Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari, Sepang International Circuit, 2016

Encouraging race pace for Mercedes’ rivals

2016 Malaysian Grand Prix Friday practice analysis

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Mercedes were well clear of their rivals in therms of one-lap pace at Sepang, but the race simulation runs raised prospects of a much closer contest.

All the front-runners favoured the soft tyre for their longest runs during the second practice session. Max Verstappen and Sebastian Vettel’s lap times compared particularly well with those by the silver cars.

Although the Mercedes drivers were generally a few tenths quicker towards the end of the stint, Vettel’s tyres were slightly older. In terms of overall tyre age, Vettel was able to lap within a tenth of a second of Nico Rosberg in the sub-1’41s bracket on his 16th lap. Hamilton’s pace was a close match for that as well.

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Max Verstappen, Red Bull, Sepang International Circuit, 2016
Malaysian Grand Prix practice in pictures
“I think we had a decent day,” Vettel reflected. “We were testing quite a few things, and our pace didn’t look too bad, at least from what I was told inside the car.”

“Mercedes looked again very strong today on long and short runs: as for ourselves, we are pretty happy with the short runs, but I haven’t seen much yet of what the other people did for their long runs.”

Verstappen’s long-run stint for Red Bull was potentially even quicker, though he didn’t run his soft tyres quite as long as the Mercedes drivers did. However it was his medium-tyre stint which really caught the eye as it included four sub-1’40s laps. Rosberg’s quickest time on the same tyre at the end of the session was a 1’40.083 (Hamilton used the hards).

“Our short runs need to get a bit better but the long runs are looking strong,” said Verstappen. “The pace on the soft tyre felt decent, I feel like that tyre has potential on a long run and it allowed me to throw the car into the corners like I wanted to.”

“It’s hard to tell where other drivers are on the first day but Sebastian (Vettel) looks strong, so we need to improve our short run in order to be competitive.”

With qualifying due to start three hours later than today’s second practice session did, we could see greater swings in form than usual. But it’s unlikely Ferrari or Red Bull will find the six-tenths-to-one-second they are missing over a single lap compared to Mercedes.

Their best chance to get ahead of the Mercedes drivers will come at the start. We’ve seen the silver cars struggle to get away well on several occasions, most recently Italy (Hamilton) and Germany (Rosberg). If they can get ahead, today’s evidence suggests they have the pace to stay there.

Longest stint comparison – second practice

This chart shows all the drivers’ lap times (in seconds) during their longest unbroken stint. Very slow laps omitted. Scroll to zoom, drag to pan, right-click to reset:

Complete practice times

PosDriverCarFP1FP2Total laps
1Lewis HamiltonMercedes1’35.7211’34.94460
2Nico RosbergMercedes1’35.2271’35.17761
3Sebastian VettelFerrari1’36.3311’35.60555
4Kimi RaikkonenFerrari1’36.3151’35.84247
5Max VerstappenRed Bull-TAG Heuer1’36.9731’36.03755
6Sergio PerezForce India-Mercedes1’37.6011’36.28460
7Fernando AlonsoMcLaren-Honda1’36.5101’36.29645
8Daniel RicciardoRed Bull-TAG Heuer1’36.7531’36.33757
9Nico HulkenbergForce India-Mercedes1’37.5131’36.39063
10Jenson ButtonMcLaren-Honda1’37.6131’36.71542
11Carlos Sainz JnrToro Rosso-Ferrari1’38.0551’36.83655
12Jolyon PalmerRenault1’39.1481’36.94059
13Valtteri BottasWilliams-Mercedes1’37.8611’37.01654
14Esteban GutierrezHaas-Ferrari1’37.9211’37.04848
15Felipe MassaWilliams-Mercedes1’38.3391’37.11043
16Daniil KvyatToro Rosso-Ferrari1’37.8471’37.29758
17Marcus EricssonSauber-Ferrari1’38.3131’37.44948
18Felipe NasrSauber-Ferrari1’38.1841’37.54744
19Kevin MagnussenRenault1’37.66421
20Romain GrosjeanHaas-Ferrari1’37.8861’37.78947
21Pascal WehrleinManor-Mercedes1’40.6271’37.87860
22Esteban OconManor-Mercedes1’40.0361’37.99064

2016 Malaysian Grand Prix

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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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12 comments on “Encouraging race pace for Mercedes’ rivals”

  1. Wish the graph would show which rubber the usual suspects were running during the long run. Teams usually split the test. Oh well.

    1. Alonso’s pace looks promising with the engine upgrade! Anyone know what tires he put that time on?

  2. Kimi’s pace is very good actually. Only caveat is that he ran very early in the session. Either way, a good battle on the cards if all make it out of first lap without any damage

  3. Looking at the top 10 drivers, only 4 of them did 60 or more laps over the course of FP1 and FP2: Hamilton (60), Rosberg (61), Perez (60), and Hulkenberg (63). Out of all the cars only two other drivers did 60 or more laps, and that was Wehrlien (60) and Ocon (64).

    1. Significantly, all of whom are Mercedes-powered.

  4. Can we just stop trying to make Mercedes look catchable every weekend. It is the same story every weekend, and every time the outcome is the same and everyone except Mercedes is dissapointed again. The only way they are catchable in the final gp’s are accidents like Spain or mechanical failures. Monaco was the only exception and Singapore was fairly close, but in the last gp’s of this season, the other teams have no chance to get close anymore……..

    1. Agreed, nonsense, that they are close. Mercedes will dial up the engine in the race when anyone gets close etc. Etc..

      Let the rain gods make it rain every race. Or Bernie to turn on the sprinklers. Only hope for fun.

    2. Agreed. Someone in the media should be bold enough to stop spinning the excitement and reflect the sport realistically.

      It’s a race to the first corner tomorrow and everyone knows it.

      1. its been like this for the last 2.5+ years.

  5. “Encouraging pace for Mercedes’ rivals” – how many times have we heard that over the past three years?

    Headline should read “Mercedes sandbagging, assured victory on Sunday”

  6. the mercs are having a laugh really, they have the same if not bigger advantage since 2014 approx 0.7s/lap depending on circuit

    they could lap the field if they wanted to push it and have reliability issues

    think about it, if they hadnt run into each other in spain they would probably win ALL the races this season

    remeber they are on for beating the maccas 1988 record of 11 wins in a row again

    this is total domination

    1. it could be even worse next year. Ironically, Lewis is the only thing keeping Mercedes from looking honest. And I stress, looking. :)

Comments are closed.