Lewis Hamilton, Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes, Sochi, 2017

F1’s ‘fastest cars ever’ may not hit five-second target – Mercedes

2017 Spanish Grand Prix

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Formula One appears to have “missed” its target for improving lap times by five seconds, according to Mercedes.

New rules introduced for 2017 were intended to make the cars five seconds quicker compared to the pole position time for the 2015 race at the Circuit de Catalunya.

However F1 is yet to lap five seconds inside the 2015 pole position time at any of the four tracks it has raced at so far this year:

According to Mercedes there are two reasons why F1’s new cars haven’t lapped quicker yet.

“First, there was a prudent caution applied to how the rules were formulated,” the team explained. “Targets were established two years before the rules came into force and, as the regulations evolved, some of the initial freedoms where whittled away, with the prevailing opinion that it was better to under-hit the five second improvement and allow the teams to grow into the new generation of rules, rather than overshoot and limit future development potential. The cautious expectation is that the cars will be another second a half faster by 2018.”

Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes, Circuit de Catalunya, 2017
Mercedes expect a bigger performance gain in Spain
“Second, the improvement will naturally vary from circuit to circuit. Overall, approximately 60% of the improvement relative to 2015 has come from the new aerodynamic regulations, 30% from the larger tyres and 10% from the power unit. At circuit with high aerodynamic sensitivity and a low power focus, such as Barcelona, gains will be greater than at circuits that are more power sensitive – and where long straights also penalise the higher drag levels of the 2017 cars.”

“Lap time differences will also naturally be greater at longer, aero-sensitive circuits (such as Spa-Francorchamps or Suzuka) than at power-sensitive venues favouring low drag, such as Monza. The full picture will only become clear once the season is complete.”

However Mercedes added that while “the numbers may suggest that the five second target has – for now – been missed, it’s perhaps most appropriate to concentrate on the soft factors that mark F1’s step into the unknown for 2017.”

“Drivers are enthusing about the challenge of the new cars – and we are seeing larger differentials between team-mates from weekend to weekend in these tricky-to-master vehicles. F1 cars are indisputably the fastest cars on the planet, racing much closer to flat out from start to finish. And, rather than being a predictable DRS-enabled formality, overtaking has once again become a racing art form.”

“Most importantly, though, after four races, there are two teams locked together at the top of the constructors’ championship – and a developing struggle for the drivers’ title, too.”

The fastest laps seen in qualifying this year have beaten the previous records established at each track. According to Mercedes this “reinforces the claim that, even if still some way short of the five second per lap target, these are the fastest F1 cars in history.”

Pirelli predicted F1 cars could lap the Circuit de Catalunya in one minute 17 seconds this weekend, which would exceed the target for a five-second gain. Nico Rosberg’s 2015 pole position lap time was 1’24.681.

2017 Spanish 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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  • 38 comments on “F1’s ‘fastest cars ever’ may not hit five-second target – Mercedes”

    1. “Drivers are enthusing about the challenge of the new cars – and we are seeing larger differentials between team-mates from weekend to weekend in these tricky-to-master vehicles. F1 cars are indisputably the fastest cars on the planet, racing much closer to flat out from start to finish. And, rather than being a predictable DRS-enabled formality, overtaking has once again become a racing art form.”

      Could’t agree more.

      1. Exactly. Before, people didn’t try unconventional overtakes as there was no need to – the DRS would overtake for them. Now, when the DRS doesn’t work as well, they’re having to find different places to force the overtake, so while there may not be as many overtakes, there’s certainly more that are spectacular.

      2. Charles Eb
        8th May 2017, 16:37

        As the video bellow shows, the 2014-2016 cars were slower than a FR 3.5 car, through Campsa corner:

        Keith, why do you keep insisting that cars should improve 5s over the 2015 ones? They should do that over the latest 2016 ones because the aero and wider tyres were supposed to add, each, 2s on top of what they already had. They were supposed to improve 5s on the 2016 cars and take pole at a lot 1.17, in Spain, which will not happen.

        Despite all of the downforce and fat tyres, they are still slower than some other F1 cars in the corners and that’s why they didn’t hit the 5s target

        1. It’s not Keith that’s ‘insisting’ – it was the target set out by the FIA for the 2017 regs.

        2. Keith, why do you keep insisting that cars should improve 5s over the 2015 ones?

          I’m not insisting that anything should be anything, I’m stating that the target is what it is. As you can see via the link in the second paragraph.

          1. Yeah @-keithcollantine, why do you insist on writing articles based on facts?

          2. Charles Eb
            9th May 2017, 18:36

            My post was intended to be friendly ;-)

            I know it’s not your claim and that you’re just stating what they officially say. I just suggest that we look at it for what it should be, not what they are claiming now that the cars improved so little, and comparing to 2015 suits them because it doesn’t make it look so bad.

            Didn’t FIA reduce the downforce of the factory LMP1s this year? They still improved 2s over last year, on last weekend’s Spa. That put’s things on perspective, imho.

    2. The improvement from the tyre may be less than anticipated since the compound is a step harder this year, negating some of the advantage due to larger dimensions.

      1. Yeah Pirelli had to err on the side of caution having not had actual 2017 cars to test with last year. I expect compounds may be softer in general next year, and would love to see them combine that with less aero dependence. More mechanical grip and a little less aero please.

    3. Yes, they haven’t beaten 2015 pole lap by at least five seconds on the circuits they’ve raced on so far this year, but they did achieve it in pre-season testing as Kimi’s best effort was approximately six seconds faster than Rosberg’s 2015 pole time of 1:24.681, so in a way, they’ve already achieved it.

      1. knoxploration
        8th May 2017, 12:34

        You can’t compare a practice session under unknown conditions with a timed lap in a qualifying session. Well, you can, but it’s completely meaningless.

        1. It isn’t really. Last year’s pole lap was faster than the preseason testing laps, so you can assume it’ll be faster again this year – or at least very close.

      2. @jerejj @ho3n3r
        The 2017 pole position will be set with two compounds harder than the best time set in the wintertests by Raikkonen. That was set on ultrasofts, the softest compound for this weekend will be soft. The fastest lap on soft tyres this year was a 1:19.267.

        1. @matthijs True but none of the teams will have run with super low fuel and engine mode turned up to 11 in testing. Plus temps will have been around 10 deg C below what can be expected this weekend which will make a big difference to tyre performance.

        2. @matthijs Just a few facts you seem to have missed in my post:
          1. Raikkonen did a 1:18.6 in winter testing with supersofts, not ultrasofts, which is only 1 compound softer than the softs they will be setting Q3 laps – and indeed pole position – with.

          2. Even though they used ultrasoft/supersoft during the tests in 2016, the actual pole position was still faster during the actual race weekend (by 0.6 seconds, IIRC), set with softs – so no reason this year’s time will be around the same, maybe slower, maybe a little faster, than in preseason testing.

          3. Even if you say they lose 1 second from preseason testing due to a harder compound, that’s still 19.6, if you use Raikkonen’s testing time as a benchmark. That is 5 seconds faster than the 2015 pole.

          Of course, if it rains this becomes irrelevant.

          1. @ho3n3r You only had one fact in your post, so I cannot have missed a few. But thanks for correcting my comment about ultrasoft, I had my facts wrong. And also thanks @tonyyeb

        3. @matthijs I think that an important thing to factor in when comparing times at Barcelona from testing in februari/march and the race mid May, is the temperature. Most likely the supersofts offer comparable grip in testing to what the softs offer once they get to the warmer race weekend.

          1. this is why this whole conversation frustrates me – there are no accurately comparable circumstances between the 2015 cars and this year’s cars. so many factors are uncontrolled and different: tyres, air temp, air pressure, track temp, track surface (amount it is rubbered in or slipperiness), fuel load, etc.. this is to say nothing of human variation – the drivers are not robots. what we need is a summed trend analysis over the course of the whole year which accounts for all this statistical noise before anyone can say anything sensible about how fast the cars are.

            it surprises me how the teams often have a shaky grasp of the stats. at least merc mentioned that the 5 second target will be easier to achieve at longer tracks (well duh!) – whoever thought it up should have gone for a percentage decrease in lap time, that would have been a much more usable and evaluatable target.

    4. I can see them hitting 1:19.6 at Barcelona on the yellow softs, which is 5 seconds faster than the 2015 pole – which was the original target, considering Raikkonen did an 18.6 on supersofts in testing, and Mercedes even sandbagging more – and that’s not even considering development since then.

      So where’s the problem?

      1. it was obvious Merc was NOT sandbagging.. the results of the testing days are translated to the results on track.

    5. It’s too early to draw such a conclusion as they’re still in the early phase of a new set of regs. The more they develop each cars, then surely they’ll achieve that target.

      Also we need to remember that the cars are the heaviest they have ever been, so the gains will take time to show.

    6. They are not hitting the lap times because’s Pirelli’s tyres are too hard & nto sticky enough. They are not providing trhe grip that I think the drivers expect.

      People stop defending Pirelli!

      1. Disagree. F1 is a work in progress and they’ve just made drastic changes putting the cars back to pre-98 dimensions, but with torque like they’ve never had before. The way things are now is not written in stone. Little in F1 is. Give F1 and Pirelli and Liberty and Brawn their day in the sun to evolve F1 as they see fit now that BE is gone. Pirelli has only had a few months of their tires on actual 2017 cars. They deserve more time to evolve things, as does F1 in general.

        1. @robbie, I can’t help but wonder if the reason that @s2g-unit is complaining is because Red Bull are complaining, even though the reason for Red Bull complaining is because of deficiencies on their part (a self confessed lack of rear downforce) that means they can’t get the harder compounds into the correct working temperature range.

      2. petebaldwin (@)
        8th May 2017, 15:03

        Personally, I don’t mind what Pirelli have done this year. Tyres aren’t a talking point which is exactly what I wanted from them! They’ve created a tyre that allows drivers to push hard without it ruining their race….

        Of course they could be better but we have to remember that it is still Pirelli making them! They aren’t currently having a negative effect on the sport which is frankly as good as we can hope for.

        1. I think the negative comments towards Pirelli are mostly unjustified. In previous years they’ve done what was asked. This year they again have done what has been asked. The way teams respond to the way the tyres work meant in the past we had severe tyre management. That is the game of F1, you manage the race to win best within the rules. The rule makers are to blame, not Pirelli in my opinion.

      3. Pirelli have done exactly what they’ve been asked to do, on extremely limited testing (in comparison to Michelin and Bridgestone!).

        1. Agreed and just to reiterate it’s nobody’s fault and was just inevitable that Pirelli would not have a proper 2017 car to start their testing with last fall. And now new decision makers have just started to put their twist on the plot. It is early days of a very exciting time for F1. It’s a time for observation of what they have on their hands, and careful reflection by the new people in charge as to a focused approach of what F1 wants to be going forward and how to get there. For me it is splitting hairs to critique to the thousandths of seconds the current pace vs previous lap times under whatever circumstances. The general idea is they’re in cars now on tires now that have much greater potential to be tweeked and moulded for a great product on the track. Let’s be patient (preaching to choir to many of you). Did anybody actually think the goal and their sole mandate was to make everything perfect with one drastic set of reg changes? Why, four races in, would anybody expect anything other than this being a work in progress like F1 has always been?

    7. Biskit Boy (@sean-p-newmanlive-co-uk)
      8th May 2017, 14:57

      Mercedes said “overtaking has once again become a racing art form”. What utter rubbish.

      It may have become an art form last year if not for DRS. This year its become stupidly difficult.

      Apart from the first lap, 3 or 4 position changes in the top 10 would be about right. We are nowhere near this.

      1. I think we’ve just become accustomed to 100 overtakes per race (that mean absolutely zero when the driver infront can’t defend).

        I think the balance has finally become about right. All looks good to me. Sure, we could do some research in to aero (as Ross Brawn is doing), but for now, it’s a good balance for this viewer (been watching since around 97-98).

        You know what they say… Sometimes the chase is better than the catch. We completely lost that over the past few years. Murray used to say ‘catching is one thing, passing is another’, and essentially we completely lost that, too. It’s now back, and i’m enjoying it!

        1. Yeah for me, for now, and depending on the track and conditions, it does seem like cars can at least hang in there behind another car, in it’s dirty air, but passing is still a little too difficult. I think they’re not that far off at all from a much better product. The cars are still too clean air dependent. I’d say softer tires for more mechanical grip, and a reduction is aero dependence to some degree, and drivers would have even more confidence to pull off passing attempts while being able to hover behind a car in it’s wake, while strategizing a pass.

          To be clear I am an advocate for passing being rare and special, and therefore some of them being talked about for decades to follow, ala Villeneuve/Arnoux. It’s quality over quantity for me and always will be, so I’m so glad Brawn has talked about a better mechanical to aero grip ratio and his dislike from day one of it’s introduction, of DRS.

      2. Fukobayashi (@)
        8th May 2017, 15:37

        @sean-p-newmanlive-co-uk a lot of F1 fans don’t think that statement is utter rubbish, and I emphasise F1 fans not Mercedes fans.

    8. Am I the only one that thinks that “5 seconds a lap” is a strange target. With lap times being quite different from circuit to circuit, this would seem to be much easier to achieve in Singapore or Spa than in Austria or Brazil. A percentage target would have made more sense.

      1. Marketing. wouldn’t translate so well

    9. I think The main reason is the TYRES ARE HARDER this season, the supersoft is the same as the soft was last year maybe even harder, and so on. You can see the cars have more cornering speed potential but the tyres won`t stick quite as much as i had hoped for, because i want to see really TIRED DRIVERS after the race, having driven a beast of a car that F1 should be. introduce softer QALIFYING TYRES and BONUS POINTS for eg. the top 4 in qualifying i say, it`s a NO BRAINER for even more important/exciting saturdays. I think it`s coming too, i trust mr Brawn will fix it.
      But hey, it`s not too bad, they are faster and looking at the lap times the tyres are holding up much better so the guys can push harder. and overtaking Keith, i agree 100% DRS IS FAKE !!!!, which made up for the big numbers we have had in recent Seasons i want to see the art of overtaking. and real overtakes, and that is also much better now.

    10. MG421982 (@)
      9th May 2017, 5:48

      I guess it was obvious already these new cars won’t hit the 5-seconds target at most tracks. At Sochi VET barely managed to improve ROS’ 2016 Quali time by 2.1sec, while RAI improved ROS’ 2016 FL by 2.4sec!

    11. Robert McKay
      9th May 2017, 19:48

      The first two races FOM were happily putting up fastest lap, corner speed, G-force comparisons against the previous year.

      I didn’t see much of that in Bahrain or Russia, from memory…

    12. If the drivers are forced into overtakes outside their usual DRS zones, this increases the chances of mistakes being made. It puts more pressure on the driver that wasn’t so acute before.

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