Will rapid Ferraris end 18-race pole streak by Mercedes?

2017 Russian Grand Prix Friday practice analysis

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The first day of practice for the Russian Grand Prix suggested the race may not be a simple case of ‘advantage Mercedes’ as had been predicted.

While it hasn’t been unusual to see Ferrari lead the times on a Friday, the extent of their advantage over Mercedes is surprisingly large: over two-thirds of a second. Mercedes’ high-performance qualifying engine modes may be able to claw some of that back, but can they recover it all?

Russian Grand Prix practice in pictures
Mercedes appear to be having difficulty extracting the maximum grip from the ultra-soft tyre. That much was clear from radio messages to their drivers during the session.

Ferrari were able to extract a quick lap from the ultra-softs within a couple of laps. Mercedes couldn’t access the same level of performance despite multiple efforts on the same rubber.

That may change as more rubber goes down on the track, and Mercedes may find new set-up solutions overnight. But Ferrari holds the initiative at this stage.

Mercedes can draw some consolation from the fact they were slightly quicker on the super-soft compound – Lewis Hamilton lapped just over two-tenths quicker than Kimi Raikkonen managed on the same rubber.

And their race stint pace was strong too. Tyre degradation is so low at this track that all bar one of the drivers from the top two teams improved their lap times during their longest stints.

Bottas set the quickest lap of his ultra-soft tyre stint when his rubber was 31 laps old. However Vettel’s best time was a few tenths shy of that and his laps got slightly slower during the stint. The two teams performed much the same on the the super-soft tyres – Hamilton and Raikkonen did the longest stints on these.

With Red Bull slightly further behind than they have been of late, this looks like being another two-horse race. But perhaps a closer one than we were expecting – and potentially with Ferrari leading the way instead of Mercedes.

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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:

Combined practice times

PosDriverCarFP1FP2Total laps
1Sebastian VettelFerrari1’37.2301’34.12055
2Kimi RaikkonenFerrari1’36.0741’34.38355
3Valtteri BottasMercedes1’36.1191’34.79060
4Lewis HamiltonMercedes1’36.6811’34.82957
5Max VerstappenRed Bull-TAG Heuer1’37.1741’35.54034
6Daniel RicciardoRed Bull-TAG Heuer1’37.2901’35.91045
7Felipe MassaWilliams-Mercedes1’37.9001’36.26168
8Nico HulkenbergRenault1’36.32938
9Kevin MagnussenHaas-Ferrari1’38.7471’36.50654
10Sergio PerezForce India-Mercedes1’37.4571’36.60067
11Esteban OconForce India-Mercedes1’38.0651’36.65467
12Fernando AlonsoMcLaren-Honda1’38.8131’36.76543
13Jolyon PalmerRenault1’39.1581’36.77138
14Romain GrosjeanHaas-Ferrari1’39.5331’37.03948
15Carlos Sainz JnrToro Rosso-Renault1’38.9761’37.08353
16Stoffel VandoorneMcLaren-Honda1’39.5411’37.12544
17Daniil KvyatToro Rosso-Renault1’38.4961’37.30052
18Pascal WehrleinSauber-Ferrari1’39.7311’37.44151
19Lance StrollWilliams-Mercedes1’37.9441’37.74766
20Marcus EricssonSauber-Ferrari1’40.0791’37.81949

NB. Sergey Sirotkin did not set a time.

2017 Russian 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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13 comments on “Will rapid Ferraris end 18-race pole streak by Mercedes?”

  1. Sadly no. I would love to be wrong. Ferrari will need at least 0.5 in hand on pure pace to compensate for the 0.5 Merc seem to gain in Q3. Ferrari seem to be a few tenths faster all year but in Q3 are 0.2 or 0.3 behind.

    1. 18… 18.. fricking poles in a row… That is just ridiculous! Honestly!

  2. Ferrari may be quick, but their degradation is massive for a low-degradation track.

    1. Difference between race and quali set up. Merc need more race pace, Ferrari more quali pace. After looking at the data expect both to find the best medium and be close in quali and race pace?

    2. @f1infigures How come? Sky has been reporting that degradation is very low. Overall the degradation is not so low that cars are constantly gaining time over a stint but I also remember the massive amount of marbles on the outside of turn 3, so probably for most of the lap there’s no degradation apart from a couple of corners.

      1. @peartree I was looking at the lap time chart. To my surprise, Vettel’s lap times were rather consistently slowing down during the stint, which indicates high tire degradation (because the lap times naturally improve as fuel burns off). If he was pushing all the time, then his lap times suggest that these tires still have to be managed as you can destroy them by pushing too hard, but maybe I’m reading too much into these free practice lap times. Other drivers (Sainz, Bottas) show a more regular pattern of slowly improving lap times.

  3. I’ve put in my predictions that Vettel will take pole. I’ve also predicted that this will be Ferrari’s first 1-2 race finish since the famous German Grand Prix all those years ago.

    This is a track which Bottas has previously been strong at, so while it’s likely Hamilton could be ahead, I think (or hope) it will be a close contest

    1. Ferrari, Seb fan
      29th April 2017, 6:47

      Who will be first in ferrari one-two?

  4. So unless I’m mistaken, the current situation looks the exact opposite of what was predicted, with Ferrari able to switch on its tyres, Mercedes having trouble there, and Mercedes better on the longer stint pace. So as always, nobody knows.

  5. Well, if Ferrari ends up faster on this track as well, I would basically call it a wrap for the season.
    Bahrain and Sochi (and maybe Monza) are the anly tracks Merc should theoretically have the advantage over Ferrari.

    1. At Monza, especially this season, the adrenalin generated by the baying Tifosi will add 0.25 seconds to Vettel’s car. It may even wake Raikkonen up.
      As for the Sochi pole, I would very much like Vettel to be on pole (and win the race, of course) but I very much doubt if the former will happen. Despite Hamilton’s protestations, IMO believe that Merc never show their true colours till the qualifying stage.
      But if Vettel has a good start from P3 combined with one of Hamilton’s legendary slow ones (;)), the former might have a chance in the race.

  6. Well, if Ferrari ends up faster on this track as well, I would basically call it a wrap for the season.
    Bahrain and Sochi (and maybe Monza) are the anly tracks Merc should theoretically have the advantage over Ferrari.

    Darko, Ferrari were NOT faster in Bahrain. Merc had a qualifying one-two and the fastest lap, remember? Vettel and Ferrari had better race management, that’s all.

  7. From what i heard on SkyF1 there where FIA officials in the Mercedes garage so Mercedes couldn’t applie oil into their engine or something Crofty said.

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