George Russell, Williams, Silverstone, 2020

Attempt to slow Mercedes with ‘quali mode’ ban has had opposite effect – Russell

2020 Italian Grand Prix

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Mercedes junior driver George Russell says the manufacturer has been able to unlock much more power from its engine in race trim as a result of the banning of ‘quali modes’.

Following a technical directive from the FIA teams will be forbidden from changing the power modes on their engines between qualifying and the race. Russell said he impressed by how Mercedes have responded to the change, but suspects their customer teams will feel the consequences more than the factory squad.

“I think unfortunately it will probably affect us and Racing Point more than Mercedes,” said Russell. “Purely because Mercedes are so far ahead in qualifying anyway.

“If anything it’s only going to help them even more in the race. So the whole idea of trying to slow them down is actually going to go completely the opposite way and is only going to enhance their performance.

“I think on a Saturday it will probably compromise us a tenth or two. But we expect it to also compromise the other manufacturers a tenth or so. So we are probably net one-tenth down on a Saturday.

“But on a Sunday we’re definitely net up by a big margin. And I think what Mercedes have done to improve the engine to allow us to run a very high engine mode for the whole race is really impressive and she’s going to be flying on the Sundays.”

Russell’s team mate Nicholas Latifi has tested the changes to the Mercedes engine in their simulator and also believes they will gain more power in the race.

“Like George said, it’s going to be a few tenths, tenth or so, in qualifying, it’s going to hurt us a bit.

“But in the race it’s only going to help us so we’re going to have more allocation, more laps of a higher engine mode that we otherwise wouldn’t be able to run for so long. So it’s going to be interesting to see how it stacks up.”

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2020 Italian Grand Prix

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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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25 comments on “Attempt to slow Mercedes with ‘quali mode’ ban has had opposite effect – Russell”

  1. I don’t think what they (Mercedes and affiliates) are saying is true and that it will improve their results in races.
    If this was the case, Mercedes would have done this ages ago!

    I’m sure Mercedes thought of trading in some extra qualifying power for extra race power themselves and runs this in simulations probably every weekend.

    1. With the difficulty in overtaking, it’s possible that Mercedes traded some in-race performance for the advantage of a front-row start.

    2. @ebogaard I don’t think they would have done it ages ago even if they knew there would be a race pace advantage. They wouldn’t give up quali modes if everyone else was using them. But since no one else can use them either it lets them adjust in favour of race pace without risking reliability. Of course it remains to be seen whether the other manufacturers have found similar gains in race pace, but if their quali modes were inferior to Merc’s then there’s a fair chance that means there’s less to play with in terms of adding race performance. Monza could be interesting (it isn’t always)

    3. Remember one Bahrain GP when Rosberg and Hamilton turned up their engines after a restart as they battled with themselves. After just 2 or so laps the gap to the chasing pack was already over 3 seconds. The bosses were none too pleased at their actions stressing the engines but what it did show was the extra performance available at that time.
      Other engines have since improved since then, but it does highlight the fact that engines can be run with enough power in reserve.

      1. Honda can do the same though. Verstappen was allowed to run his engine pretty much to destruction in Austria 2019. They just wanted that win so bad that halfway through the race they turned it all the way up.

    4. @ebogaard This is Mercedes trying to be fair for both their drivers. They need to beat each other in Q3 to be able to win the race. During the race there is about zero chance of overtaking each other, so they need to go flat out in Q3.

      It makes no sense why they are going so far ahead of the rest. They could indeed at least have taken out half a second for most of the races and still have been well ahead. Allowing for more performance overall or save it up for more “overtake” during the race.

  2. I don’t think it is an attempt to slow down Mercedes. I think it’s highly likely that someone was “doing a Ferrari” with the hybrid power. Main reason why it is rushed. FIA wants it to stop and cannot police the details to well.

    1. Overall, the team with the most to gain from this rule change is Ferrari. It seems their ‘party mode’ from last year has been negated by the ‘secret deal’ and resulting Technical Directive.

    2. Quite the contrary. I think what has happened is Ferrari have been unable to build a new engine with good performance.
      Suddenly Mercedes seems to be far ahead of everyone. The FIA has seen that Mercedes is well ahead in qualifying but beatable in some races. So banning the extra power modes will somehow level the field as there is no engine development allowed for this year.

      1. So that is why the FIA asked all teams about the ERS specifications (especially the use of auxiliary power circuits) about the same time as the letter about the proposed ban on party mode was sent.

        I think the suspected foul play by one or more of the teams was the reason for this.

    3. @maxv Yet we have Marko claiming that they put pressure on the FIA to stop Mercedes using their party mode in Q3.

      Marko apparently had it in his head that Mercedes is gaining 8 tenths of a second. So he thought they would be fighting for pole if that advantage was taken away from Mercedes. Horner already started back pedaling saying that it might not help at all.

    4. @maxv It must be considered a real possibility as it’s almost too much to make a rule change in the middle of the season just to hamper a team for no reason other than they are too good.

      It would be possible in the Mosley-era, but not really now. I find it hard to believe.

  3. There has always been a lurking suspicion that Mercedes could call on extra power if they wanted. ‘Quali mode’ was just them letting loose the engine just enough to ensure top places without really unleashing its power and killing off competition (which they know F1 needs and they have to help preserve to some extent while actually still wining everything). Same in ‘race mode.’ Maybe that’s fantasy/paranoia, depending on which team you’re backing, but the fact that they have had such good engine reliability does suggest they’re not exacting the most out of the engine. And that’s backed by the response to the new regulations, with Wolff (and others, like Russell in effect) saying ‘cool, we’ll just up the engine then for qualifying and the race.’ Maybe bluff, maybe reality, we’ll soon see.

  4. Coventry Climax
    3rd September 2020, 14:46

    It isn’t difficult to foresee that the wear on the engine that is saved using a lower mode in qualifying, can be used to go with a higher mode on raceday. But ok, that’s valid for the other engine makers as well – to a degree. Mercedes has been able to turn it up again and again, whenever the competition seemed to get a little nearer. They were miles ahead already when the hybrid PU was ‘introduced’ (they had already been working on it for years, and pushed the FIA heavily into adopting it) and they are still miles ahead, with power to spare. So I’m not surprised at all that they’ve ‘suddenly’ found something again.
    What worries me most in this entire farce, is that in the coming years, the other teams and PU builders will get seriously restricted in their development possibilities. Can’t see how that will ever equalize the playing field, although it seems to be the exact reason why all the rules are changed. There’s some serious great minds working at the FIA I’m sure. The sports start to resemble chess more and more, whereas I prefer motorracing.

    1. “There’s some serious great minds working at the FIA I’m sure”
      If that’s the case, then I’m sure the teams have engineering minds at least 2x greater. If mercedes did indeed have an advantage at the start of the hybrid era, the teams have had 9 years to catch up. It’s not as if the is a race were one cannot catch up of another has a head start. Besides, there have been so many regulation changes over the years

      1. Coventry Climax
        5th September 2020, 2:55

        Not sure what your trying to tell me with your comment, @Pip. Because they have had 9 years already, the other teams are now no longer allowed to catch up?

  5. What the FIA cannot ban is Mercedes’s “Hammer Time” mode.

  6. Wouldn’t it be a shocker if Williams suddenly becomes the monster that lies within? They suddenly give the keys to the new money holders, step aside and the old beast starts running like a scalded dog. Talk about the irony of this situation.

  7. If true what Russell predicts, it would be dramatic to see Ferrari, Alfa Romeo and Haas battling the wrong end of the race, i.e., the 6 lower positions. Can only imagine the Mercedes lapping all Ferrari powered cars in Monza. The tiffosi, banned from the stands will riot on the streets…

  8. Mercedes and its customer team tried so hard speaking about how their race-pace going to gained with ‘quali mode’ ban, why such high profile self-confidence? It seems to do opposite of what Toto practiced in previous years… Are they hitting problem without ‘quali mode’ (slowest engine? reliability?) and trying to masquerade?

    1. Not sure it is the Teams talking, just the drivers answering to the Press, and we know they … love to talk.
      If I recall, last year RP had an incident with Lance S. and his power unit.
      In a practice session the engine mode was mistakenly set to Quali-Party Mode. Not sure how long he ran like that, but the net result was that the engine had to be turned down considerably for the rest of the sessions and the race.
      It would seem that the Quali-Mode takes a significant amount of life out of the engine. As for this increasing power availability in race trim, we will find out on Sunday. Should be really interesting.
      Side note … M. Binotto had made a comment a couple of weeks ago that Ferrari had next year’s engine running on the dyno and the numbers were better than the current version. Must be true, published on the net.

  9. This is an interesting one. Qualifying modes must really chip away at the lifespan of a power unit, for them to make these claims. Kinda makes sense though faster speeds require exponentially more power in a lot of scenarios.

  10. Hopefully this will at least allow the other teams to see what they are aiming at in terms of performance. No more hiding your true performance as much as before. So maybe bad in the short term, but hopefully good in the long run.

    1. Coventry Climax
      4th September 2020, 9:37

      We’ll see, but I’m afraid ‘no more hiding true performance’ is not the case. I feel they still have HP’s and kW’s to spare, only to be used when other teams get too close to their liking. (Technically, they’re all kW’s really, but you know what I mean.) Then when others get ‘too close’, they will have ‘suddenly’ found ‘something’. Otherwise they’ll set their engine to ‘on the edge’ of what Merc feels you might still call ‘motorracing’, in an effort to give their victories some lustre. But their definition of ‘on the edge’ certainly isn’t mine.
      The definition of motorracing itself lies within the hands of the FIA, and they are not doing a really swell job, given they have neither the means or the knowledge to check the legality of things.

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