How a secret Mercedes engine mode helped pressure Vettel into a race-ending puncture

2015 Belgian Grand Prix

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A former F1 team boss has revealed how a secret Mercedes engine performance mode, which it was only allowed to use once, helped his team to a rare podium finish.

Matthew Carter, who was CEO of Lotus during its final season of F1 in 2015, described how Mercedes permitted his team to use the engine setting to beat Sebastian Vettel’s Ferrari during the 2015 Belgian Grand Prix.

Mercedes drivers Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg led the race ahead of Vettel, who was trying to complete the race on a single pit stop. In the closing stages of the race he was being caught by Grosjean’s Lotus-Mercedes.

“[Mercedes] didn’t want Sebastian Vettel particularly to get a podium in Spa,” Carter told Missed Apex, “and they could see that Romain, on newer tyres, was catching.”

“So they gave him a different engine mode to go into.”

The car’s sudden gain in performance can be seen in the lap times from the race. Between laps 25 and 30 Grosjean’s average lap time was 1’55.6. Over the next eight laps it fell to 1’54.8, a gain of eight-tenths of a second. He set his fastest lap of the race on lap 37 which brought him within striking distance:

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On lap 39 a radio message to Grosjean was broadcast in which he was told “strat seven, have a go at Vettel”. A lap later he was half a second behind the Ferrari.

Vettel was on the same compound of tyres as Grosjean but had been running them for seven laps longer. On lap 42 Vettel’s right-rear tyre failed, allowing Grosjean through to take Lotus’s only podium finish of the season.

Grosjean told Carter the increase in performance transformed the handling of his car. “Romain came in at the end of that race and said the car had never driven the way it had in the last laps of the race,” said the former Lotus boss.

“It makes sense. The minute your car is going faster your aero is working better, your tyres are better, you don’t have to brake as late. Every part of the car works better because he was in this mode.”

“Mercedes never told us what it was. They told us there was no difference whatsoever. Romain was saying to me ‘no way, that car drove differently’.”

Although Lotus were occasionally allowed to use Mercedes’ well-known qualifying performance mode Carter said they were never allowed to access the mystery race setting again.

“The races following Spa I kept saying to Mercedes ‘what’s that engine mode, can we have that engine mode?’,” he said. “And they were like ‘no, it was specific to Spa, specific to x, y and z’.”

“We never saw it again.”

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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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103 comments on “How a secret Mercedes engine mode helped pressure Vettel into a race-ending puncture”

  1. And this is why McLaren dropped Mercedes.

    1. …And turned into a disaster with Honda.

      1. they had to roll the dice, i think. it back fired (literally on some days) but the alternative was not acceptable to a team like mclaren.

        1. The problem with this theory is that apparently the instruction given to Romain to activate the ‘secret mode’, namely “go to strat seven”, was given four times to him in that race. This kind of blows a rather large hole in the whole thing doesn’t it?

          1. No, the key word is secret, why would they tell everybody about it? Look at the lap times instead.

    2. Biskit Boy (@sean-p-newmanlive-co-uk)
      9th November 2017, 12:09

      And this is why it is IMPERATIVE that the engine rules allow the chance for independent engine manufacturers to compete.

      Imagine we also had F1 engines supplied by Cosworth, Ilmor and Judd.

      Perhaps Chevrolet, Toyota and Volkswagen might have a stab at it.

      1. @sean-p-newmanlive-co-uk You will never achieve that unless you start equalizing engine performance because the big manufacturer’s will always be able to outspend & out-develop the independents who have less resources.

        It’s been that way for most of F1’s history. If you look at Cosworth & Ilmor for example, They only produced competitive engine’s when they were been backed by a manufacturer & producing factory engine’s for that manufacturer & The Judd engine’s were never competitive. The only time Cosworth were in F1 with a truly independent engine (The 2006 V8) they were nowhere compared to there competitors which is why teams weren’t that interested in using it.

        I’d also point you to Indycar in relation to Judd who built an engine for the 2012 regulations which was picked up & re-badged Lotus. That engine was a complete disaster because Judd didn’t have the resources to develop it at the same rate as Honda & Chevrolet & that is with a far more straight forward formula than F1.

        I know people tend to point to F1 in the 70’s & how the DFV was a cheap/independent engine & that’s how F1 should be again….. However remember that the DFV wasn’t an independent engine, It was funded by Ford (And Lotus initially) who invested heavily into that project. And it only became the cheap engine because they built so many of them & were developing it so rapidly that there were tons of old stock of varying specifications.
        Also remember that the DFV that the small teams were running was vastly different to the DFV the top teams were using & that in most cases the smaller teams would be running a DFV several years/spec’s older that were less powerful & less reliable than what teams like Lotus & McLaren had.

        Contrary to people’s belief now you couldn’t get a DFV off the shelf, Turn up & be competitive because unless you had the budget to buy the latest spec (And even then at times McLaren/Lotus had exclusivity to the newest spec) you were buying old units that were down on power & less reliable & in most cases buying a unit that had already done a full race distance or more.

        As an aside, People moan about long life engine’s & stuff nowadays as been not F1….. Back then it wasn’t uncommon for even the top teams to run an engine for multiple races & drivers/teams even had favorite engine’s which they would run for as long as possible. I believe Jim Clark’s 1st F1 championship was won by using the same engine for every race of that season.

        1. Biskit Boy (@sean-p-newmanlive-co-uk)
          9th November 2017, 14:24

          I agree with everything you say. More or less spot on.

          However frustratingly you start by saying engine performance should be equalised but then don’t go on to explain how. I did say engine rules should be changed to allow the independents to compete. Mostly this would be achieved by simplification and standard parts. This would make the cost less and the likely hood of the required financial backing (as you pointed out) easier to find.

          Equalisation and cost reduction in one step.

          1. Give a massive amount of prize money to the highest placed independent engine maker in each race.
            They talk about road relevence, yet having one engine manaufacturer enable one driver to dominate for so long doesn’t really help does it. F1 remains elitist. I doubt I’ll ever own a car that can thank the compitition between Ferrari and Mercedes for its abilities.

          2. TBH he didn’t say performance should be equalised, only that independents can’t compete unless it is.

            To me, “performance equalisation” and “standardisation” should not be part of the sport, except through natural convergence (as we are approaching now). F1 is about building the best car you can, and the more things are standardised or equalised artificially, the less this element plays a part. If that’s what you want, watch a spec series where every driver starts with the same car. F1 is, and should be, different.

          3. Why do I see calls for equalisation as unworkable. As a rule, manufacturers with their own works teams, will always spent more. Independent engine suppliers may compete, but are unlikely to dominate. We will have the problem we have now.

        2. Indeed. This is why I thought Mclaren should have partnered with cosworth and sunk some money in rather than go to renault. Cosworth have a lot of talent but not much money. McLaren do not have much engine talent but do have money. With renault they will get an engine that may blow up, may do okay on some tracks but will unlikely get the same level of upgrades that the renault team get. With Cosworth they could have developed their own engine.

          1. Lee1, judging by a number of the reviews from those who used to work at Cosworth, it sounds like it is more of a case that Cosworth used to have a lot of talent, but has sunk a long, long way from those glory days of long ago and is nowhere near where it was about 15 or 20 years ago (when they could rely on Ford bankrolling much of their activities).

            A number of reviews of the firm by current or former employees have complained about the senior management being incompetent and not supporting their junior staff, whilst some of the senior engineers and project managers have complained about being overworked and development budgets being repeatedly cut.

            That is in part because, not that long ago, Cosworth went through a major business downturn – they were making sizeable losses for a number of years, and even though they’ve seen an upturn in business in the last year, their turnover is still lower than where it was a decade ago.

            They’ve been through periods where they were shedding a lot of staff – they shed 40% of their staff when they left F1 in 2006, and I believe there were further redundancies in 2012 – and their head count looks to be some way down on what it was at their peak, even if that has been going up in recent years (though how many of those will be experienced staff and how many are junior staff is not clear).

            I get the impression that a number of the more talented and experienced staff have either left the company or had to be made redundant as the company went through their downturn, and the comments about their senior management raise a lot of questions about their potential capabilities in the future.

            Asides from that, if McLaren really wanted to go down the route of commissioning an independent manufacturer to make an engine for them, why bother with Cosworth when McLaren already have a technical partnership with Ricardo?

            Ricardo are a very highly respected mechanical engineering company across multiple sectors, including automotive engineering, and in terms of the breadth and depth of their workforce and resources they’re far more impressive in that regard than Cosworth – in fact, McLaren did hint that, if they did want to go down the route of getting an independent engine, they’d prefer to work with Ricardo instead.

        3. “The Judd engine’s were never competitive” How about French GP 1990, Leyton House leading the race. They almost won it. I think it was faulty fuel pump.

          1. So Williams and Maldonado were conpetitive because they won in barcelona in 2012? No, they just gut lucky (or something else if you are into conspiracy theories)

        4. @gt-racer, In those days they re-built their engines before/after every race, something they are not allowed to do now, I suspect that re-building the engines was less expensive than building engines that have to last 5 race weekends without being disassembled. Of course the smaller teams that were rebuilding their engine would have been at a disadvantage if the bigger teams had a truckload of new engines ready to install.

        5. “It [the DFV] was funded by Ford (And Lotus initially) who invested heavily into that project” – Ford invested £100,000 in the DFV; how much would that buy nowadays?

      2. As I think about this, the FIA require all the cars to have the same engine management unit and to use the same computer software inside it. So, in theory, if there was some sort of secret features in the engine management software then the FIA should be able to see it.
        Also, I was sure Mercedes had a policy where they supply their customers with the same software they themselves use.

  2. oooooooooooooooh
    This is mighty interesting, it confirms previous suspicions and that of course customer Mercedes teams do not gain many benefits as the factory team does (which is par for the course in F1 tbh)
    But still, seeing this confirmed is illuminating imo

    1. It proves nothing, it could be that this was an experimental engine mode and Lotus were simply allowed to be the guinea-pig for it. Post race analysis might have shown that it was a huge reliability risk and it was shelved or developed in another direction. Or maybe it was circuit specific and Merc wouldn’t use it elsewhere either. All suspicions remain unconfirmed speculation.

  3. The fact that Mercedes have an unwritten (until now) advantage of having its other engines ramped up on other teams to help them win is a bit scary.

    Mercedes can control the pace (potentially) of its other engines to stop Ferrari gaining more points… This seems unfair

    1. I agree. It seems a little underhand. I would have thought that either they let teams use all the settings or they don’t. That would make it a lot more fair. I wonder if they ever make a team reduce their engine performance to prevent them from beating them? (I am not sure any merc powered team has ever been in a situation where this would be of benefit though)

      1. This years Baku 2017 race comes to mind. Last lap Vottas vs Stroll was really obvious to me. But maybe it was my eyes needing to get checked.

      2. 2014 Abu Dhabi

        1. @jedimaster9 More like Malaysia 2016.

    2. Why unfair? It’s not Fisher Price ‘My First Racer’.

      Merc are beast. Up to the rest to catch up. Not like Honda are small fry.

      1. It’s unfair because now Mercedes is playing puppet master, controlling the pace of non-Mercedes cars on a tactical in race level. Aside from this obvious example, they could potentially shuffle around the backmarkers in such a way that undercuts are unfavourable.

        What really baffles me most however, is how Mercedes can physically deny Lotus from using ‘mode 7’ all the time (which I assume is just a button on the steering wheel). Does the Mercedes team control the customer engines with their own telemetry?

        1. One thought is each team has their own custom steering wheel, so while a lot of the engine settings are the same between Mercedes and their customers, some of them could be unique as well. My guess is this “Mode 7” related to one of those unique buttons, but that there was also another way to activate that mode the people at Lotus didn’t know about until they got a phone call from Mercedes during the race to tell them how to do it. At the next software update Mercedes simply removed that back up method of activating that mode.

  4. Wow talk about loading the dice. No problem with the tactic of forcing someone else into a failure, but for an engine supplier to provide ‘parity’ engines and then hobble them by disallowing them from using performance engine modes is particularly unsporting.

    1. Martin O. Powell
      9th November 2017, 11:46

      Yes, just like giving teams last years engines!

      1. Yeah, those last year engines are programmed to run faster when behind a Mercedes car, that’s some magic there.

    2. Develop your own engine. McLaren should have gone down that route.

  5. No holds barred!

  6. 8 tenths faster for 8 laps? I wonder how much extra the Mercs get this year.
    Probably would explain why no customer engines blew up last year, just Hamiltons, too much boost maybe?

    1. I would agree- but the only problem with that analogy is, Hamilton was so far ahead and “had everything turned down“.

      1. Not really, he was under pressure form RBR for the first time that year. So he had to keep a gap to safeguard his position. He had to push all the way.. till the moment the engine stopped.

        1. Hamilton was under pressure from the Bulls in Malaysia 2016?

        2. @erikje No he was not. Get your facts right please and Hamilton’s was turned down already.

        3. The Red Bull’s were far behind. However, there was the Singapore GP the race before where he fought incredibly hard with Raikkonen, and would’ve strained the engine a lot. Not sure if he changed the engine after that race though.

    2. Probably would explain why no customer engines blew up last year, just Hamiltons, too much boost maybe?

      First sensible comment I have seen. Obviously an engine supplier’s first priority is to supply reliable engines foremost to avoid teams slating their PU provider in the press a’la Red Bull, a’la McLaren.

      And when the engine is a Mercedes and it provides a platform that has a competitive advantage intrinsically over the rest of the field, it’s a no brainer.

      If the Merc was a third rate engine like the other two then they would be taking more risks up and down the field as the others have done.

      At least they are supplying half the grid with a fantastic PU, unlike Ferrari supplying only themselves and chucking last years bits to Sauber.

  7. Yet another example of why I dearly wish manufacturers would be barred from running race teams.

    1. tgu (@thegrapeunwashed)
      9th November 2017, 13:13

      @spdoyle17 Me too, it would be far better to introduce an engine championship and encourage the manufacturers to supply several teams with identical engines.

    2. Unfortunately this has always been deemed impossible due to a certain brand called Ferrari. I wonder if Liberty will keep holding their hand.

  8. Missed Apex podcast :)
    Finally a crossover of my favorite F1 sources…

    1. When I herd Matthew Carter talk about the engine mode I figured some one like f1fanatic would hear it. Missed Apex is getting better and better.

  9. [Mercedes] didn’t want Sebastian Vettel particularly to get a podium in Spa

    That’s a weird and loaded way of saying Mercedes simply wanted 3 cars on the podium :-/

    1. @andrewf1 or that he was still potentially in the championship fight and they wanted him to get as few points as possible. or they just don’t like him!

  10. petebaldwin (@)
    9th November 2017, 11:58

    I’ve speculated over and over that the manufacturer teams are controlling the pace of their rivals – that in effect, no team running a Mercedes or a Ferrari engine will ever beat their supplier regularly. If Williams managed to beat Mercedes, they’d either lose their engine deal or a new update would appear for the works team that would be delayed for the customers.

    I won’t go into what this would mean regarding Mercedes’ Championship wins because there are too many Lewis fans on here and I don’t want to get into a 50-post argument but it does add weight to the claims that F1 is much more like WWE (Sports Entertainment) than a real sport.

    1. @petebaldwin While it’s not Mercedes or Ferrari, the Renault team has been regularly beaten hands down by Red Bull. Have RB been missed out on any engine upgrades? And that’s a genuine question, I’m not doubting your argument.

      1. Martin O. Powell
        9th November 2017, 13:27

        @Nick Wyatts why not doubt it?
        So it make sense that companies loss £100’s of millions, put lives and livelyhoods at risk for fun? Sir you’ve taken someone’s speculation, and decided it must true!
        If Hamilton qualified on higher than 5th and won the WDC 3 years in a row, people who don’t like him, and more importantly, don’t know him, will still say it’s the car 😞

        1. Once I have been given the information I will evaluate the argument and consider my response. That’s how it should be done.
          I have no idea what your second paragraph means or refers to. Hamilton and the WDC were not mentioned in the original post.

          1. Martin O. Powell
            9th November 2017, 14:35

            @Nick Wyatts it’s not information, it’s speculation! I someone says “I’ve no information to back up my speculation, that little green live on the dark side of Mars”, I’d assume that you would ask for evidence, and not even start to ‘evaluate’? Pete Baldwin has access to the inner workings of Formula One as you and I.

            I sure that you are aware of the kind of commitment required to take part in Formula One, do you believe that they wouldn’t be able to tell if it was WWE?

          2. Martin O. Powell
            9th November 2017, 14:41

            @Nick Wyatts it’s not information, it’s speculation! If someone says “I’ve no information to back up my speculation, that little green men living on the dark side of Mars”. I’d assume that you would ask for evidence, and not even start to ‘evaluate’? Pete Baldwin has the same access to the inner workings of Formula One as you and I.

            I’m sure that you are aware of the kind of commitment required to take part in Formula One, do you believe that they wouldn’t be able to tell if it was WWE?

          3. it’s not information, it’s speculation!

            I’d assume that you would ask for evidence, and not even start to ‘evaluate’

            That’s why I asked Peter Baldwin whether Red Bull had been missed out on any upgrades. If he is able to provide information evaluation can begin. Please read my previous reply wherein I wrote “Once I have been given the information I will evaluate the argument.”

            on the dark side of Mars.

            There is no dark side of Mars. You probably mean the Moon.

            @Nick Wyatts

            Get my username right. It’s nickwyatt.

            I’m sure that you are aware of the kind of commitment required to take part in Formula One, do you believe that they wouldn’t be able to tell if it was WWE?

            Who is this ‘they’ you write about? Is it the participants, audience or organisers?

      2. If Renault chassis is on Par they probably will start with different engine modes. For now, RBR is the best option to show the development of the Renault engine.
        Thats the reason RBR is holding it’s cards close to the chest and can change after 2018 to Honda probably…
        (that by then will be in the same position as Renault is now)

      3. petebaldwin (@)
        9th November 2017, 15:18

        @nickwyatt – That’s true although Renault are no-where near the front so it’s a bit different. If Renault slowed Red Bull down to their pace, it would do more damage than good to the Renault brand.

        The perception is that the Mercedes is the best engine anyway so it doesn’t hurt them to slow the rest down – it makes the other cars more reliable and gives the impression that their car is much better than others using their engine.

        It seems fairly clear to me that there is a level at which these engines can be run reliably however if you push them any harder, components start to fail. The Mercedes customer teams are capped at that level that guarantees very good reliability whereas the Mercedes works team push things a bit harder which results in more reliability issues. Ferrari pushed things really hard this year to bridge the gap to Mercedes and whilst they closed up, they had terrible reliability. Honda are pushing everything well past the limits in an attempt to be vaguely competitive and that’s resulted in them struggling to finish a session.

        1. That seems quite reasonable. It would do Mercedes no good at all if their customer teams kept suffering reliability problems, but it’s a calculated risk for Mercedes themselves to use the ‘secret’ or hidden engine mode and so the existence of a hidden mode would make perfect sense in that respect, and it would ensure that no customer team could challenge them for qualifying or race pace.

          1. I think red bull is running unique software and that is why they badged it a tag heuer. Just my opinion.

  11. Yes but unless you built your own engine (unlikely) you would still be reliant on third party suppliers who could play the same game. Software, that’s the real enemy of parity, so what I would do in a high budget team is employ a hacker. Let’s start. Presumably the PU has its own ECU and in the ECU will be a loading port, so just plug in there and hack away. There must be some vulnerable software engineers at Mercedes, so why don’t they set a ‘honey-trap’ and blackmail him/her for the access codes? F1 could become very exciting again ;)

  12. and?

    customer engine is still better than works renault/honda

  13. I suggest we take this with a grain of salt.

    The engine modes are now correlated very carefully with the track, it could be as simple as that Lotus had a weaker setup. It could be down to resources to explore and optimize the settings.

    It could also be incorrect information, either deliberately, mistakenly, or poorly interpreted.

    It could be Mercedes were willing to let a customer’s engine explode just to gain a podium.

    Of course none of this is downplaying that customer teams are at a distinct disadvantage.

    1. And probably closer to the truth: it could be real.

    2. Dont forget… at this time just about everyone knew Lotus was being sold to Renault. So they likely wanted to keep as much of this under the carpet as possible so reno wouldn’t find out.

    3. @slotopen, from what I can tell, it appears that Matthew Carter has no experience or technical expertise at all in any engineering discipline, or even in any related field of expertise, and had never worked in motorsport or the wider automotive sector before he joined Lotus.

      His background is entirely in financial services, and it appears he was appointed to be the CEO of Lotus because he was a senior manager at a private equity firm owned by the main investor in Genii Capital and which specialised in turning around the finances of failing companies. Even when he was appointed to be CEO of Lotus, he wasn’t involved in the technical operations of the team – he spent his time focussing on the commercial operations of the team instead.

      To put it bluntly, given his absence of technical knowledge and the fact that his remit at Lotus was solely to focus on the finances of the team, I have to question whether he understands what he is saying given a number of his comments doesn’t make sense when looked at from a technical point of view. He’s effectively saying that you can overcome being grip limited in a corner by going into that corner at even higher speed – taking to a logical absurdity, his logic would dictate that a driver shouldn’t brake at all as he will always generate more downforce at a higher speed.

      At the very least, given that he was not involved in operating the cars themselves, I really have to strongly question how reliable his comments are – he’s probably no better informed than the average fan on this site is about the workings of those engines, and if anything I think that there are a number of fans here whose technical knowledge would be superior to his.

  14. Something doesn’t smell right in this story.

    The engine modes aren’t remotely controlled from the pit-wall – the driver selects them on the instructions of the engineers.

    So… why couldn’t Lotus access this after the event?

    1. Probably a clause in their engine supply contract, which would be terminated for the next year if they broke it?

    2. The engines were taken away by the supplier in between races. Software can be altered between races so the same set of steering wheel adjustments won’t necessarily access the same engine maps.

    3. OTA software update can change the button sequence required to activate this mode.

  15. And what no one is saying here is that Ferrari gives their customer teams the previous year engines.

    1. Well, one of their customers (and even then that is only for this season). Haas get the current engine and Sauber will join them in getting the most recent spec next season.

    2. Previous years engines cant be turned up to current spec with a flick of the switch.
      If Mercedes can just give any customer car they want an extra .8 to help them slow down Ferrari or Red bull, that can change the outcome of a race.
      Example would be if say a safety car restart with a Williams in front of a Ferrari, give that Williams an extra .8 sec faster car, and that Ferrari is going to have a hard time passing.

  16. I am SHOCKED

    Mercedes has engine modes and special engine modes – no other team has this, there must be something unfair going on

    Every team has engine modes and I would bet all engine mfg have modes they don’t share with customers. Some won’t even sell current engines to customers. You have to buy year old engine.

    Nice story GRO got an engine mode that helped him, next

    1. Whose customers have to buy a year-old engine?

      If you’re referring to Ferrari, Haas uses current Ferrari engines and taking a year-old engine was Sauber’s own choice, gambling on grabbing a few points early in the season while others struggled with unreliability with their new engines.

  17. These are the things that make a driver stand out as ‘The greatest ever’ against those from the past who could only dream of this kind of advantage.

    1. Several drives enjoyed huge advantages in the past, being it that their cars were much better than all others.

      1. Ah ah, so true @bakano. Prost and Senna benefited from the famous MP4/4, yet no one is saying they are frauds and it was down to the car…

  18. William B Davis
    9th November 2017, 15:08

    With all of this advantage, it’s a constant wonder why Hamilton is considered the GOAT, when he has effectively been driving in a different formula for the past 3 seasons….

    1. Well Mr Davis so you say, but to deny Hamilton’s indisputable skill is to to accept that Rosberg, and more recently Bottas had inferior equipment? That this is patently untrue is evidenced by Rosberg’s championship in 2016, a year that Lewis got beat plain & simple. OK, Merc May have superior engine modes but your team mate is the unifying benchmark. The moving target of ‘preferential software modes’ makes it extraordinarily difficult to identify individual driver skills, but wherever the goalposts are planted the cream invariable rises to the top. The fact is that Hamilton fought some undesirable characteristics of the 2017 Mercedes and still won through. Admittedly the competition was weak but his team mate certainly had the same equipment. I find it strange and a little unfortunate for Lewis, that his achievements may always be overshadowed by the “My granny could have won it that car” mantra. Button suffered the same in 2009 but you still have to get the darned thing to the flag despite the attentions of 19 other racers and a pit crew with hangovers.

      1. Fair points @baron. If I may, I’ll add another. I’m far from a Hamilton defender. I do think he is already one of the greats, and with a few more good seasons will hold every major stat available. But if nothing else, his willingness to make a move to a different team and his ability (or luck?) in choosing his new team has allowed his ability to shine.

        Another site included a story yesterday repeating what we have heard before–Alonso could have been at Red Bull for the seasons that Vettel ended up winning. He chose to be greedy because he wanted a single stopgap year before looking for a better option. Had he settled down at RBR for a two-year contract instead of back at Renault, he could (hypothetically) be a six-time WDC. RBR finished 7th in 2008 with 1 podium, Alonso on the 5th place team with only 3 more podiums wanted his freedom.

        Four years later (2012) Hamilton took his chances leaving the 3rd place team with 13 podiums total (incl 4 wins and 7 total podiums of his own that year) to go to the 5th place team with 3 podiums.

        I’m not saying that either was smart or stupid, or that it was necessarily some skill in making that choice. But I respect Hamilton taking a chance. Alonso should have rather than playing it safe in his off years. (…hindsight, i know…)

        1. @hobo I’m sure 90% of the reason Hamilton moved to Mercedes was money, less PR work, and more importantly, to get away from Ron Dennis.

          1. Colin NotMcRae
            10th November 2017, 0:23

            When Hamilton moved to Mercedes, he turned down a McLaren offer that, in the words of Martin Whitmarsh, was “…a very, very big financial offer, bigger than I believe any Formula 1 driver is enjoying today.”.
            It’s a myth to suggest, given this information, that Hamilton moved to Mercedes for money.


          2. @mashiat @colinnotmcrae I assume mashiat was being sarcastic. But moving from McLaren to Merc at that point was a leap. It wasn’t impossible for Meec to get better but no one saw the last 4 years coming.

        2. “He chose to be greedy because he wanted a single stopgap year before looking for a better option”

          Alonso craved ‘the Schumacher treatment’ at Ferrari, nothing else. What he didn’t realise was the impact Brawn and Todt had on the team and that they would go into decline without.

          It’s been known for some time Alonso was wanted by Honda before Brawn took over and also wanted by RedBull. The two key people for many F1 championships are Newey and Brawn. Only an idiot would have looked elsewhere.
          Eddie Irvine once said ‘ideally you choose a Newey or Brawn team’
          Alonso could have had all of Lewis’ championships at Merc or all of Vettel’s at Red Bull, as you suggest. Luck has always been a big big part of F1. Look what happened to Senna and Moss. Both out before getting ‘The’ dominant car/position in team.

          1. Isn’t the clarity of hindsight wonderful. If only FA had a magic crystal ball that saw as clearly ahead as some see behind.

          2. @bigjoe I think Alonso felt invincible, two titles vs MSC and nearly one at McLaren. But he was probably short sighted.

            @robbie – Yes, this is all with hindsight. Was just saying Hamilton made the move. And I’m not big on HAM.

  19. That’s the mode Mercedes always uses in Q3.
    In Q2 you see the real differences between cars.
    I believe Ferrari has a mode too.

    So the fact that Max was 2nd in Q1 was a great performance, or it shows how good the RB13 is now.

  20. WeatherManNX01
    9th November 2017, 15:42

    Yet one more bugaboo Liberty is going to have to root out of F1.

    Remember when Lotus and eventually Manor went to Mercedes engines after 2014, and we all thought it would be a boost. Now we know why it wasn’t. Williams, Force India, Sauber, and Haas are all literally paying nine-figure sums to be also-rans.

    Money isn’t the only problem that has to be sorted out for the sake of the competition. It’s these secret engine modes that mean that the engine manufacturers are the only ones that can win. (Red Bull was a long-time de facto works entry for Renault, and even though they’re better than Renault now, it remains to be seen how their relationship changes as Renault progresses with their car.)

    I fully expect that Ferrari does the same. Renault might, too, even if it’s hidden by their car and weaker engine. And if Honda had ever supplied a second team in addition to McLaren, I would fully expect that McLaren’s works status would have given them the advantage of secret modes. This is also why we shouldn’t expect Sauber to suddenly be running in the upper midfield next year even with current Ferrari engines.

  21. And here I believed “strat six” was the last mode. Ha. Strat one is full power down to strat six which is race mode fuel saving. So intuitively one might think that “unassigned” strat 7 mode would have been like a limp home mode or something! Cheeky cheeky Mercedes…

  22. Did anyone bother to read Paddy Lowe’s comments on the whole customer engine topic?

  23. So the average difference was what… three tenths, with him pushing hard?

    Impressive but wouldn’t call it game-changing, especially given that being in the mode was almost certainly giving him a higher chance of a failure.

  24. Urban legend.
    Perhaps not more power and just better torque delivery but more stress on the power unit necessitating limited availability.
    So are Renault giving their own team less horse power than is available to Redbull? How does one explain that gap.

    1. The Red bull chassis would be much better than Renault, maybe once they hit the front they can manipulate things but not much point fighting in the midfield.

      1. So why do people think the Williams or Force India chassis is the equal of Mercedes such that its only through engine modes Mercedes can stay ahead

  25. Whilst cost concerns must be the key driver for the new engine regs, this story is the main thing wrong with the current regs. I believe in the new regs every team should have access to equal performance from the engines. So if the manufacturer has 10 laps of mode 7 per race, so do all their customers. That way the chassis is the only (well, major!) differentiator.

    This, and a spec mgu-H and I’d be very happy!

  26. Apparently Mercedes has an engine mode that changes the speed of the earth also.

  27. When reading the title I thought this was about this year’s British Grand Prix. I think it’s a quite interesting story, but some parts are a bit odd. How can a car itself perform better because of a different engine mode? That doesn’t make any sense. More engine power is not going to improve the car’s cornering abilities.

    I must say during the race I was a bit underwhelmed by Grosjean’s progress at the end of the race. He was closing the gap to Vettel, but he was never really in a position to overtake before Vettel’s tire exploded. Now I understand why. He was only able to challenge Vettel due to that aggressive engine mode. It’s probably the famous Mercedes qualifying mode that stresses the engine way too much to be used for very long times in the race. It seems Mercedes were playing a risky game to see what would give in first: Vettel’s tire or Grosjean’s engine.

    1. Did you just read the headline and ignore the article?

  28. @neilosjames The article states a difference of 8 tenths, which is highly significant in F1

    1. @mashiat the article isn’t entirely clear – only his fastest lap was eight-tenths quicker, but the average improvement, from reading the graph, was only three (maybe three and a half) tenths.

  29. This adds up. Lotus had gone from winning races to struggling to finish in the points when the new engine regulations arrived. At the time I couldn’t understand where this fast pace in Spa had come from

  30. Depressing.


  31. Very easy to sit in an armchair and criticise from a position of knowing almost nothing about the situation. Power unit durability, especially in aggressive modes, is heavily dependent on a million factors which vary greatly between works and customer teams.

    If I was a power unit supplier I wouldn’t want my hardware to be seen to be hopelessly unreliable due to customer teams whose cooling arrangements, oil supplier, transmission etc etc etc aren’t up to the task of running the most aggressive modes, regularly detonating my power units and then publicly blaming me.

    1. Morning Toto

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