Max Verstappen, Red Bull, Nurburgring, 2020

Red Bull cut Mercedes’ lap time advantage to new low at Nurburgring

Lap time watch: 2020 Eifel Grand Prix

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Mercedes took pole position for the 11th time in as many races this weekend – but Red Bull are closer than ever.

In fact, had Max Verstappen replicated his Q2 lap time in Q3, he would be starting from the front row of the grid alongside pole winner Valtteri Bottas. That lap of 1’25.467 is Red Bull’s best of the weekend so far, and was less than two tenths of a second off Mercedes’ best.

This is another encouraging sign of progress for Red Bull. Two races ago in Mugello we were talking about them getting closer to Mercedes than at any point so far this season, having cut the gap to 0.327s. Today the deficit was 0.198s.

Max Verstappen credited the gains to Red Bull’s latest upgrade package and his team mate offered the same view. “I think it’s a whole part, really, it’s all bits and pieces, front to back,” said Alexander Albon.

The team ran the package despite not being able to thoroughly evaluate it as planned yesterday due to the disruption the weather caused to the practice sessions.

“To be honest we can’t compare it to the previous package just because without the Friday running, normally the plan was to run the old package versus new package,” said Albon. “So with limited running, we’ve kind of just started on it.

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Nurburgring, 2020
Mercedes swept the front row again but they’re not quite as quick as usual
“But it feels good. It feels quick, obviously, straightaway in FP1 – or FP3 – it was feeling pretty strong straightaway. I was happy with it and I think it’s a good step forward. It’s put us a lot closer obviously to the Mercs.”

However Red Bull’s upgrade doesn’t appear to be the whole story. Several other teams have narrowed the gap to Mercedes by a similar amount in the four weeks since the Tuscan Grand Prix, notably Renault, McLaren and Ferrari.

Albon conceded Mercedes appear to be slightly weaker at this track, and in these unusually cold temperatures, than at other venues. “I don’t want to say Mercedes struggled but they don’t seem as quick,” he said. “When you look at the other teams as well it’s not like we’re miles ahead of everyone else. I would put it in that sense.”

Mercedes could become the first team ever to take pole position at every race in a season. But Red Bull’s progress indicates it’s only going to get harder for them to keep up that streak.

Quotes: Dieter Rencken

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2020 Eifel Grand Prix

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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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9 comments on “Red Bull cut Mercedes’ lap time advantage to new low at Nurburgring”

  1. You all know what this is? Hamilton underperformed slightly with shortened preparation, cold track, all kinds of strangeness. In normal conditions Lewis would be 2 tenths up on Bottas.

    Second, Verstappen and Leclerc infused by spirits of Nurburgring, drove possesed, to show what new generation of drivers can do.

    Third, this is not a power track. Not surprising Leclerc managed to bring them a good deal forward. Honda was not quite a liability either.

    It should be a good race tomorrow, especially in the rain Verstappen should fight Lewis for the win.

  2. Not to take anything away from red bull but I feel it’s more Mercedes got worse due to the rule change for engine modes.

  3. Interesting to see if the trend continues in the next few races as well. It could be that the gap being this small is due to the colder weather (should not be a problem for the rest of the season); or perhaps Mercedes has already shifted focus to 2021 and 2022.

  4. It’s been an interesting GP so far.

    Was Hamilton on the back foot and Bottas coped better with less set up time?
    Has the Redbull and Ferrari really improved or is it this track requires less of then and is pretty short making the % less?

    It does throw up an interesting if we need Friday? Or if the FIA want to even up the grid only those outside the top three constructors positions get to run on Friday?
    As time and testing seem to be the magic each team needs to go faster.

    Or scrap Fridays and bring back more in season testing – only for the lower teams maybe – but would this be a problem because of cost?

    Looking foward to Sunday!

    1. Bottas comes out strong on Fridays. Hamilton takes a more deliberate approach to building up his speed, and just didn’t get the opportunity this time. Even though he’s familiar with the track, it’s been 7 years, and he was in a V8 the last time he raced here.

      Top speed isn’t quite as critical here, which lessens both the impact of the Mercedes power advantage, and how much advantage they can get from DAS.

      Although since Hamilton specifically told the team he wanted to talk about DAS, he may have an alternate usage in mind, or he thinks the team isn’t taking enough advantage of the system.

      Still going to be an interesting race, but I’m not in favor of throwing out Friday practice– Again, it’s “unusual conditions” that make unusual races. You can’t force spontaneity.

      1. “unusual conditions” that make unusual races. You can’t force spontaneity.”

        You are right about that – makes me think of Bernies Sprinkler idea.

        However you as you said it takes Friday for Hamilton to get up to speed – thats exactly my point. But I’m sure it’s just Bottas’s weekend – he does occasionally beat Hamilton – just not enough over season.

        But taking awsy Fridays could hurt Mercedes…

        1. as you said it takes Friday for Hamilton to get up to speed

          No, that’s not the case. Hamilton puts more focus on long runs on Fridays.

          The fastest laps are simply meaningless on Friday, but that fastest lap is usually all you see. Unless you go to more informative sites which do a long run analysis too.

  5. Damn the cars look weird after all the evolution of upgrades. Feels like there’s wings and ducts everywhere.

  6. So almost all teams got closer to Mercedes. Doesn’t that say more that Mercedes were a bit slower at this track?

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