Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes, Circuit de Catalunya, 2017

Upgraded Mercedes threaten record-breaking pace

2017 Spanish Grand Prix Friday practice analysis

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A fifth consecutive front row lock-out for Mercedes in the Spanish Grand Prix looks like a strong possibility after the first day of practice.

Their aggressive upgrade package seems to be working well straight out of the box. And the silver cars look more at home on the very firm tyre compounds.

Add the usual boost Mercedes unlock from their engines in time for Q2 and an all-silver front row looks like a safe bet. But while Lewis Hamilton headed both sessions today he certainly can’t afford to be complacent about a team mate who is less than a tenth of a second behind him.

Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari, Circuit de Catalunya, 2017
Spanish Grand Prix practice in pictures
Ferrari trimmed Mercedes’ advantage on the soft tyres during the second practice session. “First practice was very, very good,” Hamilton explained, “but in second practice the track changed and shifted quite a lot, so it was slippery and quite a lot slower for everyone – especially with the gusts of wind. It was massively challenging.”

A red flag during the middle of the teams’ long run in the second practice session makes it difficult to assess how well the tyres were lasting and what likely strategies we’ll see. But whereas last year’s race was a three/four stop event this year is more likely to be a one/two stop situation.

This could be where Ferrari have the chance to apply pressure to Mercedes on Sunday. As we’ve seen already this season the red cars can usually run longer and harder on a set of tyres, giving them useful strategic flexibility to attack their rivals.

Interestingly, Kimi Raikkonen seems particularly comfortable with his car this weekend. He hasn’t qualified or finished ahead of Sebastian Vettel so far this season – could this be the weekend that changes?

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Having ended Friday in Russia almost one-and-a-half seconds off the Mercedes, Red Bull will be able to draw some satisfaction from having more than halved that gap. But we won’t get a true reading on how much faster they are until tomorrow. And they do not appear to have cured their weakness on the harder tyre compounds.

The speed of the Mercedes also has F1 on course to comfortably beat its goal of reducing lap times by five seconds compared to 2015. Lap times in second practice were six seconds inside those from the reference year and over three seconds quicker than last season. Rubens Barrichello’s 2009 track record lap of 1’19.954 looks in jeopardy.

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
1Lewis HamiltonMercedes1’21.5211’20.80267
2Valtteri BottasMercedes1’21.5501’20.89268
3Kimi RaikkonenFerrari1’22.4561’21.11258
4Sebastian VettelFerrari1’22.6001’21.22059
5Max VerstappenRed Bull-TAG Heuer1’22.7061’21.43851
6Daniel RicciardoRed Bull-TAG Heuer1’23.0841’21.58552
7Nico HulkenbergRenault1’23.9931’21.68764
8Jolyon PalmerRenault1’21.99243
9Felipe MassaWilliams-Mercedes1’24.6181’22.01572
10Carlos Sainz JnrToro Rosso-Renault1’24.0041’22.26555
11Romain GrosjeanHaas-Ferrari1’23.7581’22.37159
12Esteban OconForce India-Mercedes1’24.3241’22.52059
13Stoffel VandoorneMcLaren-Honda1’24.4001’22.69360
14Sergio PerezForce India-Mercedes1’24.1881’22.72255
15Kevin MagnussenHaas-Ferrari1’23.6701’23.00754
16Marcus EricssonSauber-Ferrari1’24.9661’23.08260
17Lance StrollWilliams-Mercedes1’25.9191’23.22169
18Daniil KvyatToro Rosso-Renault1’24.6421’23.23645
19Pascal WehrleinSauber-Ferrari1’25.1821’23.59955
20Fernando AlonsoMcLaren-Honda1’24.07722
21Sergey SirotkinRenault1’26.29310

Fastest times by tyre

DriverTeamSoft bestMedium bestHard best
Lewis HamiltonMercedes1’20.8021’21.5211’23.531
Valtteri BottasMercedes1’20.8921’21.5501’23.614
Daniel RicciardoRed Bull1’21.5851’23.0841’25.019
Max VerstappenRed Bull1’21.4381’22.7061’31.089
Sebastian VettelFerrari1’21.2201’22.6001’27.342
Kimi RaikkonenFerrari1’21.1121’22.4561’24.366
Sergio PerezForce India1’22.7221’24.1881’25.522
Esteban OconForce India1’22.5201’24.3241’25.458
Felipe MassaWilliams1’22.0151’24.5221’25.894
Lance StrollWilliams1’23.2211’25.9191’29.610
Fernando AlonsoMcLaren1’24.0771’25.800None
Stoffel VandoorneMcLaren1’22.6931’24.4001’26.624
Carlos Sainz JnrToro Rosso1’22.2651’24.0041’35.921
Daniil KvyatToro Rosso1’23.2361’24.6422’40.654
Romain GrosjeanHaas1’22.3711’23.7581’25.728
Kevin MagnussenHaas1’23.0071’23.6701’25.688
Nico HulkenbergRenault1’21.6871’23.9931’25.827
Jolyon PalmerRenault1’21.9921’25.870None
Marcus EricssonSauber1’23.0821’24.9661’27.124
Pascal WehrleinSauber1’23.5991’25.1821’26.547
Sergey SirotkinRenaultNoneNone1’26.293

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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30 comments on “Upgraded Mercedes threaten record-breaking pace”

  1. The Merc looks like it’s been on one of these fad diets. Good lord!

    1. I’m sure most cars were overweight but this is a performance step I hadn’t witness since the times when teams brought b spec cars to Spain.

  2. whats with the Ferrari’s number font change? Am i the only one who saw that?

    1. zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

    2. All teams have been issued with new driver identification guidelines.

      http://www.f1fanatic.co.uk/2017/05/10/mercedes-first-to-reveal-new-look-driver-graphics/

  3. Pole will be on high 1.18, some 3 or 3.5s faster than previous pole. Qualifying record was always gonna be broken but the all time record, from Massa’s 2008 slick testings, will remain as well as 2008’s race lap of 1.21.5 which is enough to declare a failure of the new regulation and a poor development from the F1 teams failing to hit the target of 5s improvement(again, comparing to 2005 makes no sense from a technical point of view. Btw, this is not a dig at you, Keith, as you’re just reporting what they officially say). Actually, the blame is not the team’s development, but Pirelli’s new wider tyres which are not quick as they were supposed to now that they degrade a little less(still big wear was seen today)

    But that’s what you get when you have spec tyres from a mediocre company.

    1. The target was 5 seconds faster than 2015 pole, not of all time, which they will reach on that pace.

    2. MG421982 (@)
      12th May 2017, 19:45

      I thought the all-time unofficial track record was broken by RAI in testing this year, when he clocked like 1.18.6xx / lap…

    3. Yeah because they’ve brought refueling back this year ehich would servr as a fair comparison to 2008 – and their target was not to be 5s faster only compared to 2015

    4. Is for these reasons that all the best and fastest road cars use Pirelli or Michelin ?

      1. That has nothing to do with it.

        Nearly all manufacturers are capable of making any tyre compound required – they either do what is asked of them by the series organiser or (if they’re competing against rival brands) what is required to win.

  4. OMG Hulkenberg on par with Red Bulls. That is massive result from Renault – or Hulk

    1. What? hes almost 1s behind them. I’d hardly call that on par

      1. What are you smoking? Hulk was 0.2 seconds behind Max in FP2 today. Read again, mate.

        1. Oople, be that as it may, I don’t understand the fuss about Hulkenberg’s times in relation to Red Bull though.

          That time difference between Hulkenberg and Red Bull has not really significantly changed when compared to the previous races – he’s been within about three tenths of the Red Bull’s in Bahrain and Russia, whilst in the practise sessions in China he could get within four tenths of Red Bull. Why is it suddenly worth making such a fuss about when he sets times which are about the same in terms of relative performance against Red Bull as in previous races?

      2. In the second practice he sets a lap one or two tens behind the Red bull

  5. I wonder if Hamilton and Bottas will continue on different rear wings in the race.

    1. @philipgb Could you elaborate? I must have missed this

      1. @hahostolze

        The practice photos show Bottas using the bulged low drag rear wing that Mercedes have been using all season so far where as Hamilton seems to have a more standard level rear wing.

  6. Poor Stroll, beaten by Massa on any tyre by more than 1s. I hope there is more to that like they were running at different times of the day, track temperatures or sandbagging.

    1. Williams are playing egg or chicken with Stroll as their driver. Which comes first, cash or points.
      I guess they’ve calculated that the positions they lose in the constructors’ will be made up by whatever they’ve paid for in advance.

      1. Just a few things in Stroll’s defence. He is a rookie. He has joined F1 when it has just been made harder. He has been tapped a few times through no fault of his own. So he has still had relatively little mileage in a 2017 F1 car. By design he is ‘up against’ but moreso teammated to, a seasoned veteran.

        It would be stranger if Stroll had come in and cake walked this. That would make F1 too easy. No?

  7. Obviously Ferrari will show it’s real pace tomorrow. They weren’t even pushing today.
    It will be closer than today but Mercedes will probably still have the edge.

    1. @dudeb Ferrari not pushing ?, please explaine mate.

      1. I think they were working more on setup and balance. Vettel said he had some problems, it felt like someone else was driving by moments. If that’s the case you have to prioritise. I guess Mercedes had a better setup on day 1 and 2 then Ferrari so they could push the times.
        Today is already different. Ferrari’s time is more like it should be. Guess they found a good setup and balance mate.

  8. Is anyone really surprised by what Merc is doing at this point? We’re now in the in-season development phase and that’s what will define the rest of the season. Ferrari have shown huge progress in terms of their design and pre-season achievements but we have to see if they can maintain that level in terms of developing the car as the season progresses. Mercedes certainly isn’t going to stand still: they’ll be bring all of their huge resources to bear on this. I’m hoping Ferrari can match Merc but IMO, it will be hard to stay ahead of them.

  9. Renault have clearly made a massive step. I think we could see Alonso there next year at this rate.

  10. Renault is looking like a good bet for the future. Good for Nico, at last having good luck in that sense. I was very worried that Force India would take a step ahead this year just as he left.

    It’s easier to avoid losing pace during the race because your qualy was very good, than trying to find pace altogether, so bright future ahead it seems. At least as regular point scorers.

    1. MG421982 (@)
      13th May 2017, 6:04

      Yeah, I think it’s a better bet. ALO could join next year. It could be that ALO destiny, when it comes to winning WDCs, is linked just to Renault. Just look at the Combined Practice Times table, the Constructors are on top, lined one after another. Wonder if McLaren will make it to the top ever again if the Constructors will remain in F1 undefinitely… or it’ll follow Williams’ path, just winning few times in a decade.

  11. Tommy Scragend
    12th May 2017, 23:31

    Not keen on that Merc nose. Up until now in the current hybrid era Merc have always had elegant, attractive cars. But the way this new nose abruptly narrows reminds me a bit of that Caterham dong thing.

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