Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes, Baku City Circuit, 2018

Mercedes are one second slower in Baku than last year

2018 Azerbaijan Grand Prix

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Mercedes dominated qualifying in the first two races at the Baku City Circuit, leaving the competition over a second behind in 2016 and 2017. But the world champions have taken a big step backwards in 2018.

The team has lost its way badly at the start of the new season and wasn’t able to get within one second of its quickest time from last year in qualifying.

They are not the only team which has failed to make progress. Half of the 10 teams posted slower times than they managed at this track last year. However it is striking that all three Mercedes-powered teams are among them, while all the Ferrari-powered teams have got quicker at what is one of the most power-sensitive circuits on the calendar.

The change in time for this year’s race will also have an effect. Conditions are the track are cooler and windier than when this race was last held in June.

For the third time in four races Toro Rosso are slower than they were last year. This time instead of being a few hundredths off they are one-and-a-half seconds slower. However that will owe something to the circumstances of how their cars were eliminated during Q1, when Brendon Hartley picked up a puncture and inadvertently delayed team mate Pierre Gasly.

Renault has made the biggest gain year-on-year. McLaren is next, but the team’s fastest time of the weekend so far occurred in Q2, where Fernando Alonso had the benefit of a substantial tow. They were three-tenths of a second slower than that pace in qualifying, though it still wouldn’t have been enough for him to reach Q3.

While pole sitters Ferrari have got quicker year-on-year, the pole position time for this track compared to last season is slower. This is the first time this has happened this year.

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2018 Azerbaijan 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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23 comments on “Mercedes are one second slower in Baku than last year”

  1. Should the graph say 2017 to 2018?

    It’s a trend on the mercedes engines. Have they played it too safe reliability wise and lost out in performance? Are they playing the long game and seize the opportunities once their rivals start to have penalties? Are they playing politics? Do you guys have your hats?

    1. I don’t think this is related to engine at all. Williams and Force India have both chassis problems. Mercedes this year seens to have more downforce and drag.

    2. @johnmilk Ok. I’ve found my shiny hat. It’s says that Mercedes was temporary detune thier cars to help their rally against bigger fuel limits and control room ban. They’ll turn it back to normal after it had serve the cause.

      1. @ruliemaulana: Keep that hat in a safe place. That actually makes sense.

  2. I think the times would have been quicker on supersofts, these ultrasofts wear out too quick over a hot lap.

  3. Very worrying for Mercedes, remember last year they qualifyed 1 second in front of the Ferrari, Baku is supposed to be their track.
    I honestly believe Ferrari have won the WDC unless Vettel makes mistakes like last year, their car looks the fastest by a good margin, I wouldn’t be surprised to see them win easily in Barcelona.

    1. @francorchamps17
      Ferrari isn’t fastest by a good margin. Mercedes was in Australia, but Scuderia lucked in thanks to VSC. Bottas was only 0.166s off pole in Bahrain and matched Vettel in the race. In China, Ferrari might have dominated qualifying but it was different story in the race where Bottas stayed close enough to do a successful undercut.

      1. Sorry @michal2009b but you’re completely wrong.

        In Australia Hamilton had a good margin after putting in a great lap vs bad ones from the Ferrari drivers. The real gap in Australia was 0.3 at the very most. Both Vettel and Kimi made mistakes so the gap looked much larger than it really was.

        Ferrari then dominated qualifying in China. Truly dominated it. They were quicker in Bahrain too and they have now pulled out a .3 advantage at a track they were nearly a second behind at last year.

        The season is truly over and Ferrari have won it. At most tracks last season Vettel was in the hunt for pole ( he often qualified second ) but the gaps were usually very small. Mercedes did dominate a few events but baku was one of them. If Ferrari are now quickest at tracks where Mercedes dominated last year then wait until we get to Monaco, Hungry, Singapore, Russia, Spain etc for utter Ferrari domination.

        1. The season is truly over and Ferrari have won it.

          wow… and that’s your prediction with 17 races to go.
          Can i get some investment advice for next year. That crystal ball is remarkable!

  4. Merc, where is your party-mode? cmmon’, please activate it to spice-up the competition and don’t give up pole to Ferrari while nobody can’t overtake Ferrari on fair race.

    1. *because nobody can overtake Ferrari on fair race.

      1. And if they pass it is not fair!

    2. Yeah, cos everyone wants to see another Mercedes lockout 🙄

  5. So Vettel going to be WDC this year not because Ferrari is getting better but only because Mercedes getting slower…

  6. With this years regulations limiting the whole season to 3 PU’s components before penalties are assessed, it is possible that Mercedes detuned the ICE to achieve longer reliability. Ferrari’s decision might cost them at the end of the season.

  7. These charts are not particularly meaningful given the massive differences in temperature, wind etc. also, as mentioned in the article you have artificial differences like the toro rosso fiasco.

    essentially, you need some kind of mean/median lap time as a marker of the overall trend, and a coefficient of variation to show what is going on in a particular year. without that you can’t use these numbers to show anything really. if it had been raining you wouldn’t make the same comparisons; the cooler temperatures and wind are also influential, but to a lesser degree.

    all we know is some teams were slower this year, but it tells us nothing about why.

    1. Meh, on its own you can’t make conclusions from it but it’s interesting and relevant data anyway. Over a season/ half a season you absolutely will be able to make those comparisons.

  8. Think it’s probably because it was changed to an April date.

  9. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
    28th April 2018, 20:51

    Great article – 3 for 3 for Mercedes powered teams and to the tune of 1 second for 2 teams.

    If you exclude Toro Rosso which switched engines, they are the 3 teams that have been impacted the most and the Factory team is impacted more than Red Bull or Ferrari.

  10. Halo may also be playing a big role here as well: increasing the drag of the cars should sure surely have an impact in the circuit with the longest straight in the calendar. I would expect something similar in Italy.

    Obviously the trend that Mercedes engines are the ones losing the most seems to be significative, although different conditions compared to last year makes it difficult to judge

  11. ” (..) but the team’s fastest time of the weekend so far occurred in Q2, where Fernando Alonso had the benefit of a substantial tow. They were three-tenths of a second slower than that pace in qualifying, though it still wouldn’t have been enough for him to reach Q3.” – ??

  12. It’s not really that much a surprise. The cars are heavier and have more drag. Add in the fact engines are all a few races in so probably a touch down on power, then gustier track conditions, sure, the cars are inherently faster than this time last year but this track plays away from where the gains have been made onto where the bigger losses are. We might see similar at a couple of other tracks with “extremes”, like Singapore, Imola and perhaps even Monaco.

    I also think Mercedes might struggle more in the windy conditions, they’ve never been good following other cars so it seems their design is very aero sensitive, well, add in some 50mph cross winds and i don’t see it exactly making the car less sensitive….

  13. In my mind this season is still a 2 or 3 teams battle, and even between teams, the pecking order isn’t set yet: If Kimi regains some luck, he can challenge Vettel. Ricciardo has benefitted immensely from Verstappens immature driving errors – the last one costing Verstappen a probable win, should beat some reality check into the young talent. Hamilton seems shaken due to the fact that Mercedes have lost their dominance, and this paves the way for Bottas, who needs to step up a bit to become a real contender. We don’t know much, before we see if the power units can last the number of races they have to. But it is a very interesting season this year:-)

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