have a massively great chassis that gets them really close on those tracks. Not at all.

        And in race pace, both Ferrari cars were quite comfortably faster than Rosberg and only slightly slower than Hamilton in Hungary. As for Monaco, you are right, but then again, Ferrari’s car has been improving since the start of the season. Btw, look at how they performed at Singapore compared to Monaco.

        Malaysia: Mercedes lost because they were eating the tyres.

        That is a problem caused by the chassis/car.

        Singapore: Mercedes couldn’t get anything done because they didn’t get the tyres to work at all.

        Again, that is a problem caused by the chassis/car. This kind of excuse does not make Mercedes look good at all.

        Hungary: Ferrari just got lucky that Hamilton and Rosberg were hurting each other and things went massively wrong for both of them.

        Mercedes weren’t exactly faster than Ferrari on race pace though. Do you know the gap Vettel had to the nearest non-Ferrari car just before the SC?

        So the main difference seems to be the ability to get the tyres to work. Besides that they are lacking a tiny bit on engine power and a lot on their chassis.

        The ability to get the tyres to work is a part of what makes a good chassis. Their lack of chassis didn’t show around Hungary and Singapore. Conveniently, those were also circuits where Red Bull excelled at.

    3. The speed trap at the Mexican GP shows the top speed was Pastor Maldonado with 366.4 km/h, and second was Sebastian Vettel at 366.2 km/h. These results show the engines are very similar in power output.
      The fastest Renault powered engine was driven by Max Verstappen at 360.6 km/h, and the fastest Honda powered car (Jenson Button) achieved 349.5 km/h. These suggest the old Renault engine did have less power than the Mercedes and the new Ferrari engine, but not by very much. Red Bull and STR had declined to run Renault’s latest engine at this race.
      I’m not sure why, but the fastest speed Rosberg achieved was 352.4 km/h, while Hamilton’s fastest was 349.1 km/h, which is less than what Jenson Button achieved.

      1. You have to take wing angles into account plus Mexico is an anomoly due to it’s altitude. It was reported in some media that the Merc engine had more issues with the altitude, maybe as a result of having to open their cooling up more than others or not running at full power due to potential cooling issues, other tracks where cooling has been an issue has seen compromises on the Merc engine namely Malaysia.

      2. Those are just numbers on a speedtrap. You can’t anything from it. Top speeds are aero dependent. That is why Hamilton’s and Rosberg’s top speeds are different. Hamilton most likely was running more wing

        1. Top speeds are aero dependent.

          There are lots of reasons one car is faster than another, some of it is aerodynamics, some of it is engine, some of it is hybrid technology, and some of it is the driver.
          Conversely, when you have two speeds that are almost exactly the same, then you know the sum of motive forces less the dragging forces for one car is almost exactly the same as the other car.
          In the case of Maldonado and Vettel, we only know one car is 0.2 km/hr faster than the other, so the difference in the sum of the motive forces and drag forces for one car compared to the other is very small. It isn’t even big enough to make one car 1 km/h faster than the other.
          I would have thought that since Vettel was clocked earlier in the race, when he had lots of fuel on board, and Maldonado later in the race, when he had less, then that would have meant Vettel actually had more drag on his car than Maldonado did on his.
          At the end of the day, the simple conclusion one can make is there wasn’t much difference between a Lotus car and a Ferrari car at the Mexican GP.

        1. @drycrust Did Rosberg and Hamilton ever get to use DRS in the race?
          15kmh slower in the speedtrap does not match the qualifying and practice pace of the Mercedes.

          1. Exactly. Speed trap record from race is often skewed by if a said driver had a chance to get any slipstream + DRS combo or not, preferably in the later stage of race. That’s why sometimes you get such a discrepant results between teammates despite them scoring similar speed in qualifying. Qualifying speedtrap is a more representative index, IMO. In this particular qualifying (Mexico) Mercedes didn’t even get to use their full power in that lap, as they did two consecutive hot laps to warm-up the tyres.

          2. I would suspect they didn’t, but then I’d also suspect Button didn’t as well.

      3. It was Maldonado that Vettel was stuck behind for a while, wasn’t it? He had DRS a couple of times.

        1. On the other hand, Vettel’s car seems to have been damaged following his clash with Ricciardo and seemed to be lacking braking stability – we saw him spin out at Turn 5 earlier in the race, as well as completely overshooting the braking point when trying to pass Maldonado into the first turn. I would therefore say that the Mexican GP is probably not the best example to pick because Vettel’s car was damaged.

    4. I do agree with him.

      1. @saubers1, Yet lauda is actually right. Just look at Monza results.

    5. I think a massive part of the Merc performance comes from their suspension. Have a close look at how the front suspension moves the car up or down as it brakes and accelerates. It is a looot more than any other car. I suspect they have found a way to implement FRIK behaviour without FRIK. If that is true then I also suspect their engine is running at low settings and their energy recovery talk is bluff to distact from where their true magic lies.

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