Lewis Hamilton, Charles Leclerc, Circuit de Catalunya, 2019

Are Ferrari planning a two-stop attack on Mercedes?

2019 Spanish Grand Prix pre-race analysis

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Ferrari didn’t have the pace to challenge Mercedes in qualifying. But afterwards Sebastian Vettel hinted their cars were set up more with the race in mind.

It is surely wishful thinking to imagine Mercedes, who were eight-tenths of a second quicker than anyone on Saturday, might face some serious competition in the race. But as we have seen in previous races, the teams’ performance can vary significantly between the different tyres compounds.

Ferrari, having clearly realised they weren’t going to be able to out-qualify Mercedes, took fewer sets of softs into qualifying in order to have more strategic options in the race. Compared to Mercedes they have an extra set of fresh medium tyres, suggesting they’re prepared for a two-stop soft-medium-medium strategy.

According to Pirelli drivers will have to run the soft until around lap 27 to make a soft-hard single-stop strategy work. This sounds very conservative – the hard tyre stint would only be 39 laps long – and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Mercedes come in much sooner than lap 27 if they go down this route. Even so, if Ferrari intends to gamble on a two-stopper, that should allow them to come in earlier still and take the advantage of the ‘undercut’.

Pirelli’s motorsport director Mario Isola said a soft-medium one-stop may be possible it is “really, really marginal”. Either way, Ferrari have options. But equally, either way they will have to be closer to Mercedes’ pace on Sunday to make use of them.

They should at least not have to worry about losing places to the Red Bulls at the start. The red cars were quickest of all in the speed trap, and may be able to threaten Mercedes on the long run to turn one.

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The Mercedes drivers have a battle of their own, of course, and they may fight it harder on the first lap at the Circuit de Catalunya than they did in Baku, where overtaking is less difficult.

Pierre Gasly, Red Bull, Circuit de Catalunya, 2019
Will Red Bull disrupt Ferrari’s plan?
Although Lewis Hamilton looked in good shape in final practice, Valtteri Bottas has looked the quicker of the two. But the sheer size of the gap between the two in qualifying was exaggerated because Hamilton began Q3 without a fully charged battery.

Mercedes’ chief race engineer Andrew Shovlin elaborated on Toto Wolff’s earlier explanation. “He abandoned his final run in the second session due to a yellow flag at turn 12, which meant the battery pack was not charged ready for the final session,” he said.

“We therefore put him out on track first so he could manage his own out lap, but it meant we caught a number of the cars who left late. By the final run, it seemed that the track had lost a bit of pace and there was some gravel down so few cars were able to improve.”

Red Bull, however, could prove the undoing of Ferrari’s plan to take on Mercedes. The RB15s were very close to their pace in qualifying and have tended to go well over race stints, notably in the second stint at Baku. That, as much as Mercedes’ obvious pace, will probably make it a tall order for Ferrari to keep Mercedes from another double helping of silverware.

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Qualifying times in full

DriverCarQ1

Q2 (vs Q1)

Q3 (vs Q2)
1Valtteri BottasMercedes1’16.9791’15.924 (-1.055)1’15.406 (-0.518)
2Lewis HamiltonMercedes1’17.2921’16.038 (-1.254)1’16.040 (+0.002)
3Sebastian VettelFerrari1’17.4251’16.667 (-0.758)1’16.272 (-0.395)
4Max VerstappenRed Bull1’17.2441’16.726 (-0.518)1’16.357 (-0.369)
5Charles LeclercFerrari1’17.3881’16.714 (-0.674)1’16.588 (-0.126)
6Pierre GaslyRed Bull1’17.8621’16.932 (-0.930)1’16.708 (-0.224)
7Romain GrosjeanHaas1’18.0421’17.066 (-0.976)1’16.911 (-0.155)
8Kevin MagnussenHaas1’17.6691’17.272 (-0.397)1’16.922 (-0.350)
9Daniil KvyatToro Rosso1’17.9141’17.243 (-0.671)1’17.573 (+0.330)
10Daniel RicciardoRenault1’18.3851’17.299 (-1.086)1’18.106 (+0.807)
11Lando NorrisMcLaren1’17.6111’17.338 (-0.273)
12Alexander AlbonToro Rosso1’17.7961’17.445 (-0.351)
13Carlos Sainz JnrMcLaren1’17.7601’17.599 (-0.161)
14Kimi RaikkonenAlfa Romeo1’18.1321’17.788 (-0.344)
15Sergio PerezRacing Point1’18.2861’17.886 (-0.400)
16Nico HulkenbergRenault1’18.404
17Lance StrollRacing Point1’18.471
18Antonio GiovinazziAlfa Romeo1’18.664
19George RussellWilliams1’19.072
20Robert KubicaWilliams1’20.254

Sector times

DriverSector 1Sector 2Sector 3
Valtteri Bottas21.488 (2)28.040 (1)25.878 (1)
Lewis Hamilton21.560 (4)28.116 (2)26.112 (2)
Sebastian Vettel21.284 (1)28.357 (4)26.611 (6)
Max Verstappen21.685 (7)28.274 (3)26.322 (3)
Charles Leclerc21.537 (3)28.405 (5)26.513 (5)
Pierre Gasly21.833 (13)28.429 (6)26.358 (4)
Romain Grosjean21.664 (6)28.448 (8)26.765 (10)
Kevin Magnussen21.833 (13)28.438 (7)26.612 (7)
Daniil Kvyat21.802 (12)28.701 (9)26.702 (8)
Daniel Ricciardo21.713 (9)28.761 (11)26.749 (9)
Lando Norris21.732 (10)28.733 (10)26.811 (11)
Alexander Albon21.796 (11)28.801 (13)26.848 (12)
Carlos Sainz Jnr21.634 (5)28.791 (12)27.128 (16)
Kimi Raikkonen21.705 (8)29.055 (16)26.973 (13)
Sergio Perez21.886 (17)28.908 (14)27.015 (14)
Nico Hulkenberg21.979 (18)29.063 (17)27.118 (15)
Lance Stroll21.835 (15)28.997 (15)27.550 (17)
Antonio Giovinazzi21.852 (16)29.097 (18)27.559 (18)
George Russell22.113 (19)29.400 (19)27.559 (18)
Robert Kubica22.227 (20)29.726 (20)28.097 (20)

Speed trap

PosDriverCarEngineSpeed (kph/mph)Gap
1Charles LeclercFerrariFerrari325.0 (201.9)
2Sebastian VettelFerrariFerrari324.2 (201.4)-0.8
3Daniel RicciardoRenaultRenault324.0 (201.3)-1.0
4Lance StrollRacing PointMercedes323.5 (201.0)-1.5
5Carlos Sainz JnrMcLarenRenault323.1 (200.8)-1.9
6Sergio PerezRacing PointMercedes322.4 (200.3)-2.6
7Kimi RaikkonenAlfa RomeoFerrari322.1 (200.1)-2.9
8Lando NorrisMcLarenRenault321.8 (200.0)-3.2
9Daniil KvyatToro RossoHonda321.8 (200.0)-3.2
10Alexander AlbonToro RossoHonda320.9 (199.4)-4.1
11Valtteri BottasMercedesMercedes319.9 (198.8)-5.1
12Antonio GiovinazziAlfa RomeoFerrari319.8 (198.7)-5.2
13Lewis HamiltonMercedesMercedes319.6 (198.6)-5.4
14Kevin MagnussenHaasFerrari318.6 (198.0)-6.4
15Nico HulkenbergRenaultRenault318.2 (197.7)-6.8
16Romain GrosjeanHaasFerrari318.2 (197.7)-6.8
17Pierre GaslyRed BullHonda317.2 (197.1)-7.8
18Max VerstappenRed BullHonda316.4 (196.6)-8.6
19George RussellWilliamsMercedes316.2 (196.5)-8.8
20Robert KubicaWilliamsMercedes313.4 (194.7)-11.6

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Drivers’ remaining tyres

DriverTeamHardMediumSoft
NewUsedNewUsedNewUsed
Lewis HamiltonMercedes101004
Valtteri BottasMercedes101004
Sebastian VettelFerrari102003
Charles LeclercFerrari102003
Max VerstappenRed Bull011013
Pierre GaslyRed Bull101004
Daniel RiccairdoRenault101004
Nico HulkenbergRenault101032
Kevin MagnussenHaas101004
Romain GrosjeanHaas101004
Carlos Sainz JnrMcLaren101014
Lando NorrisMcLaren101014
Sergio PerezRacing Point101014
Lance StrollRacing Point101023
Kimi RaikkonenAlfa Romeo101014
Antonio GiovinazziAlfa Romeo101032
Daniil KvyatToro Rosso012003
Alexander AlbonToro Rosso012013
George RussellWilliams102013
Robert KubicaWilliams102013

Over to you

Is there a realistic chance Mercedes will fail to score a fifth one-two in today’s race? And how will the midfield battle unfold?

Share your views on the Spanish Grand Prix in the comments.

2019 Spanish Grand Prix

Browse all 2019 Spanish Grand Prix articles

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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15 comments on “Are Ferrari planning a two-stop attack on Mercedes?”

  1. I was thinking more along the lines of a Soft(20)-Medium(30)-Soft(16) for one of the drivers. Is it slower?

    1. Bruno Verrari
      12th May 2019, 0:17

      That’s the layman logic, indeed!
      But we don’t have all that data…

    2. They’ll probably will go s-s-m as trackposition is king in Barcelona. The first stints will be shorter and the last stint right on the limit….

    3. Neither Ferrari nor Mercedes have fresh soft tyres. I guess S-M-S wouldn’t work very well with used softs for the third stint.

      1. It could be that, but, wouldn’t the lower track temperatures and lighter fuel loads in the later stages make the softs (even used ones) more favourable?

      2. But Max has a new Soft so he could do that.

    4. @miketial they however do not have a fresh set of softs (see the table above), so that might be out on that account.

  2. Only Facts!
    12th May 2019, 1:04

    I can see It already… Ferrari splitting strategies leaving Leclerc out after everybody stops to hold Mercedes until Vettel catches up or open enough gap for a second stop. I think LEC’s only chance to race his own race is VER becoming a threat, forcing somebody into plan B or C.

    1. aka the ferrari strategy or the kimi strategy. Leave one car out and hope it slows down the leaders so vettel can catch up and spin.

  3. When your competitor is over half a second faster per lap it really doesnt matter wht your stretegy is

    1. Long run pace of Arrows was much stronger than .5sec of lap.

  4. Based on performance I don’t think RBR are any better off with Honda. They are still slow in the speed traps as all that downforce comes with a drag cost and they are still the 3rd best team. Nothing really gained despite all the hot air…

    1. Honda is slower and less reliable than renault but it seems not massively anymore. I think the real difference in that honda deal deal was that honda will pay money to redbull whereas with renault it was red bull paying renault for the engines.

  5. Two stop attack on Red bull you mean

    1. @mixwell – a two-stop yield to RBR is the more likely outcome.

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