Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Sochi Autodrom, 2019

Mercedes are 0.6 seconds slower in Sochi than last year

Lap time watch: 2019 Russian Grand Prix

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Mercedes would have taken pole position for the Russian Grand Prix if they’d been as fast as they were last year.

But the team which has won all of the previous five races at Sochi Autodrom have fallen further away from their 2018 pace than any team in the field. At the end of qualifying their best lap time was six tenths of a second slower than they managed last year.

That may not be unique – Alfa Romeo are a similar distance away – but most of their rivals including front-runners Ferrari and Red Bull have turned up in Russia with faster cars than they had 12 months ago. It’s the first time this year Mercedes have arrived at a track with the ‘least improved’ car.

While Charles Leclerc put his Ferrari on pole position, he wasn’t able to beat the record pace Valtteri Bottas set last year. As a result, the track record has not been broken this weekend, as has been the case in every race since the summer break. The track record fell at nine out of the 11 rounds before the summer break.

Less of a surprise is the fact the most-improved team this weekend is McLaren, as they have been for eight of the 10 races so far this year.

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2019 Russian 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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15 comments on “Mercedes are 0.6 seconds slower in Sochi than last year”

  1. When the y-axes are titled “improvement”, why is it the negative numbers that are showing the teams with an improvement? That seems counterintuitive, and it made me read the text to reconcile the headline with the chart.

    1. Yes, “lap time” would seem a better label.

      1. As would being able to read all the team names on mobile

    2. And I wished the x-axis was sorted chronologically instead of alphabetically except for Paul Ricard.

      1. Yes please!!

  2. For the fourth qualifying-session in a row, no one managed to better the 2018 pole time. What’s with this sudden trend now? All but two venues before the summer break saw new outright track records but since the break none. A weird change of pattern.

    1. @jerejj
      Tyres play a big role. Pirelli brought Hypersofts to Singapore and Soči last year, a tyre which does not exist anymore and which offered a lot of grip over a single lap. In addition to that, Pirelli went for a more conservative approach with bringing only the C4-tyres as the softest option for this GP.

      Similar situation in Spa. Pirelli brought the three hardest compounds, plus this year’s cars produce more drag than last year (which costs lap time, especially if you drive 80% of the lap on full throttle). In the race they were matching last year’s times, which was quite interesting.

      The increased drag of the cars seems to have hurt the lap times even more at Monza.

      1. Yep, solid explanation of the likely factors @srga91

    2. Glad it’s not just me who’s noticed this – I’ve asked a few people who suggested resurfacing / kerbs were a major factor ……… though I’m not aware that was a common factor over the last 4 races

      @srga91 seems to be onto something with the drag & Pireli choices ….. except Baku was a second quicker than last year despite being on a ‘harder’ soft than last year, which puzzles

  3. Is this down to some undisclosed issue with the Mercedes engine? They seem underpowered after their ‘upgrade’ this year. OK, Ferrari have improved, but the drop off from last year suggests this is more a Mercedes issue. Not just that they haven’t received a power unit boost over the season, they’ve fallen away.

  4. It is part of the Mercedes sandbagging tactics. Each time the championship is secure they start sandbagging to pretend there’s competition and avoid apparent ruthless domination in order to avoid drastic changes as it happened to Schumacher in 2005.
    Had Schumacher done the same, he’d have ended with 9 WC. Mercedes is very clever to do so.

    1. This is one answer, the other is that they are over-due engine upgrades but have chosen to keep running their old engines. How much longer they can keeps these engines running at race pace is another question?

    2. Now I am convinced they are sandbagging – there is no way they could be slower than last year.

      They realize the WCC and WDC are in the bag so no need to push to the limit. And they can get a head start on developing next years car.

      Of course Red has improved enough to relegate Hamilton to second only because of LeClerc’s speed. Merc is still better all around than Red.

  5. I am afraid Mercedes are falling apart and they must realise it now. Sochi qualifying lose was the last and final alarm bell. There is no need for more alarm bells anymore, it is time for emergency action in Mercedes factory!

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