Lap time watch: Mercedes make most progress as Williams struggle at Spa

2017 Belgian Grand Prix

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Ominously for the competition, Mercedes are even further ahead than they were 12 months ago at Spa-Francorchamps.

In fact the W08s have made the biggest year-on-year lap time gain of any car in the field. At most circuits this year Ferrari or Renault have had that distinction:

Williams arrived at Spa expecting the track would suit their car well. But they’ve had a frustrating weekend, beginning with Felipe Massa’s crash yesterday which compromised their development plans.

They’ve made the smallest gain of any team year-on-year by some way: Every other team is going at least a further second quicker around Spa than Williams are.

Lewis Hamilton’s pole position time was almost two seconds faster than the previous best. That was set by Jarno Trulli during Q2 eight years ago.

Since then rules changes and the occasional rain-hit qualifying session kept Trulli’s benchmark safe.

The teams haven’t made quite as much progress with their lap times at Spa as they have at other circuits.

While the new generation of cars generate considerably better performance in Spa’s many medium-to-high speed corners, increased drag levels mean they aren’t able to accelerate as much once they hit Spa’s long straights.

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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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14 comments on “Lap time watch: Mercedes make most progress as Williams struggle at Spa”

  1. Andre Furtado
    26th August 2017, 16:41

    I think Williams results might be masked by their drivers. Neither one is really good in qualifying.

    1. Ben Rowe (@thegianthogweed)
      26th August 2017, 22:35

      I don’t think this will be the case. They both seem to have improved the times a lot less than other teams with the times last year but this only happens at certain tracks. I don’t think they will both suddenly be poor. The Williams has just been particularly bad at several tracks this year. There have been plenty of occasions this year where Massa at leased has looked good in qualifying

  2. Ben Rowe (@thegianthogweed)
    26th August 2017, 16:46

    Although I still think Massa has been much better than his results show this season, I still do think this team seems to start off really well, then go downhill pretty fast. The Williams seems to have had so many reliability issues this year and that isn’t like them in the past few years. And seeing that now on more than one occasion, they have had the leased improvement in speed of any team at a track compared to last season. One positive thing we can say about them is that they are dominating the pit stop times. The Williams pit crew is mighty impressive, as it was last year too.

  3. RE Mercedes, from what I read the new engine they introduced here is the final engine before Monza where the oil-usage can be a certain amount (I believe 1.2 L) and the paddock had a gentleman’s agreement that from now on every team would use the new amount (I believe 0.9 L) and Mercedes flouted that agreement and introduced this spec at Spa which uses 1.2. I am not sure it’s true, but it would explain the size of the gap.

    1. Mikael André
      26th August 2017, 17:47

      I also read that, and that might certainly make the difference.. I feel it’s a bit unfair if that’s the case with a broken agreement, but too late to rectify it now though.. I don’t know how they manage to lower the comsumpsion on the engines for next race though, but that’s just me not being clever enough.. ;)

      1. Unfortunately it’s written in German, but just translate it with Google or something..

    2. @hahostolze, the paddock didn’t have a “gentleman’s agreement” – it was the FIA that announced the 0.9l/100km restriction via a technical memo to all of the teams after they investigated Ferrari over the second oil tank they had (and which they were eventually instructed to remove).

      The thing is, I am not entirely convinced that necessarily is the only explanation for this change, because Mercedes have also been bringing new components to this race (such as a revised MGU-H) and we know that both drivers didn’t just take a new engine, but also used new turbochargers and the new MGU-H.

      The fact that they have slotted in multiple new parts suggests to me that this more likely to be due to wanting a fresh power unit for the two most demanding circuits on the calendar (Spa and Monza, which are back to back) – they have done this in the past as well, and I believe that Ferrari would have preferred to do this if they weren’t already on the limit with their engine usage this season.

      The other aspect is that the, as of the Hungarian GP, the teams already have to provide records of how much oil they are using to the FIA during each session of the race weekend. If the FIA suspected that Mercedes was up to something with oil burning, they already have the oil consumption figures in Hungary and from the practise and qualifying sessions this weekend.

  4. This year’s pole time being a little over four seconds faster than last year’s equivalent on a quite straight-line speed-friendly circuit means that it should be around five seconds on the likes of Sepang and Suzuka (perhaps at COTA as well) later in the season.

    1. @jerejj Don’t know, last year’s pole time was just marginally faster than the 2015 pole time. Like today, Hamilton’s pole lap in 2015 was very good, whereas Rosberg’s pole lap in 2016 was quite average. Maybe it’s just the driver.

  5. Mercedes aint further ahead than last year, its all within driver margin of error.

    1. An fully functioning Mercedes got beaten this year which speaks for the opposite.

      1. only with a tow!

        1. Yeh some interesting towing going on in this qualifying.

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