Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Red Bull Ring, 2017

Mercedes are confident despite close times on short track

2017 Austrian Grand Prix Friday practice analysis

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The quickest cars lapped the Red Bull Ring in 65 seconds today. Tomorrow the lap times could dip as low as 64 or even 63 seconds.

As a result the gaps between the quickest cars are much closer than usual. At the end of second practice the top five – two Mercedes, two Red Bulls and Sebastian Vettel’s Ferrari – were separated by less than four tenths of a second.

Daniil Kvyat, Toro Rosso, Red Bull Ring, 2017
Austrian Grand Prix practice in pictures
Yet despite the slender margin over its rivals Mercedes enjoyed on Friday, Lewis Hamilton was very satisfied with the W08’s performance on day one. “It’s been a really good Friday with no major headaches to complain about so far,” he reported. “The car feels fantastically fast here. There’s already a nice balance and it feels good out on track.”

Ferrari can draw some encouragement from how close Vettel was to Hamilton’s one-lap pace. The world championship leader has been reacquainted with the new engine he used during practice in Azerbaijan but had to remove before the race. Qualifying was a disappointment for him two weeks ago, but here he may again have the chance to split the Mercedes.

The ultra-narrow margins between the drivers is going to make for an exciting hour of qualifying. A slight set-up error or a driving mistake could have serious consequences, especially in the closely-fought midfield.

On the strength of Friday’s running one team which is well-placed to capitalise is McLaren. Honda’s new spec three power unit appears to have brought some improvement, however modest, allowing Fernando Alonso to post the eighth-fastest time today.

In contrast it looks like being a very tough weekend for Sauber, who laboured over a second slower than any other team with their year-old Ferrari power units.

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:

Complete practice times by tyre

DriverTeamUltra-soft bestSuper-soft bestSoft best
Lewis HamiltonMercedes1’05.4831’05.7311’05.975
Valtteri BottasMercedes1’05.6991’05.700None
Daniel RicciardoRed Bull1’05.8731’06.6201’07.699
Max VerstappenRed Bull1’05.8321’06.1651’07.380
Sebastian VettelFerrari1’05.6301’05.852None
Kimi RaikkonenFerrari1’06.1441’06.8481’06.344
Alfonso CelisForce India1’09.280NoneNone
Esteban OconForce India1’06.8491’07.183None
Felipe MassaWilliams1’07.0651’07.5501’07.358
Lance StrollWilliams1’07.4681’07.526None
Fernando AlonsoMcLaren1’06.7321’06.967None
Stoffel VandoorneMcLaren1’06.8591’06.860None
Carlos Sainz JnrToro Rosso1’07.1001’07.2831’08.895
Daniil KvyatToro Rosso1’06.9061’07.4371’07.037
Romain GrosjeanHaas1’06.7631’07.0003’58.096
Kevin MagnussenHaas1’06.5911’06.9144’31.096
Sergey SirotkinRenaultNone1’08.5861’09.553
Jolyon PalmerRenaultNone1’07.6491’07.623
Marcus EricssonSauber1’08.8701’09.1661’10.853
Pascal WehrleinSauber1’08.7821’09.3231’09.226

2017 Austrian 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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    10 comments on “Mercedes are confident despite close times on short track”

    1. so many people hate the baku track, yet this track is a far less competitive track for modern f1 cars. only 7 conrners, and basically no overtaking unless cars are out of position of things like rain or tyre wear. Ofcoursew Mercedes are to be confident, if they grab pole… they will control and win the rac.e

      1. Completely disagree. It’s fantastic to have such a short track here, and it has good overtaking opportunities considering it’s short lenght. It’s great to see the drivers racing in basically a sized-up kart track in terms of rhythm. Every tenth you lose, it’s a major disadvantage because of the short laptime.

    2. I reckon this championship will be like 2013, but it won’t be Vettel who runs away with it in the second half of the season.

      In fact it wouldn’t surprise me if Ferrari have already won their last race.

    3. Lots to do today

    4. Up to Monaco Pirelli reduced tyre pressures from Friday to Saturday. Rumour was Merc fed false info on this as Ferrari gained most. Has this happened in the last 2 races as I think the pressures stayed the same. If so I see where Mercs night and day hard work took place after Monaco. Can anyone confirm Friday to Saturday tyre pressure changes for every race so far?

      1. Markp you are right after Mercedes criticized Pirelli and Hamilton accused them of favouring Ferrari, Pirelli hasn’t lowered pressures so much and as often. Considering the kerbs in this track don’t expect pirelli to lower psi’s it’s not wise.

    5. this track has punished hamilton in the past, esp in qualifying so i think tomorrow fortune will favour the cautious (although i would love to be shown otherwise). rosberg won 2 and should have won the last 3 editions of this race, despite hamilton being quicker at each of them. it’s a bit of a barometer of the championship as to who has their head screwed on – as a race, i believe this has a lot to do with short laps. i’m a big fan of short laps (though not for every race – variety is a must).

    6. The thing people seem to be ignoring is the weather. Forecasts for Sunday afternoon have got progressively worse as the week goes on.

      The race may start dry, but I think it will finish wet, and very wet at that.

    7. Looking on the bright side, best track for Merc to get a 5 place grid penalty. Most times teams choose to take a penalty rather than risk the gearbox, I’d like to see that reversed. Nobody likes to see a driver carry over a penalty to another event.
      What Ferrari is doing with turbos I’d like that to be amended too.
      If we are going to penalize drivers for PU and gearbox parts you ought to follow the gearbox route, make them race the same units, that way we wouldn’t have Ferrari strategically use their new turbo’s in order to soften the blow of upcoming penalties. I understand why they are doing this but like taking precautionary penalties, it’s taking advantage of the whole idea behind the system.

    8. Pasquale Rechichi
      8th July 2017, 7:34

      Hamilton is really an unfair driver.. He caused the accident in Baku and don’t forget also the penalty he got in Bahrain.. He should be officially “scolded” for his behavior.. Not really a champion but rather a spoiled guy..

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