Sebastian Vettel, Lewis Hamilton, Sochi Autodrom, 2018

Mercedes exaggerated how quick Ferrari were – Vettel

2018 F1 season

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Sebastian Vettel says Mercedes have exaggerated how competitive Ferrari have been after their championship rivals moved ahead on outright performance in the last two races.

In Russia Mercedes qualified further ahead of their closest rival than at any stage this year since the season-opening Australian Grand Prix. Although Ferrari has had the quickest car on one-lap pace more often than not so far this year (see chart below) Vettel says Mercedes have downplayed how good their car has been.

“I think it’s always been very close,” said Vettel in Sochi. “I think the other side have been very good at communicating that they have an inferior car but I don’t think that was the case.

“We will see. We have a strong car, we know that, a car that we can work with.”

Mercedes trackside engineering director Andrew Shovlin said the upgrades the team brought for last weekend’s race moved them further ahead of Ferrari.

“They did work,” he said. “We’ve had a pretty good development programme on this car.

“Those developments have been having a good effect. You can see that we’ve pulled a small qualifying advantage to Ferrari in recent races and we’re hoping that we can carry that through to the remaining races this year.”

Asked if he was surprised by Mercedes’ resurgence, Vettel said: “Yes and no.

“Obviously it’s not nice to have a gap like that. But then I think I’ve been way more realistic about the gaps in general and the performance between the cars. I know we have a great car, I’m not doubting that. But I believe their car is very strong too and has been very strong.

“I think it’s been a reasonable match. There’s been qualifying sessions where we’ve had the upper hand by a tiny bit and they had the upper hand by a little bit. Sometimes also a bit more like [Russia] or France or other races. I think we have a good car, we need to make sure we keep improving it.”

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Dieter Rencken
Dieter Rencken has held full FIA Formula 1 media accreditation since 2000, during which period he has reported from over 300 grands prix, plus...
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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  • 69 comments on “Mercedes exaggerated how quick Ferrari were – Vettel”

    1. Excuses for failure I’ll say. You remove the 25 lost in Germany + the points lost in France + those lost in Monza and Singapore and suddenly the picture looks very different and Vettel could be leading the WDC still if he has capitalised.

      1. Lets not forget China(closed the door too early on Max) and Baku.

        1. The fact that you blame Vettel for the incident in China discredits your opinion on any racing related matters.

          1. Agreed. Many things were done wrong by Seb this year, but China wasn’t one of them.

      2. The German GP actually stands as a 32 points lost, since Vettel lost 25 by crashing and not winning but also gave 7 extra points to Lewis (whom scored 25 points instead of 18).

        1. Actually it’s a 38 point swing if you consider that Hamilton was running 5th (would be 4th after Verstappen eventual retirement). Vettel was leading by +8 points before the race, so the difference would have been +21 points if he won. Instead he crashed, that triggered the Safety Car, Bottas and Kimi pitted while Hamilton, who was about to pit, stayed out eventually after the team couldn’t decide what to do and inherited the lead and the win. After the race Vettel was -17 points behind Hamilton…meaning a 38 point swing. Now imagine, with 5 races left to go, that Vettel would lie only 12 points behind Hamilton instead of 50!!! That unforced crash really cost him the championship, not the race-incident crashes in France and Italy.

          1. No it’s definitely 32, Hamilton was not about to pit when Vettel crashed, he was however on the back of Bottas and Raikkonen with newer fresher tyres. If anything the safety car hurt Hamilton, allowing Bottas and Raikkonen to put fresh tyres on and be right on the back of him.

            Without the safety car they would have had to either pit anyway (and fall 20 seconds behind Hamilton) or try and make it to the end on their current tyres, and given how much slower their race pace was at that point it seems extremely unlikely either of them would have been able to keep Hamilton behind.

        2. Hamilton was catching Vettel at about 1.5-2 seconds per lap before he crashed, though, and there were enough laps left that he would have definitely caught and passed him, also since Seb’s tyres were harder and much older.

          So really he only lost maximum 18 points, maybe even 15 or 12 if you consider that Bottas and Kimi might have passed him as well.

          Not excusing the mistake, of course, that probably did more mental harm than anything else and is probably indirectly costing him now as well.

    2. Isn’t there a rumour as well that the FIA have put extra sensors on the cars and suddenly Ferrari haven’t had as much power out of the corners? Perhaps they were doing something technically illegal and the FIA have caught onto it.

      1. apparently that is everywhere in the internet but is yet to make into a trusted source, the one that gets close to it is the AS journal in Spain, but even though they aren’t an obscure internet page they are far from being reliable.

        I’ve seen also that the Mercs have some sort of mechanism that allows them to have 4 wheel steering, but that one is even harder to find, I saw it on twitter but can’t trace it anymore

        1. found it

          it is from motorsport actually, but italian, so taht might explain it. Also I don’t understand pretty much anything, so if anyone wants to help out, please do

          1. @johnmilk this article actually speaks about a possible way found by Merc to simulate 4 steering wheels. It is however poorly written, I won’t give it much credit.

            1. thank you @m-bagattini, appreciated

        2. Actually, the sensor/power thing first got out from Auto Motor und Sport who are really very well informed (more so when it’s about Red Bull, but well connected nevertheless) @johnmilk, though they do not claim the new sensor and the relative lack of power are definitely connected (which shows they are careful not to make a ‘illegal’ claim abt. what Ferrari was doing, even if they believe it might well be).

      2. I believe this article has covered it, but its just speculating, rather than hard facts. Makes an interesting read, and very believable. Page is in German, needs to be translated.

        https://www.auto-motor-und-sport.de/formel-1/ferrari-fia-sensor-power-vorteil/

      3. @hugh11
        Something that in my opinion has not gotten as much attention/discussion as it ought to.
        Call it coincidence, but there was certainly a drop in performance after the investigation.

        1. So FIA doesn’t stand for Ferrari International Assistance after all? You’d think if this is so unsubstantiated, so under the radar, FIA would just let it go. I guess they don’t care to favour someone else always winning the Championships after all. Interesting how Zak Brown predicted that only Mercedes would win until the next new chapter in 2021 brings a question mark into the equation.

        2. An alternative theory – and it’s source is sadly simply my imagination, so take it with a decent pinch of salt, but what if the Ferrari engine is fast only when pushed beyond it’s tolerances, and they’ve had to slow down to ensure their engines make it to the end of the season – coming second is respectable, having an engine blow up is a PR disaster.

          My suspicions first came early when Ferrari seemed to be running 0.3s slower through every session compared to Merc until qualifying, when they would suddenly have that time over them – I thought this made a lot of sense, protect the engine until you get to the sessions (or laps in the race) which matter for the race result, then give it all you’ve got. What do you guys think?

        3. @stubbornswiss

          Coincidence just like after oil burn limit imposed, and Ferrari literally disappeared. After this double battery controversy and extra sensors employed, suddenly Ferrari droppbed back and say Merc out developped them… if somethint looks like a fish swims like a fish and smells like a fish than it is a fish… which is caught and cooked now… my opinion… damn that ferrari at spa passed Hamilton like he wasnt there! To overcome such air friction you gotta have massive power! Where did they get it? How about double battery? After sensors somehow double battery stopped? Like what did happen in Singapore? Me thinks fishy..

          1. @mysticus I’m going to have to agree with you here. Too much coincidence to ignore. They have been blatantly secretive this season.

      4. I think to put all this to rest we need o email Pedro de la Rosa and see what he can do for us

    3. Fudge Kobayashi (@)
      3rd October 2018, 10:38

      Speed trap data doesn’t lie Seb. Of course in isolation even a Honda could use full deployment on one straight and post something respectable but the Ferrari had a consistent deployment advantage down all straights in Spa AND was visually running a little bit more wing than the Mercedes.

      Covering his own back here.

      1. Speed trap data always lies because you don’t know what downforce levels they are running on the wings.

    4. Ferrari had a great car this year they as a team didn’t make the most of it. When you win the first 2 races and get pole in the third. you win Bahrain and china are more proper tracks (Australia a difficult track to read for form). As well as points lost Germany, Hungary Monza etc. As for Mercedes they’ve made a clear step forward in recent races but its Ferrari that’s gone slightly backwards whether it’s related to fia monitoring battery etc who knows? And that graph also shows part of the story performance related. japan will be do or die if merc romp to win its game over.

    5. I think the Ferrari has been marginally better over the season to this point, but they haven’t been very good at taking full advantage when they’ve been quicker. Mercedes have.

      Had he driven at the same standard as Hamilton, Vettel would be leading and Ferrari would most likely be ahead in the constructors’ championship too.

      1. @neilosjames

        The only difference between the two drivers is when Hamilton has his season regular bad races, he stays on the track and has a lot of luck. Vettel in a struggling car makes mistakes and suffers with bad timing. Put Hamilton in a Ferrari and we’ll see the same errors during his barren years at McLaren. Hamilton’s driving was average at best when the Merc didn’t work its tires properly.

        1. Hamilton is average? Funny….
          Put Lewis in a Ferrari and he would have wrapped up the championship by now.

        2. Sorry man, I am a Seb fan and I never liked Lewis, but he drove so well this year while Seb made mistakes. Hamilton was also lucky in some races an benefitted more from his teammate. Unfortunately Kimi was rarely in a position to hinder Lewis.

          1. This is not been emphasized enough. If you look at Russia as an example, Vettel was able to keep the pressure on both Mercedes and even jump one at the stop, but he had no help at all from Kimi. Hamilton was able to help himself by pressuring Vettel into an error and he had Bottas to help cover his six to prevent Vettel from returning the favor. Kimi should have been there to pressure Mercedes with an early stop for a tactical early undercut, or a switch to two stops to force Bottas to cover that, or to stay out long and back them up into Vettel, but instead he was nowhere. Whenever Vettel had a mistake, Kimi was rarely there to pressure Hamilton or take points from him.

            1. Vettel himself pushed for Kimi year after year, so, he has no one to blame there but himself.

              He even asked for Kimi again for next year. It may be working very well for him.

        3. Hamilton was average on 2 races this year : China and Canada. He was nowhere.
          And still bagged 22 points on this races combined.

          Hamilton’s worst this year is 10 points on really weak races for him.
          10 points is what Vettel got in Monza, a race he should’ve won.

          And now you know why one has 50 points on the other.

          1. Let’s not forget that Hammy bottled qualifying in Russia.

            In a Ferrari he’s starting 4th on the grid and not getting assistance from a team mate.

            You can only imagine the howls if Vettel choked in his final run of qualifying.

            The Mercedes speed advantage over Ferrari and Hammy having a doormat teammate handing him race wins masks those errors though.

            1. Oh dear. Oh dear-oh dear-oh dear.
              “Hammy” (which by the way is a pathetic shot you continue to use) “bottled” qualy? Honestly…take a loooooong hard look at yourself my good man. This is the guy who holds the all time pole position record. The guy who 99% of people can fully acknowledge as being at least the fastest on the current grid. The guy who continually pulls something spectacular out the bag on that last qualy lap…hell, you only got to go back to the previous qualy in Singapore to see a “Hammy” special.
              You, my friend, need to take look deep inside yourself and consider if F1 is the sport for you.

            2. For sure Verstappen is quicker than Hammy in equal equipment. Rosberg was quicker than him in 2016 after all.

            3. I didn’t realise fewer poles and wins meant you were faster. By that token Seb’s blown Lewis away this year.

        4. @Big Joe

          I can only assume we’re watching different races.

    6. Ferrari had a second sensor in the car and suddenly Ferrari lost their so called advantage. I always said that the Ferrari is not legal, it’s simply not possible that Ferrari suddenly outqualified Mercedes in two races time by 0.4 in Bahrain while Mercedes out qualified everybody by 0.7 a second at Australia. Ferrari need to be disqualified with their illegal car

    7. @keithcollantine how was that graph made? With pole laps, fastest lap?

      1. I believe it will be each car’s fastest lap for the race weekend, which will usually be the Q3 lap (unless there was a wet qualy, in which case the fastest lap would probably be from free practice or earlier part of qualifying).

        1. Qualifying pace really doesn’t tell the full story – I think the Merc has been more impressive on race pace this year than qualy pace.

    8. Autosport had a good article showing how Lewis’ sudden dominance coincided with their new tire cooling designs, wheels and hubs.
      The hyping up of Ferrari comes from people wanting to promote Lewis.

      1. Vettels mistakes are what promote Hamilton more than anything else.

        1. I think Rosberg summed it up perfectly at Monza: “You cannot beat Lewis Hamilton to a championship by making so many mistakes […]”

    9. I think some of the performance advantage Merc has enjoyed has to do with how Merc have now understood the tyres. Toto I believe said as much.

    10. I like this one thing about Vettel. He always always praises his team. Here, he is talking about how Mercedes downplayed its own car causing everyone to think Ferrari is very fast. But he doesn’t go overboard and say that Ferrari has always been 2nd fastest. He still says Ferrari has a very strong car. There was another press conference where Lewis said that Ferrari now have more power than Mercedes. To which Vettel replied, I hope you are right because that is what we want, more power and fast car.
      Other drivers (Hamilton, to some extent and Alonso, to a very large extent) tend to downplay their cars’ performance, implying that it is they, the drivers, who are making all the difference. Hamilton went on record after Spa saying, “He needs more power from his engine”. Just one race later after Mercedes won at Monza, Toto went on record to say “We had the quickest car on Sunday”. I can deduce only one motive for Toto’s comments. He wanted to make his factory feel good about the win and not just the driver.

      Regarding Alonso, I remember once in 2012 he said that Ferrari was the 5th or 6th fastest car. Enough said!

      1. I bet they would be much happier with him downplaying his car and winning races than being humble and crashing into the wall, alone, while leading, like he did.

        Results speak for themselves, and more than anything else.

    11. I noticed on Italian websites like gazetta.it which are obviously very Pro-Ferrari.
      Most of the people there are of the opinion that Ferrari is having a great car this year and its Vettel who didnt make the most of it.
      Now it seems like Vettel has noticed this growing criticism and trying to shift the blame.
      When Ferrari is ahead and quicker they win like 2 out of 5 races. And when Mercedes move ahead in devlopment they win like 4 out of 5 races. Thats the difference.

      When you can win, you must win.
      When you cant win, you must try.

      Also Bottas has been a big help for Hamilton, whereas that boring past his prime Kimi is invisible most of the races and not of any help to Vettel.

      1. Who said Gazzetta is pro-Ferrari? Just because they are Italian doesn’t mean they are pro-Ferrari. As a matter of fact, there are improtant sites in Italy life Formulapassion.it who are seriously anti-Ferrari and especially anti-Vettel. The thing is, in Italy they have their allegiances and the current Ferrari administration was never liked by some. Furthermore, there is a lot of Alonso fans who simply cannot stand Vettel. I’m not Italian, but I learned Italian in school and speak it fluently and love the Sky F1 Italia coverage with Jacque Villeneuve, but have also stopped reading a few of these sites who also block comments if you don’t share a similar perspective on events.

    12. I don’t think there’s any question of Mercedes downplaying their performance. They used to do it when they were totally dominant, too – telling everyone the pack has closed up and then disappear down the road over a second faster than everyone else. They’ve done it this year, constantly saying their car is much weaker than the Ferrari when it’s only losing a small amount. The gap between Mercedes/Ferrari last year was bigger than the gap between Ferrari/Mercedes this year.

      Though Ferrari are completely hopeless at developing a car. They lost out last year because they failed to develop it and Mercedes overtook them at the break and it seems the same thing has happened again – the performance advantage, though slight, that Ferrari had over Mercedes is clearly not there now.

      Yes, Vettel’s thrown away some decent points – just as much as Ferrari’s dumb strategies have cost them and has to be said bad luck has gone their way a lot. Though if Mercedes continue to be as dominant as they were in Sochi at the remaining races it doesn’t matter anyway, they’d still have lost. They had a good car and failed to extract the maximum out of it and that’s not all on Vettel’s head, and now they’re behind because they can’t match Mercedes development pace and are running out of races to do something about it. Perhaps the mystery sensor has something to do with it or not, we’ll probably never know for sure.

      Unless Ferrari improve strategically and can keep their development pace over a whole year they’re never going to beat Mercedes who excel in both of those areas – regardless of who’s driving the car. Has to be said Red Bull are also much sharper at both strategy and development and if Honda come good next year then Ferrari won’t even see a podium let alone a championship.

      1. Agreed. Very balanced view.

    13. Mercedes have clearly had the best car.

      Pace advantage in qualifying doesn’t translate to the race.

      The only races where Ferrari were genuinely quickest were Baku, Germany and Spa.

      Vettel built a points lead on the back of Mercedes blunders and Hamilton underperforming/mistakes.

      1. I generally agree, but I think Ferrari were also quickest at Monza, but got played by Mercedes. Mercedes’ fake pit stop, followed by Bottas defending Raikkonen hard won them that race.

        Merc’s race pace this year has been very impressive – most especially their tyre deg, which seems to be better than Ferrari’s.

    14. digitalrurouni
      3rd October 2018, 14:49

      I think Ferrari started of the year with the best car. Couple to that the fact that Vettel threw away some very good opportunities, and Hamilton maintaining the same level of performance somewhat, and the faster pace of Mercedes understanding their own car and better pace of improving it – this is where we end up in the championship. To my mind right now the Mercedes is the car to beat. And they also have a certain Lewis Hamilton who has been near flawless and the championship is pretty much theirs. Which is one of the reasons why I found it utterly insane/terrible/unreasonable etc for not letting Valterri take the win at Sochi. Ugh.

    15. Ferrari clearly does not lack development talent, their virtual 2 battery ERS feature was brilliant, and their car is competitive on all tracks.

      The red and silver cars are more or less equally quick. The difference has been the drivers, so far.

    16. What he is saying is “my car was not the best one. Things were even for most of the time. And i lost because of it”.
      When he made some of his worst mistakes this year he said that different from last year, they can fight and afford to lose some results because they had the car to fightback.

      Now he comes with these talks.
      Ferrari might be on the edge with him. They gave him everything he ever asked of them. A car to fight on equal foot. And he failed miserably with silly mistakes and misjudgement.

    17. From the very beginning of the year, the Ferrari had a massive amount of excess oil smoke coming out of the car out of the corners Is it really another coincidence that this has also suddenly been stopped?

      1. You’re not wrong. I had to go back and wacth some highlights, but yeah that seems to have stopped too. Remember really early in the year, when huge clouds would come out of the Ferrari garages when they started the cars? That hasn’t been seen since the FIA announced the new measures to cut down on oil burning way back around Spain/Canada.

        It’s worth noting last year, when the FIA brought in steps against oil burning around Monza time, it was the Ferrari’s that suffered in the end. Showing a loss of pace, but only after the engine failures in Malaysia and Japan. The subsequent loss of pace suggested to me that they’d ‘dialled up’ the engines to compensate for the loss of power from not burning oil and had to then dial back down after the failures.

        We might be seeing the same here in a way, they’ve had the engines dialled up and are now having to bring them down again to preserve them. Would explain the lack of pace on the Ferrari relative to how it’s been previously, just simple engine roulette and no rule bending at all.

        Actually, considering the engine issues in Malaysia and Japan last year, if it was due to the oil burning ban, makes me wonder if both Ferrari’s would have made it to the end of Singapore even without the crash. Considering the higher temps there put more on the engines.

    18. YellowSubmarine
      3rd October 2018, 17:57

      Fascinating…does it point to more pressure on vettel behind the scenes at ferrari, along the lines of, “you’ve had the best car all season long, your opponent was and is in a slower car and has had a DNF – unlike you – so how come you’re now all these points behind”?
      Wonder whether Lewis’ earlier allusion to “ferrari tricks” had anything to do with the FIA and its new sensors and the subsequent, maybe totally coincidental – yeah, right – drop in pace by the red cars?

      https://www.racefans.net/2018/08/26/ferrari-f1-car-tricks-not-illegal-hamilton/

    19. Hockenheim was a dumb mistake, but no-one goes pointing to Spain 2016 to say that Hammy deserved to lose the title in 2016.

      Hammy makes a huge blunder and luckily for him manages to take out Rosberg in the process as well thus nullifying the error.

      I don’t even think Hammy got a penalty for that error. Incredible.

      1. Spain 2016 was sixof one and half a dozen of the other. Hamilton wasn’t penalized because Rosberg was just as much to blame as he was.

        Rosberg had engine trouble -He’d got it in the wrong setting apparently- and was losing pace, Hamilton saw the opportunity, went for the pass -on a gap that was barely even there admittedly- and Rosberg defended too aggressively considering his own situation, showing him onto the grass. Subsequent loss of grip put Hamilton in the spin, had Rosberg had full power he might have been clear when Hamilton came back around.

        Hamilton didn’t plan for his back wheel to hit Rosberg. Therefore no penalty. Simple racing incident. Much like Vettel’s antics at Singapore 2017.
        But then you probably blame Verstappen for that one. (Your constant use of Hammy, like you’re using it as an insult, does show your bias. Though, I suppose it’s better than the old BBC F1 site when they used to allow comments, some of the stuff towards Hamilton was firmly in the racist catagory)

        1. Spain 2016 was 100% Hamster’s fault.

          Rosberg wasn’t in a braking zone. He’s allowed to move once over.

          Hamster over-committed and made a dreadful mistake (or used interesting tactics).

          1. The lack of investigation and subsequent penalty suggest otherwise but you crack on, me ol China.

            1. In that period they were reluctant to hand out penalties for incidents between the Mercedes drivers.

              Spa 2014 was a racing incident (even though Mercedes fined Rosberg 300k).

              No penalty for weaving around the track and trying to cause an accident Abu Dhabi 2016.

          2. Yes, Rosberg is allowed to defend, but the stewards took into account Rosbergs sudden deceleration -due to his issue- and recognised Hamilton had no time to respond.

            You mentioned Abu Dhabi 2016. He wasn’t weaving, he was doing a legitimate tactic to back Rosberg into the Ferrari’s or Red Bulls that just about every driver, and every team boss had said -before the race- he’d need to do.

            And funny you mention no penalties for Mercedes drivers, was it that year Hamilton got a reprimand for rolling backwards a few inches in the pit lane and recieved a penalty for passing the wrong side of a bollard (Both in Russia) and Rosberg was penalized in two different races for collisions (Canada and Austria I think) There was also one for Hamilton for crossing the pit lane exit line onto the main racing line too early I think.

            But hey, why let actual facts get in the way of your clear hatred for Hamilton.

    20. They promise to complete the impossible, that is eliminate the mathematical advantage the house has over
      anyone.

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