Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes, Red Bull Ring, 2019

Mercedes compromised by altitude and heat in Austria

2019 Austrian Grand Prix

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Mercedes are having a less competitive weekend at the Austrian Grand Prix due to the combination of high altitude and hot temperatures at the track, team principal Toto Wolff has revealed.

On the space of one week the team has gone from being 0.646 seconds faster than Ferrari in qualifying to 0.259s behind. Wolff said the combination of lower air pressure and warmer conditions at the track has compromised the performance of its W10.

“There are areas where I believe there is performance we could have optimised,” said Wolff after qualifying. “It is not a layout that suits our package at the moment and we always knew that. At the moment it’s a realistic reflection of where our car is.

“Our car was very dominant in Paul Ricard for example but we knew with the altitude here and the cooling and straight-line speed disadvantage that we have at the moment that this could be a very tough one. I think qualifying reflects the relative level of performance.”

The Red Bull Ring is situated 660 metres above sea level, making it the third-highest track on the F1 calendar behind Interlagos (764m) and the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez (2,200m). Wolff admitted Ferrari’s car works better in the combination of conditions the teams are experiencing this weekend.

“The way we packaged our car we are a bit marginal on cooling,” he said. “If you add those two factors of altitude and heat together that puts us in a compromised situation that we just have to open up more than we would like to. So they’ve done a better job in that area.”

Lewis Hamilton said on Thursday he expected the team would have to make compromises with its car to improve its cooling.

“Here is one of the toughest races. Last year we had a double DNF. So for sure you imagine all the engineers are on the edge of their seats, a bit nervous because it’s very hot here, it’s like 700 metres in altitude here.

“There’s only 10 corners but the cars are always on the limit in terms of cooling. The cars are heavier this year so the brakes are even worse. And they end up having to open up the car to create cooling and that’s always worse for the car aerodynamically so you lose performance. Some teams have to do it less than others.”

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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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7 comments on “Mercedes compromised by altitude and heat in Austria”

  1. Interesting, if they do not solve these problems there are some surprises along the way then. Singapore comes to mind..

    1. Air density is the key here, not exactly temperature.

      Brazil and Mexico will be more problematic

      1. @dallein It’s temperature too though. Hamilton and Bottas had issues with the engine and brake temperatures during the first stint in Canada too. They would have to sit back a bit to let the car cool.

        Bottas was especially hindered by this when he had to get past Ricciardo (and Ricciardo blocked him rather brusquely on the first overtake attempt).

        During the pitstop they managed to increase the cooling somehow and afterwards both managed to go faster (and follow closer) somewhat. Without it Hamilton would not have been able to pressure Vettel into a mistake.

        So if they are too low on cooling, or they need to much cooling which creates drag, then they lose performance and it makes overtaking a lot more difficult.

  2. So just expand Formula 1 to Bolivia, Switzerland and Tibet and maybe Max has a fighting chance for a championship.

    1. I wouldn’t mind one race around Mt. Everest !!

    2. @david-br

      Not when Toto claims he ‘has the best drivers’, will Max win anything, not without a 0.5 sec advantage.

  3. That, Or Mercedes ate doing what they did in other years where they were FAR ahead: Suddenly their car doesn’t work for a (few) races. They probably think the stupid fans won’t figure this out

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