Lap time watch: Mercedes even further ahead in Baku than last year

2017 Azerbaijan Grand Prix

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Mercedes were almost a second quicker than their closest rivals in Baku last year and 12 months later that gap has increased. Lewis Hamilton took pole position and the best anyone not in a W08 could manage was 1.1 seconds off.

A good chunk of Hamilton’s pace advantage seemed to come from himself. He was a whopping 0.3 seconds quicker than any other driver in the second sector alone. That included the narrow sprint past the castle and the re-profiled kerb at turn eight, which it are now able to tackle at greater speed.

Mercedes’ closest rivals Ferrari and Red Bull have made slightly bigger lap time gains at this track over the past 12 months, but not by anything like enough:

Last year this was one of Mercedes’ strongest tracks. They had a 0.97% lap time advantage over the next-quickest car (which, unusually, was a Force India) which was only exceeded in Melbourne (1% over Ferrari) and Silverstone (1.54% over Red Bull).

To put that into perspective the largest advantage they had over a rival so far this year prior to this weekend was 0.54% in Bahrain. They’ve doubled that in Baku, lapping 1.09% quicker than their closest competitors.

We should see a quicker pace from Mercedes in the race as well. Last year pole sitter Nico Rosberg was able to take things fairly easily as Hamilton’s troubles meant there was no pressure from behind. With the two W09s sharing the front row this time, that should be different.

There’s also the question of how much of their lap time advantage is owed to their special high-power qualifying modes which cannot be used for lap after lap during the race.

The quickest lap times fell by just under two seconds compared to last year. This is typical of what we’ve seen so far this year:

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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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    16 comments on “Lap time watch: Mercedes even further ahead in Baku than last year”

    1. In fairness, we didn’t get a Hamilton pole last year and his advantage over Rosberg in practice sessions made it look like he could have been at least a quarter of a second quicker.

      1. Marian Gri (@)
        25th June 2017, 6:56

        What are you talking about?? Things don’t go that way in life. People can get better… but also worse in time! This year you can be stronger physically and smarter than last year… but you can be weaker physically and/or less intelligent than previous year. So, just because HAM dominated this year at this track, it doesn’t mean he would have done that last year too… or that he’ll do it next year too. 1st – because ROS is not around anymore. 2nd – because HAM was nowhere in FPs this year and we all tought he’ll struggle in Quali and Race, something that partially happened to ROS last year too, HAM being quickest in all FPs last year. But things changed with Quali, ROS outqualified HAM in all Quali sessions last year. So, last year, ROS was pretty much the HAM from 2017.

        1. The ifs and the buts. Last year car setup was to maximize tire life. This year we are back to maximize individual performance.

          Therefore I can see more skilled drivers gettin more out of the cars.

          Rosbergs win is not particularly impressive, he still needed 8 engine failures and some dirty tricks, and that was almost not nearly enough for him to be wdc. There are more nuances but that is the big picture to me.

          Sure drivers can improve or regress but that’s definitely not the case with Lewis Hamilton. I maintain his class has been outstanding since the dip in 2011. Ihmo

        2. @corrado-dub Rosberg did not dominated, Hamilton had a damaged car.

        3. Just to put this in perspective. Last year the story was a story of two garages.

          What played out had more to do with the cars and their respective reliability, than it had to do with the drivers. In my opinion Hamilton should have won his fourth Championship, which would have made this year’s match up with Vettel all the more telling.

    2. Well, looks like a slam dunk Hamilton race. His to win.

      1. Not convinced yet. @jureo
        His pole lap was amazing, but he made many mistakes during FP and even on some quality runs. And this could be a track where you can make an easy mistake when cruising up front ;)

    3. Alex McFarlane
      25th June 2017, 8:34

      So Merc were sandbagging all along? :-D

      Be interesting to eventually find out how they’ve managed to get back on top the last two races.

    4. It’s the W08, not 09. Also the current B-spec PU allows them to run in a higher power mode for much longer than before.

    5. Since Canada Mercedes have found something, or at least Hamilton may have found something. If he wins today it will prove my point.

      1. True they may have found something. But then again, their closest rival damaged his front wing, and made a huge comeback from 18th, which is last, to 4th.

      2. It’s more like Ferrari have lost some time. Renault is closer too.

        For this race there has been a clampdown on using oil to help combustion performance. Then GPS tracking shows suddenly Ferrari is down on power on the straights while in Montreal they were still up on power compared to Mercedes.

        It’s funny how a Ferrari fan has been constantly accusing Mercedes of doing this and then in the end it’s more likely that Ferrari were the ones using it.

        1. Ferraris were quicker in twisty Sector 2 and Mercedes quicker in low downforce sectors 1 and 3. Clearly looks like different car setups from Ferrari and Mercedes.

    6. 1.1 seconds of pace? I don’t know if I understand this in the wrong way but, this sentence sounds to me like mercedes is the team to beat… I don’t think so… For now, for this race, it could be but ferrari just have a bad weekend overal. It’s just not their race. Or did you forget the dominance of Vettel in the first half of this season?

      Nono, mercedes are far from ahead… Just because ferrari suck at just this one race, doesn’t mean mercedes have gained so much they are “suddenly” unbeatable… Plenty of races to go. And ferrari are SURELY still fighting for the lead, hell Seb is in the lead, and ferrari are 2nd in constructors but not by much…

    7. More than 2 seconds faster than last year’s pole time on a circuit that primarily features slow-speed corners + a 2km long flat out section. I wasn’t expecting that much improvement from last year. Now, this makes me even less worried about circuits such as Red Bull Ring, Monza, and Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez.

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