FIA’s engine parity claim is “absurd”

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In the round-up: Red Bull’s Helmut Marko rubbishes the FIA’s claim the top three engine manufacturers have converged in performance.

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Comment of the day

Does Sunday’s result make Bottas a shoo-in for a 2018 Mercedes contract?

While the Mercedes top brass would have expected Bottas to win few races through the year, the manner of this victory would have surprised them.

On a weekend where they were conclusively the slower car and were outpaced in every session, Bottas managed to pounce on the one and only opportunity available to Mercedes (the race start) and converted a three-four result to a one-four result.

Teams expect such performances to come from drivers such as Verstappen, Vettel, Hamilton, Ricciardo, Alonso. It remains to be seen how consistently Bottas can do this. But considering this weekend and this weekend alone, he has shown he belongs to the very top tier of F1 drivers.

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On this day in F1

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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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70 comments on “FIA’s engine parity claim is “absurd””

  1. There are too many people jumping to conclusions about how good Bottas is. He may well be as good as people say, but being good in F1 is all about being consistently up there. Only time will tell whether or not he can keep it up. One race win won’t be enough to prove he’s good enough for 2018. I do hope people are right, but it’s too soon to say

    1. I think Bottas is good enough, and he raced at the front like he had done so all his life. He’s been given an equal opportunity in the team and he has grabbed it. Only Brundle and co are ones fixated on who is number one or two. The team is very happy with his performance.

      1. James Coulee
        3rd May 2017, 1:12

        We tend to forget Bottas has been world champion before: he’s no stranger to leading the pack.

        1. Maldonado was also a world champion, Palmer was also a world champion, Grosjean was also a world champion. That doesn’t automatically mean they’ll be one in F1

          1. I think James Coulee was pointing out that Bottas is no stranger to leading races. I don’t see where he is saying that Bottas is going to be a World Champ in F1. But that is not out of the realm of possibility.

        2. Bottas has been world champion? Surely you’re thinking of Rosberg.

          1. Bottas has been world champion in another race class than F1 ;-)

          2. GP3 world champ.

          3. @ho3n3r Bottas won both the Northern EU and EU championships in Formula Renault, was 3rd in EU Formula 3 twice, won the F3 Masters twice and won the GP3 title before being promoted to F1.

            The kid knows what he’s doing

          4. Lol. That does not make him “world champion”. The only category he’s raced in where you can become world champion, is F1.

          5. According to the FIA table F2/3 are not world championships, thus you cannot become world champion.

      2. @OOliver I don’t think it is only Brundle and his coworkers who are fixated on the number status at Merc. It is simply how things have fallen into play already this season that SV has been as strong as he has with KR a bit out of the picture against two strong Merc drivers that could do what has always been a possibility throughout F1’s history…two drivers splitting points while one strong competitor takes the lion’s share. There’s nothing sinister about it, and I think Brundle et al would also agree they have to take it one race at a time to see how the math is going to play out. We didn’t know until 4 races ago that SV would be this strong, that VB would adapt so quickly and not just be walked on by LH, and that LH could start and finish a race in 4th. It’s going to take them a season of races to sort this out…thankfully for us.

    2. I think Bottas is great, but I agree with this. A driver has a good weekend, or wins the ‘best car lottery’ one year and suddenly they’re the greatest ever. Nothing against Hamilton or Vettel, but they were very much in the right place at the right time. Of course they had to beat their teammates, but most of the time, that’s all they had to beat.

      I think the truly great drivers are the ones performing well above where their car should be. Alonso, Hulk, and Verstappen are some recent good examples.

      1. I know what you mean when you say about the best-car lottery however when it comes to Vettel and Hamilton I think it becomes less of a lottery and the fact that they are simply the best (along with other drivers) because they have both fairly consistently been in race winning cars, which can’t just be luck.

        1. i agree

      2. Didn’t Maldonado beat Alonso to win Spanish GP?

        1. Fukobayashi (@)
          3rd May 2017, 10:56

          Still the most surreal memory I have of modern F1. And he did it meticulously well also! ???!

          1. @offdutyrockstar
            Yeah, he was absolutely flawless during that weekend. Aided by the fact that Hamilton was disqualified and had to start from the back of the grid, but he beat the rest of the field, including Alonso, on merit.

    3. Yeah, we saw the occasional great performances from the likes of Barrichello, Coulthard and Webber. They were good, but not champion material. Even some champions were “only good”, in my opinion. We’ll see about Bottas, but from what we’ve seen so far from him pre-Mercedes, I think he never stood out like the greats do.

      1. @ironcito When your comment now discusses how he probably is not one of the greats, that is quite a significant step forwards compared to people describing Bottas as a one-year stop gap solution for Mercs second car before the season started. Also, the question of whether a driver is “one of the greats” allways occurred to me as a question to ask after someone has retired and we have an overview of all the career achievements. Even when you are trying to be cautious and sceptic, asking it now ironically is an example of how fast discussions about drivers change in the F1-related public.
        The question that needs to be answered relatively quickly (till around mid-season) is whether Merc will want to stay with Bottas for longer, and he has driven himself in a reasonably good position for that.

        1. Shaun Robinson (@)
          3rd May 2017, 10:05


    4. “There are too many people jumping to conclusions about how good Bottas is.”

      I thought the exact same thing when he first came to f1, #bottas and all.

    5. No, he is good enough and he is consistent. He has proved it over the course of his F1 career to date by consistently dragging the best out of the Williams he has driven. Whether it be putting a Williams 3rd on the grid in Canada in 2013 or the way in which he consistently strung together impressive results in 14, 15 and 16, he has given us plenty of notice in respect of his talent. Sunday’s race was just the moment when it clicked with his new team for the first time in race trim.

      The trouble with the way F1 fans rate drivers is that (a) memories are short, (b) people tend to remember the stand out performances rather than a consistent string of results and (c) people tend to overlook mild mannered drivers who just turn up, do a good job and go home. Pre-season I was saying Bottas would surprise his doubters and now he is. Get used to it folks, that was the first of many.

      1. @geemac all good points. i think people thought the same about rosberg until only a few years ago and now he’s world champion. one thing to consider about bottas’ performance is where williams is now – we all know the driver has limited input but we can reasonably infer a bottas-massa williams would be outperforming the massa-stroll williams.

      2. @geemac @keithcollantine

        Comment of the day imho

    6. petebaldwin (@)
      3rd May 2017, 10:03

      I love the internet….

      Bottas is useless. He deserves to be a number 2 driver. He’ll never beat Lewis.

      Bottas is better than Lewis. He should be the number 1 driver. Lewis will probably quit Mercedes.


      1. petebaldwin (@)
        3rd May 2017, 10:04

        it got rid of my “action” bit – there was supposed to be a (BOTTAS WINS RACE) in between. :(

    7. Bottas gets pole in one race, wins the next race, but we shouldn’t be too hasty.

      Verstappen has yet to win a pole, wins Spanish Grand Prix because front two cars take each other out and team modifies strategy to help Verstappen win, Verstappen is greatest driver since Senna/Clark/Fangio.

      No wonder it’s called the F1 circus. :)

      1. Only as good as your last race folks… And last race Bottas was miles ( about two miles infact) infront…

  2. I thought Daniel and Max were reporting a general lack of grip, rather than lack of grunt from the engine… After all, the Red Bull was very competitive last season, even with the power deficit, so it’s probably not all engine…

    They pushed hard for this set of regulations, and we all expected the car to be instantly quick… but it doesn’t seem to be at this stage.

    1. James Coulee
      3rd May 2017, 1:08

      I share your thoughts. We keep hammering the idea that Red Bull and Newey are the masters of regulation changes but the truth is Red Bull failed to capitalize all the regulations changes of recent history. They nailed it once. Maybe that idea isn’t completely justified.

      On the other hand the grip complains are consistent with a low power enfine: the only way to compensate for it is with less drag/downforce.

      1. In 2009, Brawn nailed the change to regs, and Red Bull was mildly competitive. In 2010, even though Red Bull won the championship, it was a closely fought battle with, what, 5 drivers going into the final race who weren’t out of contention? So yeah, Red Bull dominated 2011 and 2013. 2012, they won through superior tactics, and by not screwing up (unlike McLaren).

        That’s not exactly “masters of change”.

        1. @grat – While I think that there is room for difference of opinion on 2009, I think you’ve gone a bit too far here. Brawn did not “[nail] the change to regs” so much as their loophole wasn’t closed on them by the FIA/WMSC and they lucked into an engine deal after Honda took pity and allowed Brawn to continue with their design. The chassis was good, but nowhere near the best on the grid (as evidenced by the latter half of the season when other teams got their diffusers in place), and the engine just so happened to be one of the best, rather than the Honda. It was impressive and very cool to see happen in real time, but in hindsight, it was at least as much luck as skill that won that year.

          RBR, in 2009:
          – Won 6 of 17 races (Brawn 8)
          – Held 16 of 51 podiums (Brawn 15)
          – Had 7 DNFs or non-classifications (Brawn 2)

          I’m not saying RBR was better than Brawn. Brawn was impressive and won the championships fairly (if with the somewhat controversial loophole diffuser). But to call the 2nd place team “mildly competitive, when they would have likely been nose-to-nose or ahead without DNFs or without the diffuser issue, is hyperbole. RBR did not exploit the regs as perhaps they should have, fair enough, but Brawn was at least thrice lucky (team purchase, Merc engine, diffuser legal); it was not planned that way.

          1. should have closed that quote “mildly competitive”

      2. What regulation change they got right? 2009, 2014, 2017?

    2. I agree, the only reason RBs gap in Russia was their lowest, is because of the added aero and tyre performance, at this stage of the championship RB look as far as last year, though for different reasons.

    3. @fer-no65, it’s hardly surprising that teams will always want more power from their engines – as James Coulee also notes, it also distracts from the fact that Red Bull have quietly admitted that their current chassis has fallen below expectations due to major aero correlations issues in the off season.

      It also has to be said that they have something of a habit of exaggerating a supposed performance deficit – for example, there was a piece of research (by the University of Cologne, IIRC) which analysed the performance characteristics of the engines in the V8 era and concluded that Red Bull’s claimed power difference between the engines was about twice as high as the actual estimated difference.

    4. Less engine power = less downforce = less grip = more tyre trouble.

      1. @blik
        Poor chassis and aero = less downforce = less grip = more tyre trouble.

        1. Well they’re beating the Renault factory team with the same PU so their aero is at least better than the factory team. If you’re suggesting that the Renault PU is on par with MB and Ferrari their aero must be rubbish and we all know it’s not that bad. Witness Max in the wet going where no other driver could as the wet track nullifies, to some extent, the PU deficit.

          1. @blik, there is a difference between being “not that bad” and being great though, and Marko has bluntly stated that “we didn’t deliver the chassis that we should have done”.

            Similarly, Horner has stated that Red Bull have had major aero correlation issues when developing the car, stating “For the first time in a long time, the correlation between CFD, the wind tunnel and the race track does not match.” Resolving those correlation issues has significantly slowed down development and forced the team to have to abandon a number of the more intricate details which have appeared on rival cars – ultimately, the chassis is relatively simple because it is underdeveloped, not because they want to shed drag.

            Now, that is not to say that Red Bull have produced a terrible chassis this year – however, given that they have stated that they have had aero correlation issues and failed to hit their downforce targets, I would conclude from those statements that Red Bull’s downforce issues are mostly self inflicted.

  3. about the engine disparity: Red Bull should be looking in the mirror instead of pointing fingers: the difference between Ferrari and Haas, was 3% of a laptime, in Sochi, with the same PU. Between Mercedes and Williams a 2% BUT between Ferrari and Mercedes it was 0.01%. So, it’s clearly a matter of resources, and a chassis designed in conjunction with the PU, that’s why Renault has made such a leap (relative) on their performance. That’s why, even with the current situation, Honda is a best option for McLaren rather than going back to Mercedes, and also why RBR shoot themselves in the foot with their thrashing to Renault. They will only win again if they get an work deal – not a costumer one. So maybe they’ll have to wait until another manufacturer comes along, and i don’t think that’s going to happen earlier than 2021. I think that the FIA may have a point with the 0.3″ difference between PU after all.

    1. Ian Laidler (@)
      3rd May 2017, 1:43

      Since they stopped winning RBR have done nothing but complain, biggest sore losers in any sport, all Marko and Horner do now is moan and threaten to quit … getting boring.

      1. @grumpy
        Even when they were winning they did nothing but complain, and they rarely gave credit to the engine supplier.
        They were bad winners too.

    2. They sure are right that this engine parity the fia has been talking about is in fact a little far away, that said there’s no way for the FIA to retrieve reliable information on the subject matter. RB has been depressed even before the first test, they know they can improve they know they have made such improvements in the past, however I think they know they really do have themselves to blame this time around. This year Sochi seemed to have become less of a power track that in the past rather than the engines getting closer to each other, even Ferrari was 8 mph slower than Merc on the straights and pretty much nobody was within .250 of Merc on the 1st sector.

    3. I think at this point it should be clear for everybody that if you want to be competitive in F1 you need to be engine constructor. Only factory teams like mercedes and ferrari can compete for podiums. Renault maybe if they can get there. I doubt it because for renault the 2014 AND 2015 were embarasing and total failures.

      The fact is everybody else is miles off the pace. Red bull, sauber, mclaren, force india are simply not rich enough to make their own engines. And shouldn’t be asked to. F1 has always been about building your own car and buying (or getting a manufacturer to make you) the engine. It has never been engine manufacturing challenge. No team has ever started from not being engine manufacturer and become one later. Ever. Only big manufacturer teams like ferrari, renault and mercedes can do it. Now that people are asking red bull to make their own engines is ridiculous beyond any kind of reason.

      The fact that merc and ferrari are racing for wins hides the fact that everybody else are miles behind without the chance of even surprise wins. Unless all 4 top team cars dnf red bull can not win. And no matter how good chassis red bull makes they can not overcome the poor renault engine. Not only are the mercedes and ferrari engines (in those factory teams) far better than the renaults but the chassises of ferrari and mercedes are also really really good. To ask red bull to make a good enough car is asking them to create car that is so good that it defies physics.

      Only thing red bull can do is hope renault can achieve to build a good engine (which is not happening) or they can lobby for rule change which reduced the rule advantage ferrari and mercedes have. Only way red bull can be competitive is through rule change. I don’t think doing it this publicly helps them with fans but they are absolutely in the right to attempt it because for them it is the only possible way forward. Only way.

      1. @socksolid, I’d have to disagree with you there – there have always been major manufacturers right from the start of the sport who believed that the sport was very much about being an engine manufacturing challenge. I’d also point out that you are technically wrong about no team moving from not being an engine manufacturer to being an engine manufacturer, as Arrows did move in that direction.

        1. Who did arrows sell their engines? Did they actually design and build their own engines? I can’t find anything in internet about it.

      2. @socksolid – I also think you go too far. I see your point and it isn’t entirely wrong, in my opinion. But customer teams have beat the factory (even in recent years) and have won races and titles. In 2009, Brawn beat McL-Merc (who were the factory team for Mercedes) and RBR beat Renault. in 2010-2011 RBR beat Renault and won titles. In 2010-2012, McL-Merc beat the Mercedes factory team.

        I agree that the factory teams have advantages, and perhaps even moreso under the current formula. But it is not insurmountable in my opinion.

        1. Mclaren was beaten by brawn car which was developed by huge amounts of honda money. And mclaren was not mercedes manufacturer team. And brawn also had the best mercedes engines in their cars. No year old ferraris… I think brawn is extremely special one off case and should be ignored for this discussion. But effectively it is full factory prepared (and paid for!) car that was simply given to privateer that is the same team just with less people.

          Also if you look at red bull and their championship wins you also need to take consideration that all of them happened when strict engine parity rules were introduced which effectively removed the engine advantage from the manufacturer teams (who build their own engines). And at the same time period when engine parity was enforced the teams were closer to each other than ever before or since. Only sebastien vettel was ahead.

          Not to mention red bull is exactly the perfect kind of example of what succesful f1 team more often was. Skillful chassis manufacturer (red bull, mclaren, williams, lotus etc.etc..) and 3rd party engine manufacturer who builds engines for the team. Literally the only real exception to that rule was ferrari. That has only changed in the last 20 years first with renault and now mercedes manufacturer teams. But it used to be that not being manufacturer was competitive way to be in f1. Williams and mclaren have tons of wins to prove it. In today’s f1 neither williams or mclaren from their golden days could challenge ferrari and mercedes teams today simply and only because of engines.

          You need to go back into the pre-war era and into the 50s to find seasons where manufacturer teams dominated. But that was also partly because manufacturer teams were the only ones that raced during that era. The “garagistas” came in later. But once you get into the 60s and especially 70s you see a trend that has lasted the last 50 years. Team builds the car and the engine comes elsewhere. Only in the last 15 years has that really changed when big manufacturers poured tons of money into f1 and started their own teams.

          But even then f1 has have 2 championships. One for drivers and another for constructors. Not the maker of best engines but best car. In the last 70 years you could be engine manufacturer or not and you could win the consutrctor’s trophy all the same.

          In mid 2000s almost half of the teams were also manufacturers: bmw, toyota, honda, renault, ferrari, jaguar. But you also had engine manufacturers coming outside like cosworth who sold engines. But the engine was not decisive like it is now. It is sheer luck that ferrari managed to become competitive for this because otherwise it would have been yet another mercedes walkover. And similarly only team that can catch mercedes is another engine manufacturer. Ferrari or renault. No one else. Not because mercedes did better job but simply because they can rig the competition by selling second rate engines at high cost to teams who are not their competitors.

          Because the engine is so important piece of the performance today in f1 mercedes and ferrari do everything they can to avoid selling engines to teams who could challenge them. Not selling engines used to be almost unheard of and again you need to pretty much skip the last 50 years and go the 50s and pre-war era to find that kind of thing happening again.

  4. Does Bottas performance in Sochi and Hamiltons lack of performance mean there isn’t any data sharing between them?

    1. Sundar Srinivas Harish
      3rd May 2017, 5:46

      I highly doubt that. Data is gathered by the team, and consequently cannot belong to an individual driver. Hamilton was simply off-form this weekend.

  5. Re COTD, Mercedes had a big advantage in straight line speed at Sochi, a track with plenty of straights to exploit that strength on – including, significantly, the long straight following the start of the race. In fact prior to the race plenty of people had highlighted the possibility that Merc might reach turn one ahead of Ferrari. So I don’t regard Bottas’ win as being quite as improbable and remarkable as some are making it out to be.

    F1 is meant to be the pinnacle of motorsport, and quite frankly it isn’t … they need to find a way to improve the competitiveness at the front of the grid.

    The restrictions on testing are a big part of the problem. Once upon a time a team like Mclaren-Honda would simply build some extra cars and run as many laps as necessary around a test track until they sorted out their issues. If I could change one thing about F1 it would be to bring back in season testing.

    1. Fireblade, sounds more like a recipe for spreading the field even further, and in particular for giving Ferrari an advantage given the private test track they have – Schumacher used to cite Badoer’s constant testing as one of the reasons why Ferrari produced some extremely dominant cars in the early 2000’s.

      1. MaddMe (@)
        3rd May 2017, 9:32

        Ferrari are not the only team with a test track, other teams have them too. Red Bull even own the Austrian GP circuit. Years ago engine manufacturers put F1 engines in normal road cars to test them too (such as Renault putting an F1 engine in a Scenic).

        All teams would benefit with more testing and I believe that F1 in general would benefit from more proper testing. The PU limit ruling should also be removed, its F1 not endurance.

        1. Problem with testing in the current state is that the gap between budgets and resources would show even more on track.

          More testing would most likely help with performance convergence, but it has to be structured in a way all the teams can participate. And we go back to the discussion of the distribution of money…

          1. I think the new F1 will sort things out toward a better and better entity as well as product on the track over the next two to three years. From the way Brawn has been talking I see them taking a few perks away from the big teams, making some moves to make life a little easier for the small teams, and diminishing the degree of negative influence dirty air has on trailing cars. That’s what will really make F1 more competitive within itself. For little investment of money, unlike from introducing more testing.

            In general I remain very optimistic that F1 is not that far away from improving itself dramatically. They are the pinnacle even if someone from their armchair says they aren’t. There is less audience but so is there in almost all racing series. There’s plenty of money and audience in F1 to play with, more properly apportioned. And now that they’re in much better cars on much better tires they’ll do as Brawn has suggested and move in a sensible way to a better aero to mechanical grip ratio and the resultant removal of unnecessary DRS.

        2. @maddme, the thing is, it would probably take Red Bull a few days to get a car to the Red Bull ring if they wanted to test it there – they might own it, but it is effectively useless to them as a test venue.

          The point is, whilst other teams do have access to circuits, Ferrari have a substantial advantage because it is significantly cheaper for them to test (they have no transportation or accommodation costs for a start), whilst they also have an advantage in terms of climate.

          In the UK, when testing did take place in the past, most teams would use Silverstone given it was the most accessible venue. However, with the climatic conditions in Maranello tending to be much more favourable for holding tests for much longer throughout the year, as well as the need to share the track with other events, Ferrari reckoned that they would be able to test for about 240 days per year at Maranello, compared to about 160 at Silverstone.

          As for putting F1 engines in road cars, Renault had no intention of using the Espace as a test bed for F1 – that car was built purely as a publicity stunt (and hardly necessary for them to undertake testing given they’d returned to the sport five years earlier). Yes, it has occasionally been done, but the engines have always been built and used in F1 first and then later put into road cars as a publicity stunt – BMW did it once with the E60 series M5, but the car didn’t even run (it was a static display designed to draw attention to their new car).

        3. Testing restrictions mean F1 engines can’t be tested separately from their chassis now, and of the other teams, only 4 teams could plausibly afford extra track testing (Ferrari, Red Bull, Mercedes and McLaren). The others would have to pay too much money to circuit hire fees to afford it. (Yes, that includes Renault).

          The restrictions were largely to enable all the teams to attend approximately all tests. Any more testing, and the poorer teams can’t afford the additional tests, thereby increasing the spread of the grid. Sadly.

  6. Sundar Srinivas Harish
    3rd May 2017, 5:54

    The reason given by Kubica’s doctor (or whoever) for him not returning to F1 was that he cannot move his wrist in a confined cockpit like an F1 car. How much larger is the FE car’s cockpit?

    1. Most of the comments were from about kubica himself and mostly 3-4 years ago. but his rotation has imroved, hence he has tested a gp3 car and formula e in about a week or 2 spread. Havent read an interview after this test, but he was very happy that he was capable in the little gp3 car, and that is manual shift also.

  7. As Ricciardo pointed out after the Q3 last weekend, in Russia 2016, Red Bull were also about 1.7s off the pace. But an update package from the engine came and two weekends later in Monaco they were on pole.

    I very much look forward to RB’s B-spec car in Spain. With 3 teams, 6 drivers fighting for wins, anyone who emerges as Champion in the end would be the first real “Driver’s Champion” we’ve seen in a while.

    1. I think Monaco is their best shot at victory this year. The car in the hands of Ricciardo was an absolute monster last year even though they trailed the Mercs at Barcelona and Sochi by a decent margin. Got my fingers crossed for the Barcelona chassis update as well as Renault PU update.

      1. @todfod But Renault have postponed their engine update indefinately. It was supposed to be introduced at Canada.

        So, with a B-Spec chassis and the latest itteration of their wings, bargebords and what not, they still won’t have an upgraded engine and will not be fighting for podiums/victories unless some of the others retire/spin/etc I think.

        1. @jeffreyj

          Damn! Didn’t know about the lack of Renault Pu upgrades. That’s terrible news. Was really looking forward to Red Bull putting some pressure on Ferrari and Mercs soon.

  8. “That does not matter because this is also a race track. So there is at least five per cent, which we are still missing on Mercedes and Ferrari.”

    This then… What convergance? Have you seen Valtteri take off on first straight? It was painfully obvious what a difference 5% makes.

  9. I cannot believe ANYTHING anyone with a vested interest in F1 says. They are all expert liars, sorry I meant politicians.

  10. Red Bull have been making more noise than the engines they use. If only whining could power a F1 car.

    Like I said before, you can’t put full blame on the PU anymore. Hulkenberg getting into Q3 consistently shows there’s real progress there. In Qualifying they’re beating Force India’s, Williams and Haas to P7 on the starting grid all with superior engines.

    1. Um, doesnt that also show that perhaps renault are at the top of the midfield in aero?

    2. How exactly does Hulkenberg qualifying 2 seconds off pole, Bulls 1.7 – 1.9 seconds off pole – show the PU is competitive?

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