Red Bull trying to understand “awesome” Mercedes qualifying pace

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In the round-up: Red Bull team principal Christian Horner says the team is trying to understand how Mercedes are so much quicker in qualifying than they are in the race.

What they say

Mercedes-out-qualified Red Bull by more than a second at last weekend’s British Grand Prix, but Red Bull were closer during the grand prix:

I’m sure they were managing different parts of the race. But we have a pretty good indication of what they’re doing.

They obviously have a very good car and I think that we were within probably 0.3 to 0.4 of a second of them [in the race] as an average. And it’s now our challenge is to reduce that gap further, particularly at venues like this.

[Mercedes’ qualifying advantage] is what we’re trying to understand at the moment. Mercedes, over a single lap, have pretty awesome pace. You could see between FP3 and Q1 and Q3 the amount they are able to step things up is is dramatic.

So we’re looking just to understand where that performance is coming from.

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Comment of the day

Imola will hold a two-day F1 event later this year, but would that format make more sense this weekend?

I’m okay with the short weekend format, but wouldn’t it make more sense on one of the two double-headers at the same track?

Also, I feel something needs to be changed or added to make it more fair in case someone has a problem or incident, maybe the pit lane could be opened ten minutes before Q1 to allow installation laps.
Matteo (@M-bagattini)

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50 comments on “Red Bull trying to understand “awesome” Mercedes qualifying pace”

  1. Mercedes have a special listed part called a “Hamilton” which other teams don’t have and cannot copy. The Hamilton is particularly useful in qualifying on pole position, and is often a major factor in winning races.

    1. Not possible. That would flatly contradict “The Hamilton effect”, whereby all successful drivers except Hamilton, excel because of talent, determination and hard work. Hamilton only succeeds because he has the greatest F1 car ever built.


      1. Harold wilson
        6th August 2020, 3:32

        Sir I commend you as a god amongst humans for that comment. Respect.

      2. @grat @greenflag – well played; both of you

    2. Both Mercs were much faster than the rest of the field. I think Mercedes has the smartest engineers.

      1. I think you hit the jackpot here :) Lewis is good but that is 0.1-0.3 at the most if we compare with Valteri.

    3. Makes very little sense when Bottas is capable of outqualifying Hamilton.

      1. SadF1fan, doesn’t that kind of make it it impossible for any driver to be considered great because none of them have perfect qualifying records against team mates? Senna could be outqualified by Berger at times, Clark could be outqualified at times by Innes Ireland or Peter Arundell, Fangio by Farina and so on.

    4. Yes but still Bottas is also much quicker then last year so the engine has dramatically improved in quali when you compare it to last year .. I’ve heard the engine reach 1022 PK in quali which is insane!

      1. F1oSaurus (@)
        6th August 2020, 10:26

        @kavu How much was it last year?

        Thing is though Verstappen was slower than last year in qualifying. Verstappen isn’t that good a qualifier, so perhaps he simply made some mistakes this year, but still the Red Bull car and/or Honda engine does seem slower than last year. Maybe the engine reg change also hurt Honda.

        1. “Verstappen isn’t that good a qualifier “

          Fact or your opinion? Either way I am curious on what information you base that, because the majority of f1 followers would probably disagree with you.

          Also people need to keep in mind that Max at 18-19y was still in a steep learning curve. Judge him over the last 3 years.

    5. Ahaha, that’s a good one, hamilton made to look like a car device!

    1. I think DAS is definitely a factor, in that it allows the driver to put at least the fronts at the optimum temperature, but there’s more to it than that.

      My expectation is that it’s not one thing, but the combined impact of a number of smaller factors. And the driver might be an important contributor…

      1. DAS maybe a factor but it is not for speeding things, it is for mainly keeping/controlling optimum temps on tyres when needed… They have some very clever aero, esp at the back, complete redesign, and whatever/however they are controlling the rear, keeps that car planted like a glue… they have an almost absolute perfect balance of downforce and speed to go along together….

        1. @mysticus

          I thought one of the big advantages of DAS was allowing more freedom to optimize the steering and suspension system for other purposes. Like getting more front ride hight reduction from steering inputs. Or optimizing suspension settings for more than one tire type with less concern for temperature control.

          Regardless, @sviannan, I’m not sure DAS would create the Q1 to Q3 differences we see. Seems like the DAS would be consistent, unlike something like the engine where a party mode could allow destructive settings for one lap.

          1. But wouldn’t your argument support DAS consistently giving the Mercedes driver tires at their optimum for Qualifying? I would guess they can also adjust that system for maximum attack, like with their drive train.

        2. None of that explains their magical boost in qualifying.

    2. @svianna in focussing attention on Mercedes, Horner is taking attentions away from the fact that Red Bull have not yet managed to set a qualifying time in any of the dry sessions so far that is better than what they managed in 2019.

      It’s not just the progress that Mercedes have made since 2019 – it’s that Red Bull’s qualifying performance has stagnated, or even gone backwards in some races, compared to where they were in 2019. Fundamentally, for all that Red Bull were blowing their own trumpets in pre-season testing, the RB16 hasn’t yet shown itself to be any sort of major improvement over the RB15.

      1. Spot on.
        Despite all bragging of having the best winter ever development wise, they moved backwards. RB16 is a joke.

  2. Hilarious how Toto always makes the competition sound good, “we’ll have a good fight”…

    It’s going to be Merc on pole every race and Merc win every race unless there are crashes, that’s it. I’ve bet 1000 on Hamilton to win this year, I don’t like him but it’s easy money

    1. Totally agreed with you.

    2. No doubt about it. I wish Toto would stop his narrative, but then again what else can he say? He knows they are a large cause of viewer numbers dropping, so he tries to make up for it. Cant fool anyone anymore though

  3. Project Cars 3… Can’t believe people buy that rubbish. Was developers who left codemasters and was sick of making arcadey rubbish that started the Project Cars movement. And it ended up turning into nothing but another arcadey physics GRID-like game.

    So much wasted money on poor development. Don’t know why…

  4. I wonder if Merc are really trying to go fast in Q2. Perhaps part of the gap is just trying to save the race tires. They just need to be within the top ten. Then in Q3 we see the drivers really competing wi

    1. … competing with each other for pole.

    2. F1oSaurus (@)
      6th August 2020, 10:27

      In Q2 they were running on medium tyres. So yes they would be slower on those than on softs

  5. We have been discussing about the point of having a point for the fastest lap. Most here agree that it makes little difference to racing and final race result.

    But if you think about it, if that point didn’t exist, Max could have won the British Grand Prix as he would have never stopped trying to get that point for fastest lap.

    Having that point actually saved Lewis 7 points

    1. Yeah I’ve always like the idea. It adds a great risk-reward tactical element. How much is that extra point worth? Every driver will have a different answer at every race and at different points in the race or championship.

      1. Then make it available to the first 12 positions, not just those who are already scoring.

        1. @faulty I think the reason of awarding the extra point for only those in the top-10, is that if we have a situation before the last race of the season where a championship battle is ‘open’ and the driver/team need just 1 more point in the last race to win that battle (for example Hamilton goes to season finale with a 24pt advantage over Bottas and needs just a 10th place=1pt to clinch the championship regardless of where Bottas finishes), the driver will not just start from the pit lane with a quali-like setup, low fuel and new tyres and go out and make the fastest lap at the start of the race to get that extra point and just cruise the car after at 12th place, or last or even retire, while the opponent battles for his points in the race.

          If that happen, it would be a farce. The top-10 rule at least forces the driver to be ‘relevant’ in the race and not have the championship be decided by that rule. It’s the same argument against “awarding an extra point for pole position”…the championship could be decided before the race even begins.

    2. F1oSaurus (@)
      6th August 2020, 6:41

      Ha that’s a reality too yes. There will always be consequences.

      Same with with those super fast pitstops. At some point a car takes off with a wheel not correctly attached, they receive a penalty for the wheel coming off and then the team complains they couldn’t help that. Well yeah, you could have taken the time to check. Or not sent the car off before it’s done.

      It’s only after they actually feel the downside of things that they understand it exists.

    6th August 2020, 6:16

    Driving 52 laps has to be conservative and qualifying lap will be aggressive, that’s answer to redbul and it goes without saying L Hamilton is the Champion of champions

  7. F1oSaurus (@)
    6th August 2020, 7:24

    Isn’t that the same for all teams though? Especially when they use medium tyres in Q2 and then softs for Q3, you will see a massive gap. Verstappen and Leclerc also gained 8 tenths from Q2 to Q3. Hamilton gained a full second, but then Bottas only 4 tenths (messing up his last flying lap but still).

    So is it this 2 tenths extra that Hamilton had that Horner is wondering about?

    In Austria only Verstappen went significantly faster from Q2 to Q3 (by about 5 tenths), but then he was the only one on medium for Q2 so he had a slower time in Q2.

    In Hungary both Mercedes and Tracing Point gained about 8 tenths from Q2 to Q3, btu again that was because they were on medium during Q2.

    There doesn’t seem to be much difference from Q2 to Q3 between Mercedes or the other teams gaining time. Looking at FP3 times, they are usually comparable to Q1 times. Only Verstappen seems to put extra effort into Q1 and he does go up to half a second faster from FP3 in Austria and Hungary.

    Talking about race pace, in Silverstone Mercedes were probably quicker yes. Hard to say by how much since Verstappen was clearly cruising while Bottas actually looked like he was giving it a half decent push. Hard to say how much faster all of them could have gone.

    Actually in Styria though, Albon was faster than Bottas at the end of the race. Bottas pushing to catch up to Verstappen en Albon pushing to stay ahead of Perez. I’d say that’s the only time we actually saw them push during a race and the Red Bull was faster.

  8. Horner is asking the wrong question he should be asking why they are over a second slower, the answer lies with RB.

    1. @johnrkh Isn’t he doing just that by wanting to figure out how Mercedes can step things up so much from one quali session to the next? I’m sure they are trying to sort the RBR car out every second of every day, and part of that is seeing what others are doing and trying to figure out how. Mercs race pace isn’t nearly as dramatically faster, so if RB could qualify higher they’d stand a better chance during races. That said it is hard to imagine them gaining enough against these dominant Mercs, but they have to try.

      1. @robbie

        Isn’t he doing just that by wanting to figure out how Mercedes can step things up so much from one quali session to the next?

        No because he’s asking why Merc are faster not why RB are slower.

        Mercs race pace isn’t nearly as dramatically faster,

        Well we don’t know that because RB can’t get close enough to challenge them.
        I look at things this way, if we have an even playing field and I can say that there is one for the top three teams wondering out loud as to why the other is faster, better what ever will not solve your problems. You need to look to your self first.
        If Horner is worried know next yr will be worse as the cars can not be changed except for aero upgrades. A Merc powered McLaren with Ricciardo driving are looking pretty good for taking the fight to Toto and his crew. I am looking forward to it.

        1. @johnrkh As I suggest, he can ponder Mercedes’ pace in quali, and how it ramps up so much through quali, and how their race pace isn’t as dramatically higher, as are likely the other team principals, and still be working tirelessly to get to the bottom of their own car’s issues. Just because he is speaking of Mercedes pace doesn’t mean that is all that is on his mind.

          You are right though that we may not have seen Merc’s max race pace as they have been able to control the pace out front, although of course even controlling the pace last weekend saw them with their tire issues so one could easily wonder if they could have indeed gone faster without having issues earlier. Answer is probably yes but with another pit stop.

          Who knows how worried Horner is, but I think there is much more to come from the RBR car, and while Mercedes may be out of reach currently, nobody is looking to do much about Max’s RBR car either. Definitely Mac/Merc/DR are going to be a blast to watch. But they’ll need a leap under the same ‘cars can not be changed’ environment to get ahead of an RBR team that often sorts things out and progresses over some races. RBR will have more continuity this year to next, than Mac with Merc and DR being new to the team. They’ll be needing to do a lot of learning together as they grow and gel together in their first year together. It’ll be exciting to see. They will have some continuity with Norris though, and that will help the whole team.

  9. Italian media have been accusing Mercedes of industrial espionage in Ferrari’s factory, so it wouldn’t surprise me a bit if, after defeating the prancing horse politically, they used a trick or two they’d learnt on the engines.

    1. Hahahahahaha, very credible source that must have been. Hahahaha

      1. Giorgio Terruzzi of the Corriere Della Sera who posted the story claims that his source is an FIA technician.

    2. F1oSaurus (@)
      6th August 2020, 10:30

      @pironitheprovocateur So they stole ideas from Ferrari which Ferrari themselves are unable to implement?

      Talk about far fetched.

    3. Guess if that’s true, Mercedes learned what not to do from Ferrari

      1. Yeah makes sense to copy the slower teams.

    4. @pironitheprovocateur
      I don’t know if you are referring to the Corriere Della Sera article in which I have already talked about in a previous post (I’ll post the link when I’ll find it).

      The article in question never cited Mercedes, they said a Ferrari rival collaborated with someone who knows Ferrari’s PU secrets to upper hand them. This rival team could be RBR since they were behind the precise query about the fuel flow and explains a lot the settlement with the FIA who according to the article did acted illegally to expose Ferrari.

      To be continued…

  10. Regarding the COTD: Yes, possibly to the first part, but as for the second: No. That wouldn’t make any difference to the outcome.

  11. DAS system enables them to have front and rear tires at perfect starting temperatures. That is worth a few seconds right, the dynamic toe angle temperature management.

    Then there is Mercedes engine, make no mistake, they are burning the maximum allowed oil in that Quali lap, + whatever ‘legal’ loopholes they have uncovered and are not closed yet.

    And the car is somewhat easy to drive. Especially Hamilton Q3 laps were well balanced perfect lines almost all corners. That is worth 2-3 tenths aswell.

    That Red Bull is far from perfect handling. No matter how well Verstappen might be driving there has to be time left on the track, that a better handling RedBull would pick up.

    In the race, I doubt Mercedes needs to manage tires with DAS all through the laps, so that falls off, cars are heavier and slower, RedBull is not on the limit, because of tire conservation, hence the edgy nature is no longer such a problem, engines are turned down to normal operation and ‘presto’ they are much much closer.

    But if they were racing Verstappen, I am sure Hamilton could pull out extra 10-20 seconds of pace over race distance. Bottas was easilly keeping up while in dirty air, so Hamilton was not reaching peak performance.

    1. F1oSaurus (@)
      6th August 2020, 10:41

      @jureo Getting optimal tire temperature is also possible through other means. DAS is more for safety car situations and for tyre management if it would have been needed.

      I agree Hamilton gave the engineers perfect feedback so they could fine tune an already great car. While at Red Bull they just seem to be trying random things without any coherent vision on where to go.

      The way they utterly messed up the setup in Hungary was also just bad all around. Verstappen and his engineers are just not able to extract the maximum from the car. Hungary should have been a track where Red Bull could challenge if not beat Mercedes (like last year) but instead they were a second down. That happens too often to them. Last year they had a few of those as well. Bahrain for instance.

      The cars are also much closer during the race because everyone is just managing their pace. It’s also mostly a case of stretching the tyre life so they reach the end.

      I checked the laptimes and Hamilton was actually 17.6 seconds slower over the last stint (counting the 29 laps where he was actually at speed). So yes he was managing the race much more so than last year. Seeing how the engine and the car would have improved, they should have been able to go faster than last year. So yes agreed there is at least 20s more pace there. More over the whole race.

      Although it remains to be seen whether the tyres can handle that. They might have needed to switch to a 2 stop race and that brings extra risks.

      But then Verstappen also could have gone a lot faster. He was cruising even more than Hamilton was since Hamilton had to keep Bottas behind.

  12. The engine has to be a significant factor in this. Not only Mercedes is qualifying very strongly, also Racing Point and Williams (Russell at least) are particulary stronger in qualy than in race. There has to be a big party mode available to all Mercedes equipped teams.

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