Ferrari pin hopes on “much hotter” race as they fall from top to bottom of speed trap

2020 Austrian Grand Prix pre-race analysis

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A clean sweep of all three practice sessions plus a one-two in qualifying adds up to a perfect start to the season so far for Mercedes.

Their rivals’ hopes that won’t continue on Sunday can be summed up in one word: Temperature.

Cooling was Mercedes’ undoing at this race 12 months ago. It was a particularly hot Austrian Grand Prix, and that combined with the relatively high altitude of the track and the limiations of the cooling configuration Mercedes used at the time contributed to their first defeat of the season up to that point.

Of course they are unlikely to repeat the same mistake twice. All the same, the forecast for Sunday’s race has been revised since the weekend began, and predicted temperatures are now a fair bit higher – closing on 30C.

And as Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff admitted on Saturday, they have made one change to their car which could have an unintended consequence for its performance. Switching from a silver to black livery to show their support for diversity and opposition to racism is a noble gesture. But it may also compromise the car’s heat rejection.

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“The messaging and the marketing is very important,” said Wolff. “But if performance is being harmed, that’s obviously not great.

Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes, Red Bull Ring, 2020
Will the W11’s cooling work as well now the car is black?
“We have made some calculations, but tomorrow when the weather is expected to be around 30 degrees. We will see whether our simulations with a silver car have been different to the results on track with a black car. So [it’s a] fair point. It’s a little bit of an unknown to us.”

It would be easy to exaggerate the role Mercedes’ livery could have in this. But Red Bull and Ferrari are eyeing the expected turn in the weather forecast and hoping it will play to their advantage.

“We were blessed last year with a particularly warm conditions and a Mercedes that was not equipped to run in warm conditions so they dropped away quite a bit,” said Red bull’s head of car engineering Paul Monaghan. “[But] I don’t suppose they’re going to fall into that helpful trap for us tomorrow.”

However he said Red Bull’s decision to qualify Verstappen on the C3 medium compound tyre instead of the C4 soft was in anticipation of the change in weather.

“If you look at Friday’s longer runs in cool conditions the C4 tyre I think for everybody exhibited a reasonable amount of drop-off or degradation,” he said. “And the yellow wall [medium] tyre looks to stand up a little bit better.

“Now if the forecast is correct and tomorrow’s even warmer than today, which again will make it we think a bit harder for the C4 to survive. So we’ve opted to try and give ourselves a better tyre for the first and make our selections from there.”

Alexander Albon, who will start two places behind his team mate in fifth, qualified on the soft tyre.

“So if the C4 struggles tomorrow then we’re on a C3 with Max, and equally if the C4 is stunning tomorrow, we’re on a C4 with Alex,” said Monaghan. “And we can pull Max in at a point and put him onto something else.

“So it’s all to play for, really. At least we’re not lining up on the same tyre two spots behind the pole-sitter.”

Things can surely only get better for Ferrari after a grim qualifying session saw Charles Leclerc lead their cars in seventh, while Sebastian Vettel failed even to reach Q3. Sporting director Laurent Mekies said the team is also casting a hopeful eye over the weather forecast.

“It’s much hotter again tomorrow,” he said. “And it will change a little bit the pecking order. It won’t be a revolution, but things will change.

“On top of that, the field is very tight. So I’m not talking about the Mercedes, of course, but certainly behind them the field is very tight.

Leclerc: Quickest in the speed trap last year, slowest today
“It’s going to be a big fight and we know Charles and Seb are very good at that, and therefore try to give them the best weapon to be able to fight in these conditions.”

But how well will Leclerc and Vettel be able to fight given the hit Ferrari’s straight-line speed has taken in the past 12 months. Their two drivers have lost more speed in the official trap than everyone else in the field.

At this race last year Leclerc qualified on pole position and was the quickest driver through the speed trap, clocking 325.7kph. This year he is at the opposite end of the table, a whopping 13.3kph slower. Vettel has lost 8.3kph.

That, along with the significant loss in lap time by all three Ferrari-powered teams, is another indication that Ferrari’s power unit is not the force it was 12 months ago.

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Sector times

DriverSector 1Sector 2Sector 3
Valtteri Bottas16.011 (2)27.905 (1)18.984 (1)
Lewis Hamilton15.898 (1)27.934 (2)19.024 (2)
Max Verstappen16.093 (4)28.045 (3)19.256 (3)
Lando Norris16.162 (7)28.159 (4)19.305 (5)
Alexander Albon16.165 (8)28.232 (7)19.347 (6)
Sergio Perez16.120 (5)28.180 (5)19.362 (7)
Charles Leclerc16.423 (18)28.215 (6)19.260 (4)
Carlos Sainz Jnr16.134 (6)28.293 (9)19.446 (9)
Lance Stroll16.190 (9)28.278 (8)19.451 (10)
Daniel Ricciardo16.085 (3)28.436 (11)19.478 (11)
Sebastian Vettel16.272 (13)28.400 (10)19.381 (8)
Pierre Gasly16.239 (12)28.456 (13)19.565 (13)
Daniil Kvyat16.199 (10)28.455 (12)19.530 (12)
Esteban Ocon16.402 (17)28.647 (14)19.576 (14)
Romain Grosjean16.222 (11)28.719 (15)19.740 (16)
Kevin Magnussen16.438 (19)28.756 (16)19.970 (20)
George Russell16.396 (16)28.945 (18)19.717 (15)
Antonio Giovinazzi16.331 (15)28.892 (17)19.952 (19)
Kimi Raikkonen16.291 (14)28.948 (19)19.918 (18)
Nicholas Latifi16.476 (20)29.378 (20)19.903 (17)

Speed trap

PosDriverCarEngineSpeed (kph/mph)Gap
1Lewis HamiltonMercedesMercedes322.5 (200.4)
2Valtteri BottasMercedesMercedes321.6 (199.8)-0.9
3Sergio PerezRacing PointMercedes321.2 (199.6)-1.3
4Antonio GiovinazziAlfa RomeoFerrari320.4 (199.1)-2.1
5Lando NorrisMcLarenRenault320.1 (198.9)-2.4
6Kimi RaikkonenAlfa RomeoFerrari320.0 (198.8)-2.5
7Lance StrollRacing PointMercedes319.7 (198.7)-2.8
8Alexander AlbonRed BullHonda319.1 (198.3)-3.4
9Daniel RicciardoRenaultRenault319.0 (198.2)-3.5
10George RussellWilliamsMercedes318.3 (197.8)-4.2
11Romain GrosjeanHaasFerrari318.3 (197.8)-4.2
12Carlos Sainz JnrMcLarenRenault318.0 (197.6)-4.5
13Daniil KvyatToro RossoHonda317.7 (197.4)-4.8
14Pierre GaslyToro RossoHonda316.8 (196.9)-5.7
15Max VerstappenRed BullHonda316.8 (196.9)-5.7
16Esteban OconRenaultRenault315.3 (195.9)-7.2
17Kevin MagnussenHaasFerrari314.8 (195.6)-7.7
18Sebastian VettelFerrariFerrari313.2 (194.6)-9.3
19Nicholas LatifiWilliamsMercedes313.0 (194.5)-9.5
20Charles LeclercFerrariFerrari312.4 (194.1)-10.1

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Over to you

Can anyone stop Mercedes from starting the year with a one-two? What can Ferrari salvage from their tough start to 2020? And who will be ‘best of the rest’?

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

2020 Austrian Grand Prix

Browse all 2020 Austrian 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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28 comments on “Ferrari pin hopes on “much hotter” race as they fall from top to bottom of speed trap”

  1. I wish Ferrari would cheat again this year, that way they would be closer to Mercedes.

    This way only real chance is Verstappen. Good news is, everyone else is bunched close toggether. If anything it is only Mercedes, that are a lot faster then midfield.

    1. Sonny Crockett
      5th July 2020, 9:27

      Ferrari clearly cheated last season and gained championship points as a result.

      Thanks to Covid-19 there are teams that are struggling financially that could really do with the money they should have received last year that was ‘stolen’ from them by Ferrari.

      That’s the impact of Ferrari’s cheating. The cards are already stacked in their favour due to the nature of the concord agreement. Now they’ve literally taken money from other teams yet they don’t seem to have paid any penalty for it, save for the embarrassment of their real performance now being revealed.

      1. Not a Ferrari fan
        5th July 2020, 10:38

        Ferrari cheated, you say. Really? What evidence do you have to show that? What punishment did they receive from the stewards?

        1. Sonny Crockett
          5th July 2020, 13:46

          Let’s ask Ferrari to release the details of their ‘secret agreement’ with the FIA.

          Like Donald Trump’s tax returns, it’ll never happen because they know the content will let all hell loose!

    2. @jureo Considering that Ferrari is behind their customers, they clearly have a drag problem. Clear that whatever the fia closed off it hurt Ferrari, on the other hand I don’t see anyone complaining that all mercedes cars are smoking like crazy from the exhaust.

  2. Ferrari with a legal engine is not that strong now. McLaren is the team on the up and soon (hopefully) will join the top 3.
    Hope heat doesn’t effect the Black Mercedes too much. Wouldn’t like to see that boring Silver livery return so soon.

    1. @amg44 if only Fernando had waited a bit, eh?

      1. Waiting and team choices are not Alonso’s best qualities my friend.

  3. proud_asturian
    5th July 2020, 0:24

    Ferrari cheating – “bad”
    Mercedes cheating – “innovation”

  4. I’m sure Ferrari’s position is due to not only their engine, but also the higher downforce configuration. In this case, with the warmer temperatures, I think the telling thing is going to be if they can keep their tires better than the rest. With a car that slides less through the corners, they may be able to have one less stop than the rest of the field.

    If they still tear up their tires though, it will show that indeed, they have a draggy car that won’t help them in any scenario. I’d be surprised if they take such a big step backwards though.

    1. The car is not enough of a evolution that it is likely to have noticeably different tire wear traits. As we’ve seen with Mercedes on side and Williams on the other, the larger character traits of these chassis continue season after season.

    2. Knowing Ferrari and their ability to produce crap, don’t be surprised if their car is indeed bad in everything.

    3. @scottie the thing is, the commentators were remarking on the poor handling balance of Ferrari’s car and how many steering corrections the drivers were having to make.

      We will see, but that suggests that even if Ferrari’s car is producing a reasonable amount of downforce, it’s still not great as it would indicate it’s an imbalanced distribution that’s causing erratic handling and probably will be compromising their ability to manage the tyres.

  5. What worries me more than anything is a red car being shown blue flags to let a black car pass. It scares me really how far they’ve fallen as everyone thought after all these years with the regs being much the same, they’ll finally win a title, either a WCC or WDC, but instead they’ve regressed which is just appalling 😟😟😟

  6. Nice Ferrari, Nice. Pin hopes on everything else other than your car and team management.

  7. Can anyone stop Mercedes from starting the year with a one-two? – No, or at least, not on pure pace.
    What can Ferrari salvage from their tough start to 2020? – P5 and P6 at best.
    And who will be ‘best of the rest’? – RP at least with Checo.

    As for race day being warmer than the qualifying day: Not much hotter, though, as it’s only an increase of 3 degrees from 24 to 27.

    1. @jerejj What do we define as “best of the rest”, this year. This weekend it looks like best of anyone other than Mercedes or Verstappen.

      1. @keithedin Admittedly, difficult to define based on this first Red Bull Ring-weekend alone. Maybe, the latter two events of this opening triple-header of races give a bit clearer picture of that.

  8. The F1 show has shot itself in the foot by hamstringing Ferrari and allowing Mercedes to pull even further ahead with their tyre warming device, disguised as steering. I am only really interested in who is going to win and when it is a one horse race, then there is not much point in watching. The only chance the other teams have against Mercedes is better tyre management. How exciting, let’s see who can go the slowest and make their tyres last the longest.

    1. @aliced So you’re suggesting FIA should have ignored an illegal engine, while banning a legal device, in the name of entertainment?

      Rules are rules. You can change the rules within how they are governed, but you can’t play around with them, just because you don’t like the results.

      1. As far as I know, the Ferrari engine was legal until the rules were ‘cleared up’

  9. Sonny Crockett
    5th July 2020, 9:21

    Carlos Sainz must be wondering what on earth he’s done!

    1. LOL. There’s always the new regulations Carlos. That potential Renault drive might be looking quite attractive to Seb.

  10. That, along with the significant loss in lap time by all three Ferrari-powered teams, is another indication that Ferrari’s power unit is not the force it was 12 months ago.

    With the Alfas 4th and 6th fastest through the speed trap? More sloppy ‘journalism’ in the pursuit of one-liners rather than actual analysis from this guy. The fact the works Ferraris are so much slower than the Alfas through the speed trap shows they have messed up their drag/downforce configuration.

  11. Looking to the weather for a change in performance?
    I should try that one on my next review at work.

  12. You’d have thought the teams would have worked out a way to vary the cooling on the car during the race, even if it was during a longer than normal pit-stop.

  13. Alfa Romeo still managed to be 4th and 6th in the speed trap so that straight line speed seems like it could be found.

    Maybe Ferrari’s not turning the engine up to full potential. They may have to trade in some reliability for a chance to be properly competitive, especially if the Hungary update is a dud.

  14. Sector 1 is mostly about engine power and drag. Sector 3 is more about downforce and sector 2 is somewhat in-between.
    The Ferraris clearly have a high-downforce set-up and Alfa Romeos have a low-downforce set-up. Haas is somewhat in-between, with Grosjean seemingly running less downforce. Magnussen, however, was slowest in sector 3, which suggests he was somewhat delayed by Leclerc.

    Ricciardo was surprisingly quick in the first sector, even though he wasn’t that fast in the speed trap. This may make sense, as the speed trap is in sector 2, so apparently Ocon only gave him a slipstream at the beginning of the lap.

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