Why the weather may aid Mercedes again

2016 Austrian Grand Prix pre-race analysis

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Ordinarily a wet qualifying session might be expected to play into the hands of Mercedes’ rivals. But today it probably helped strengthen Lewis Hamilton’s position heading into the Austrian Grand Prix.

The Red Bull Ring’s new surface is retaining much more heat than last year. In final practice track temperatures climbed towards 50C and Mercedes appeared to be in trouble with blistering tyres. Sebastian Vettel headed the times sheets. Hamilton came back into the pits shortly after starting his first run, troubled by how quickly his ultra-soft tyres were going off.

In qualifying – where the surface exceeded 50C before the rain arrived – both Ferrari and Red Bull found enough performance from the harder super-soft tyres to make it through Q2 on them. As they will start the race on those tyres, it puts them at a strategic advantage over the two Mercedes on ultra-softs.

However their ability to make full use of that advantage was blunted in the wet Q3, when inspired performances by a couple of wet-weather specialists provided Hamilton a valuable buffer over his closest rivals. Nico Hulkenberg will start from second place and Jenson Button is third.

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Raikkonen has a major opportunity
So Hamilton will start the race on a three-lap-old set of ultra-soft tyres with two cars between him and his closest likely challenger – Kimi Raikkonen. The Ferrari driver’s position is under close scrutiny at the moment amid intrigue over who might switch teams next season, and many will be watching with interest to see whether he still has one Mercedes plus his team mate behind him when the chequered flag falls.

How well Hamilton’s first set of tyres hold up will have a significant bearing on his race. In final practice they started to go south after just four laps, and his opportunity to evaluate them further during that session was hampered by his team mate’s crash.

Mercedes looked much more comfortable in the cooler track conditions on Friday. Given that, the weather may be about to come to their rescue again. Tomorrow is expected to be cooler and cloudier, which should lead to considerably lower track temperatures.

Hamilton therefore should go into the race in a strong position to reduce Rosberg’s points lead. However nothing can be taken for granted. “For tomorrow everything can happen,” reflected Sebastian Vettel. “Maybe there will be some rain, it will be significantly cooler and it will matter how you look after the tyres.”

Several drivers have experienced suspension problems as a result of striking the new kerbs around the track. Mercedes have already beefed up theirs following Nico Rosberg’s crash. “It’s clear that you’d better not touch them,” Vettel added, though he doubts changes will be made before the race. “I think for next year we need to find a solution, but for tomorrow there’s nothing that can be done.”

Qualifying times in full


Q2 (vs Q1)

Q3 (vs Q2)
1Lewis HamiltonMercedes1’06.9471’06.228 (-0.719)1’07.922 (+1.694)
2Nico RosbergMercedes1’06.5161’06.403 (-0.113)1’08.465 (+2.062)
3Nico HulkenbergForce India1’07.3851’07.257 (-0.128)1’09.285 (+2.028)
4Sebastian VettelFerrari1’06.7611’06.602 (-0.159)1’09.781 (+3.179)
5Jenson ButtonMcLaren1’07.6531’07.572 (-0.081)1’09.900 (+2.328)
6Kimi RaikkonenFerrari1’07.2401’06.940 (-0.300)1’09.901 (+2.961)
7Daniel RicciardoRed Bull1’07.5001’06.840 (-0.660)1’09.980 (+3.140)
8Valtteri BottasWilliams1’07.1481’06.911 (-0.237)1’10.440 (+3.529)
9Max VerstappenRed Bull1’07.1311’06.866 (-0.265)1’11.153 (+4.287)
10Felipe MassaWilliams1’07.4191’07.145 (-0.274)1’11.977 (+4.832)
11Esteban GutierrezHaas1’07.6601’07.578 (-0.082)
12Pascal WehrleinManor1’07.5651’07.700 (+0.135)
13Romain GrosjeanHaas1’07.6621’07.850 (+0.188)
14Fernando AlonsoMcLaren1’07.6711’08.154 (+0.483)
15Carlos Sainz JnrToro Rosso1’07.618
16Sergio PerezForce India1’07.657
17Kevin MagnussenRenault1’07.941
18Jolyon PalmerRenault1’07.965
19Rio HaryantoManor1’08.026
20Daniil KvyatToro Rosso1’08.409
21Marcus EricssonSauber1’08.418
22Felipe NasrSauber1’08.446

Sector times

DriverSector 1Sector 2Sector 3
Lewis Hamilton16.515 (2)29.077 (1)20.632 (3)
Nico Rosberg16.445 (1)29.182 (2)20.581 (1)
Nico Hulkenberg16.616 (4)29.552 (10)20.987 (8)
Sebastian Vettel16.574 (3)29.233 (3)20.593 (2)
Jenson Button16.864 (16)29.446 (9)21.189 (18)
Kimi Raikkonen16.653 (7)29.248 (4)20.712 (6)
Daniel Ricciardo16.767 (10)29.337 (5)20.706 (5)
Valtteri Bottas16.679 (9)29.345 (6)20.833 (7)
Max Verstappen16.770 (11)29.377 (7)20.642 (4)
Felipe Massa16.622 (5)29.378 (8)21.021 (10)
Esteban Gutierrez16.834 (14)29.610 (11)21.052 (11)
Pascal Wehrlein16.677 (8)29.792 (15)21.066 (12)
Romain Grosjean16.903 (19)29.761 (13)20.998 (9)
Fernando Alonso16.884 (18)29.635 (12)21.107 (13)
Carlos Sainz Jnr16.919 (20)29.858 (17)20.841 (8)
Sergio Perez16.639 (6)29.879 (17)21.139 (15)
Kevin Magnussen16.825 (12)29.773 (14)21.343 (20)
Jolyon Palmer16.839 (15)29.978 (18)21.116 (14)
Rio Haryanto16.825 (12)29.792 (15)21.409 (21)
Daniil Kvyat16.876 (17)29.978 (18)21.178 (17)
Marcus Ericsson17.080 (21)30.057 (20)21.170 (16)
Felipe Nasr16.995 (20)30.148 (21)21.299 (19)

Speed trap

PosDriverCarEngineSpeed (kph/mph)Gap
1Pascal WehrleinManorMercedes332.6 (206.7)
2Nico RosbergMercedesMercedes331.8 (206.2)-0.8
3Lewis HamiltonMercedesMercedes331.8 (206.2)-0.8
4Rio HaryantoManorMercedes331.7 (206.1)-0.9
5Nico HulkenbergForce IndiaMercedes330.9 (205.6)-1.7
6Sergio PerezForce IndiaMercedes330.6 (205.4)-2.0
7Kimi RaikkonenFerrariFerrari330.2 (205.2)-2.4
8Felipe MassaWilliamsMercedes329.9 (205.0)-2.7
9Sebastian VettelFerrariFerrari329.4 (204.7)-3.2
10Valtteri BottasWilliamsMercedes327.5 (203.5)-5.1
11Esteban GutierrezHaasFerrari327.4 (203.4)-5.2
12Romain GrosjeanHaasFerrari325.9 (202.5)-6.7
13Max VerstappenRed BullTAG Heuer325.8 (202.4)-6.8
14Jolyon PalmerRenaultRenault325.4 (202.2)-7.2
15Kevin MagnussenRenaultRenault324.6 (201.7)-8.0
16Felipe NasrSauberFerrari324.1 (201.4)-8.5
17Daniel RicciardoRed BullTAG Heuer323.1 (200.8)-9.5
18Fernando AlonsoMcLarenHonda322.8 (200.6)-9.8
19Jenson ButtonMcLarenHonda322.6 (200.5)-10.0
20Daniil KvyatToro RossoFerrari321.1 (199.5)-11.5
21Carlos Sainz JnrToro RossoFerrari320.7 (199.3)-11.9
22Marcus EricssonSauberFerrari320.0 (198.8)-12.6

Remaining tyres for the race

Lewis Hamilton110112
Nico Rosberg101112
Sebastian Vettel011121
Kimi Raikkonen010212
Felipe Massa012003
Valtteri Bottas012003
Daniel Ricciardo110112
Max Verstappen200112
Nico Hulkenberg101004
Sergio Perez101041
Kevin Magnussen102013
Jolyon Palmer102013
Daniil Kvyat111022
Carlos Sainz Jnr201022
Marcus Ericsson011113
Felipe Nasr101113
Fernando Alonso201013
Jenson Button201003
Pascal Wehrlein101113
Rio Haryanto101113
Romain Grosjean012013
Esteban Gutierrez012013

Over to you

Is this going to be a straightforward win for Lewis Hamilton? Where will Nico Rosberg and Sebastian Vettel finish after their penalties?

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

2016 Austrian Grand Prix

Browse all 2016 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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29 comments on “Why the weather may aid Mercedes again”

  1. Wow that manor sure is quick in a straight line.

  2. Didn’t notice at first but Rosberg’s theoretical time is fractionally quicker than Hamilton’s – 1’06.208 versus 1’06.224. Not that it would have mattered, of course, because of his penalty.

    1. Oh so those sector times and rankings aren’t based of their best q3 laps?

      1. @sato113 Nope, best sectors are from quali as a whole.

    2. Keith, could you correct a quite serious typo in your article? Hamilton certainly will not be in a “strong position to extend his points lead” this weekend – I think that you meant “cut into Rosberg’s points lead” given that Hamilton is currently 24 points behind Rosberg.

  3. Very good addition and very helpful the remaining tyre table!

  4. “Hamilton therefore should go into the race in a strong position to extend his points lead”

    He’s trailing, Keith!

    1. He has points lead over Vettel and many others.
      For so many Rosbergs seems to be irrelevant like the football (soccer) team of Iceland.

      1. We’ll continue to ignore Rosberg even if he wins the WDC. He’s not the driver you’re looking for.

    2. @roodda Apologies, corrected.

  5. It’s not often you see Mercedes beat Williams on the speed trap, I wonder if Williams just landed a bad setup or if the Mercedes having more downforce and thus greater corner exit speed set them up for it.

    1. WIlliams pride themselves on a fast slippery car, I think that’s just code for a weak car that is only setup to minimize drag and use Merc power. I haven’t seen Williams run a good car for a very long time. Well, at least Pastor Maldonado got them a win :)

      2004 … It’s been a while.

  6. We all get excited when the grid is jumbled, because we know there will be racing. I hate to introduce an old dispute, or to agree with beanie bernie about ANYTHING, but is a reverse grid really so stupid?

    1. Unless of course it just leads to carnage with blue flag failures, but if there are no blue flags in early laps?

    2. The Skeptic
      3rd July 2016, 9:20

      A reverse grid is unnecessary. It introduces an artificial element to qualifying. Look at what happened without any of that! In fact, for nearly every race this year, we have had a “mixed up” grid – largely thanks to Mercedes breakages and mistakes.

    3. ColdFly F1 (@)
      3rd July 2016, 10:25

      Yes! e.g. you cannot qualify for a reverse grid (go as slow as possible)!

      But a reverse grid quali race would a god’s gift.

    4. Yes it would be utterly stupid.

      1. I agree if the entire grid is reversed it is stupid but if the reverse grid applied to groups of 5. i.e. The 1st 5 reverse with those who qualified 6 to 10th so the 6th qualifier starts 1st the 7th starts 2nd,8th – 3rd and so on. The groups can be in 3’s or 4’s depending on the difficulty of passing on the track.
        The only way to stop slow qualifying is allocate championship points to it. Personally I would like the qualifying champion points to be allocated a whole lot differently from the race points in that all participants are allocated points based on number of cars. 24 cars – 1st gets 24, 2nd gets 23 and so on until the 24th gets 1 point. The implications of this boggle the mind but this point system should give the back markers some needed encouragement

    5. They say there are no stupid questions, but asking about reverse grids is pretty close.

      Artificial grids and qualifying dramas are all stupid ideas. The new format at the beginning of the season for example, total disaster. Yesterdays qualifying was brilliant, we have a prospect for a good race and none of it has been done by tinkering or contriving things that make a good show. It’s all happened organically as it should and it makes it more special because of it.

      1. I think waiting for happen stance to make exciting and/or interesting races is for purists. Same as watching a 5 day cricket test match – boring unless you find everything else interesting about it except the result?
        If it weren’t for Mercedes allowing their drivers to race F1 would have been less exciting. Unless F1 can make racing interesting,exciting and entertaining it will go the way of the Dodo bird in so far as TV is concerned. No mass appeal and the rot has started; audiences are falling every year. Spruce it up now and stop the rot

  7. Aside from his semi brilliant Interlagos 2012 (semi because he botched it at the end), has Hulkenberg did any more great run in wet that earned him the title “wet weather specialist”? I’d call Button, Hamilton, and Vettel the best wet-weather specialist we have on grid atm.

    @keithcollantine The new tires table is great, but the spacing is kinda weird. Maybe you can merge the tires compound cell above new and used column and make the used column wider so the new and used numbers looks closer for each compound. Just for easier time reading it (I’m using Edge browser btw).

    1. @sonicslv Have made a quick tweak to it.

  8. Hulkenberg on the podium would be great. Considering how Lewis rarely has good starts this season i wouldnt be surprised to see Hulkenberg take the lead at the start and keep the pack close behind for a good race, hopefully till the 1st stops. After which i doubt he will have the pace or ability to catch / hold Lewis back but im sure he could atleast keep kimi, ricciardo & vettel at bay. Perez has shown the car’s potential, and i rate Hulkenberg the better of the 2.

    With cool track conditions Rosberg will likely have an advantage over the rest but getting to the podium or even fighting for the win will all depend on how smart Lewis is for his first pit stop. Definitely plays a massive role in Rosbergs race. If many start pitting first he might opt to stay out and gun it on his ultrasofts (if they havnt already worn out) leaving rosberg to pit with the rest and come out in a crowded field while still fighting kimi, ricciardo, vettel & maybe even hulkenberg if he wasnt able to take the lead at the start. If not one else pits early, Lewis will def go in first and come out to a clear track which i reckon will be the case especially if he has built a decent lead. Provided Hulkenberg isnt the one already in the lead (you can see i really want Hulkenberg to do well in this race, he is running out of time to show his potential and given his grid start + Rosberg & Vettel penalties, hes in the perfect position to do so).

    I predict (par any accidents or failures) Lewis to win, Hulkenberg 2nd, Rosberg 3rd. What annoys me the most is Button starts 3rd yet i cant see him even finishing top 8 in that garbage of a package they call a Mclaren. (yes, im a Mclaren fan and its been 4 terrible years).

  9. What a great starting grid. I’m really rooting for Hulkenberg in this race. If he could jump Hamilton off the line, this will be a very interesting race. I don’t think the Force India can keep a Mercedes behind it for an entire race distance, but this is probably Hulkenberg’s best shot at a podium in a really long time.

  10. My prediction is that the red bulls will see some clash and limited could slip into 2nd by end of lap 1 and come into the lead and control the race one HAM pits early to get rid of his US. Kim has a great chance Hulk as usual overrated and lucked. He will struggle with tyre wear and will be out of the Top 5.

  11. Crappy spell check.I meant *Kimi

  12. 25 degrees cooler track temperature. Mercedes..best chassis, best engine, arguably best driver, best strategists and God supports them with the weather. Formidable.

  13. I rest my case on Hulk. He is not mentally there

Comments are closed.