Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Interlagos, 2018

Can Red Bull keep Mercedes and Ferrari in sight?

2018 Brazilian Grand Prix Friday practice analysis

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The penultimate race weekend of 2018 looks unlikely to offer the teams any surprises in terms of how their tyres perform and therefore what strategies they will use.

The three compounds brought this weekend are performing largely as expected by Pirelli, with lap time gaps of around half a second between each. The relatively small difference is due to Interlagos having the second-shortest lap time of the year, after the Red Bull Ring.

Some blistering was noticed on the tyres during practice. “Generally when there’s an issue on the tyres most of the teams suffer with the same issue whether it’s graining or blistering,” explained Toro Rosso’s Brendon Hartley.

“I had some vibrations at the end of one of the assets with some blisters which didn’t impact the performance so much, to be honest, I think it was a small one. There definitely will be tyre management in the race. Just keeping the thermal and temperatures under control which is boring to talk about but it’s part of racing.”

In previous races a combination of improving track conditions plus the teams’ understanding of how to manage their tyres means this tends to be less of a problem in the race. “I think all the compounds will be tricky to keep cool enough so the performance is high,” said Hartley. “It’s always a constant battle in Formula 1 to keep the tyres in the perfect window.”

Pirelli motorsport director Mario Isola therefore expects the front-running teams to take advantage of their performance gap over the midfield in qualifying and avoid the super-soft tyre in Q2. “If tomorrow it is dry – because there are chances of rain in the afternoon – I’m not very surprised if some of the top teams will try to qualify on the soft to keep the door open for the second stint to understand if it is better to use the medium or super-soft.”

Red Bull were on a par with Mercedes and Ferrari on Friday, but when the latter pair turn their engines up for qualifying the RB14s are likely to be bumped back to the third row. They may, however, have the pace to get in among any stragglers ahead, particularly as the slightest mistakes are amplified because of the short lap time.

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Mercedes’ tyre management has been considerably worse than its rivals’ lately. They seemed little worse than Ferrari on their long runs and Toto Wolff – who usually takes great care to manage expectations – indicated they may have solved some of their recent problems.

Romain Grosjean, Haas, Interlagos, 2018
Romain Grosjean, Haas, Interlagos, 2018
Red Bull’s long run looked good, and they should be more competitive on Sunday. The bad news for them is Daniel Ricciardo’s five-place grid penalty.

In the midfield, Haas appear to be leading the way which is where they need to be if they are going to beat Renault to fourth in the constructors’ championship. Renault were slower than everyone bar Williams – a development which was not entirely unexpected.

Carlos Sainz Jnr was hoping the comparatively high altitude at Interlagos would play into their hands as it did at the last race. “Compared to Mexico it’s nearly three times less but it is one of the most high-altitude and we know the engine responded well to that so that’s an encouraging sign,” he said.

“The other thing is this long straight it’s all cornering and uphill so it makes the long straight more power-sensitive than normal because it’s uphill, you put a bit of torsion on the car and that makes the engine suffer a bit more if you don’t have enough power.”

Worse, Renault can expect Toro Rosso to pull ahead of them tomorrow when they switch the spec two Hondas they used on Friday for spec threes. Pierre Gasly reckoned that will be worth “several tenths”.

Force India also need to score well to close the gap to McLaren. But Sergio Perez did fewer than two dozen laps and Esteban Ocon collected a grid penalty. “I think Sauber and Haas are looking very strong,” said a dejected Perez. “Hopefully we can get a lot closer to them.”

Quotes: Dieter Rencken

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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

Combined practice times

PosDriverCarFP1FP2Total laps
1Valtteri BottasMercedes1’09.6791’08.84671
2Lewis HamiltonMercedes1’09.1071’08.84971
3Sebastian VettelFerrari1’09.0601’08.91962
4Max VerstappenRed Bull-TAG Heuer1’09.0111’09.33944
5Daniel RicciardoRed Bull-TAG Heuer1’09.3951’09.16467
6Kimi RaikkonenFerrari1’09.5731’09.41270
7Romain GrosjeanHaas-Ferrari1’09.9221’09.76972
8Charles LeclercSauber-Ferrari1’10.3461’09.94372
9Kevin MagnussenHaas-Ferrari1’10.2361’10.00754
10Esteban OconForce India-Mercedes1’10.3611’10.15979
11Sergio PerezForce India-Mercedes1’10.32023
12Pierre GaslyToro Rosso-Honda1’10.9341’10.33074
13Fernando AlonsoMcLaren-Renault1’10.33236
14Carlos Sainz JnrRenault1’10.6621’10.45882
15Marcus EricssonSauber-Ferrari1’10.53244
16Sergey SirotkinWilliams-Mercedes1’11.0371’10.56976
17Stoffel VandoorneMcLaren-Renault1’11.4521’10.59649
18Lance StrollWilliams-Mercedes1’10.7991’10.66274
19Nico HulkenbergRenault1’10.6791’11.67440
20Antonio GiovinazziSauber-Ferrari1’10.68529
21Brendon HartleyToro Rosso-Honda1’11.1761’10.73478
22Lando NorrisMcLaren-Renault1’11.01328
23Nicholas LatifiForce India-Mercedes1’11.49334

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2018 Brazilian Grand Prix

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Author information

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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7 comments on “Can Red Bull keep Mercedes and Ferrari in sight?”

  1. Can Red Bull keep Mercedes and Ferrari in sight? – No.

    1. On pure pace I mean.

      1. We will see

      2. I wouldn’t count them out, thing is I don’t see how they can overtake them, only follow I believe.

    2. At least one of the red bulls will keep them in sight. This is race day, not party mode, and temperatures are up. Tire management will be key again and rb is the best car in that respect with ferrari close. Rb have a driver who can do dozens of optimal laps from start to finish. A threat to both mercedes and ferrari.

  2. Max Verstappen pointed out that their simulator is so realistic that they can use it to find a good setup for the the track and the conditions. Even tire degradation etc. are simulated to the point that they behave just like in reality.
    They spent a full day setting up the car for Interlagos. So when they get out in FP1 they have the setup already pretty close to optimal.
    He believes they have an advantage over other teams there.

    Of course the other teams will catch up on the setup during the weekend. If they do, 5th and 6th is as good as it gets.

  3. @keithcollantine
    How many grid penalties has Dan got compared to Max this season due to car issues?

Comments are closed.