#F1 Forensics: Mercedes reveal their hand

Brought to you by TheJudge13 Technical Analyst Lorenzo De Luca

Mercedes reveal their hand

Seven days after the Malaysian GP, we are again talking about another easy win for Mercedes. As everyone predicted the Sakhir track suited the Mercedes powered cars perfectly, thanks to its layout comprising long straights and slow corners.

Two seconds per lap. Yes it’s not a typo, this is the advantage that the Mercedes team currently has over its opponents. This last race gave us the opportunity to see the true potential of the three-pointed star. It has been pretty clear since the start of pre-season testing, that the W05 was the fastest car and whilst many experts tried to quantify the performance gap between Mercedes and the rest of the field now, after the Bahrain GP, we have the definitive answer.

Disarming performance

Thanks to the safety car deployed on the 44th lap, the teams, for the first time, were able to push without the fear of running out of fuel. This gave us the opportunity not only to see some great fights, but also the true potential of the varying cars.

Two seconds per lap then, but what is the secret weapon of the W05? It would be too easy to say the PU106 – even if it’s goes without question that their power unit is the best. For proof you just need to look at the top speed chart to see that it has been dominated by Mercedes powered cars.

Rather it is the whole package that works best. Downforce, the energy recovery system, top speed, traction, power delivery – this is the secret. It’s a package that works in perfect harmony; turbo, ERS and chassis. Yesterday during the race both W05’s appeared to be running on rails – Hamilton and Nico drove with ease and an embarrassing superiority – whereas the other cars where struggling in their attempts to remain on the ideal line.

Race pace chart before safety car : pic1v1LH05W
Race pace chart after safety car : Pic2AGU8CmI

It will be extremely hard to close such a gap. Mercedes will most likely remain the car with the best package throughout the season with other teams possibly able to compete at some of the European tracks when power will not be so critical.

Red Bull : only the power is missing

Sector times / sector speed / top speed / fastest lap chart :

pic3S6gckiP

The Bahrain race was more than simply a Mercedes powered benefit. The Red Bull outfit proved that the progress made in Australia and subsequently in Malaysia last week has made Red Bull the second force of this championship. It’s not a secret that Red Bull’s best avenue for success is in its level of downforce that the car can generate. As seen the RB10 was the only non-Mercedes powered car that was able to fight for a podium with Williams and Force India.

You should not be misled by the race results. Force India and, in particular, Williams were helped a lot by this unique track layout which compensated for the lack of aero load on both the FW36 and VJM07. This more than any other factor will have its own repercussions once F1 returns to more “traditional” tracks.

To prove just how good the downforce level of the RB10 is, we could just take a look at the teams approaches in Bahrain. Whilst most of the teams were searching for additional downforce to better deal with the slow corners – Newey & Co. – went in the opposite direction.

During free practice, Red Bull used both drivers to try out different solutions in order to benefit the cars down the straight without sacrificing downforce.

pic5

First, we saw two different low downforce rear wings, The most obvious difference being the lack of the Gurney flap.

pic6

Then we saw a new cascade-less front wing, with its ultimate aim being to reduce drag.

These solution also helped with the fuel consumption which, in Bahrain, was in line with the other cars unlike in Malaysia and Australia. The progress shown up to Bahrain was very encouraging for Milton Keynes and it remains to be seen whether Renault will be able to solve their issues. Currently – it appears – they are the only power unit that seems able to take the fight to Mercedes on an equal footing.

Disaster for Ferrari

AVERAGE LAP TIME CHART :

pic4uQwWlgZ
There was no need to wait for Bahrain to assert that the F14-T was not the best car on the grid. We’ve already discussed about the lack of performance of the 059/3, now it’s time to talk about the other areas in which Ferrari have failed once again this year.

During the race both Fernando and Kimi struggled. Not only on the straights on which they were overtaken with ease by Williams, Force India and Red Bull; but they also struggled with managing the tires. This is a consequence of the non-optimum power delivery, which induces the rear tires to slide, hence leading to a significantly reduced tire life.

Also the Ferrari had a problem with corner entry, a sign of a lack of downforce at the front. If over a single lap in qualifying, the fastest Ferrari was 2.3 seconds slower – race pace demonstrated the situation is critical – as the fastest Ferrari was still 1.2 seconds slower. This is an enormity and in addition we could easily talk about the failure by Ferrari – that after three races the engine is last in terms of performance.

There are upgrades planned for China and Spain but these are unlikely to help reduce such a wide gap. Something needs to be done because as we saw with Red Bull – Ferrari’s opponents are improving quickly.

Lotus: signs of revival

The GP of Bahrain also gave us the chance to talk for the first time about the improvements achieved by the Lotus F1 Team. The team from Enstone which suffered more than anyone else with issues linked to the new power unit, finally proved the performance of the E22 is almost comparable to the opponents we expect to see Lotus fighting with.

There are improvement to be made on the long runs but over a single lap things have undoubtedly improved. Obviously all the power still needs to be better exploited, but in cornering speed we now see they are on the same level of other competitors.

Some updates, as the double floor inlet to improve the cooling of the PU, are a sign that things are now moving in the right direction.

Pic7

Also with the new found reliability, they are now able to properly test new parts, for example, the snowplough placed between the two nosecone tusks to gain downforce

pic8
If Lotus made a couple of steps forward, Mclaren did the opposite. In Malaysia, they introduced a new nosecone trying to channel more air below the chassis, and here in Bahrain a new front wing made its appearance, which has a new upper flap –

pic9

and a new airflow conditioner on the cascade section. It’s hard to tell what is not working on the MP4/29, but they seems to be the only Mercedes powered car to be struggling.

Now, we’ll have the first in-season testing session, two days in which teams will be able to continue the development of their cars before going to China for the next race. It’s unlikely we’ll see a change at the front of the grid – the gap between Mercedes and the others is possibly so wide that maybe a season is not enough to close it.

For sure teams, who until now have struggled with reliability, will have a precious chance to fix them. They will find a better way to use the ERS motors whilst fixing the setup according to the driver’s needs.

31 responses to “#F1 Forensics: Mercedes reveal their hand

  1. I wondered if McLaren were really as bad as you say? Looking at Buttons race pace I was anticipating a challenge for 3rd toward the end

    • This is really disappointing, we have swapped one set of dominance for another. With the rule changes I was hoping for a more even competition (like 2012 with 7 different winners in 7 races!!)

      If its going to continue like this its hardly going to be worth watching when the first 2 positions in every race are a foregone conclusion…..WCC a foregone conclusion and WDC 50/50.

        • I doubt Renault can do much catching up. They’re still fine-tuning the software, but finding 2.5 seconds is practically impossible. They could score a lucky one on tracks like Monaco or Singapore, which favor their ridiculous downforce levels, but Merc will be off in the distance by then.

      • It’s only boring if you care about the winner, F1 isore than that, it’s prototype raving at its best. If you want spec racing where all cars are the same then go watch GP2 or WSR, are people unable to apriciate the machinery and what it really takes to complete a race distance. It’s a team sport and that makes it exciting in its self. I’m fed up of hearing complaints, there are many periods in F1 history where 1 team has been at the top for an extended period. It’s just the way the form ebbs and flows for the teams. A race never a borefest as there is always something going on. F1 is not like the lower formulae, it is unique, so you can’t compare something that is unique to anything else.
        Enjoy what we have, F1 will never be perfect due to the war between the rule makers and the clever engineers that has raged for over 60years, it’s always in a state of flux, never stationary, always moveing on. This is why I love F1, the winner is secondary, the cars are the heart of the show.

        • I agree.
          And this season we look to have the potential for several very sharp intra team rivalries – very different from the last period of ‘domination’.

        • I do agree, once you let go of agony about how unfair it is to have overpowered and underpowered cars and how Alonso is the best, but without a proper car, you can really enjoy the show and fall in love with the machines.

        • I agree, but you can also appreciate the best drivers fighting their cars and each other. TV directors need to remember that there are always battles down the field that are no less important (to the combatants) than the top two. They can be royally entertaining.

        • Ha ha CV – ‘prototype raving’…. great bit of finger trouble 🙂

    • 3rd position for Mclaren? Mhh, you’re quite optimistic if you ask me 🙂

      I rated them so bad because of their pace, even slower than those of Ferrari, maybe they could had scored some points (ahead of Ferrari) but I don’t see how they could had reached the podium as Williams, Force India and Red Bull were much more faster

  2. I’d say the mercs still has a lot more pace inhand, let’s not forget, they were battling each other for the lead and was still pulling away at 2 seconds per lap, now imagine that weren’t the case, it would be a bigger gap.

    My question, given this deficit, what’s the chance of redbull closing that gap this season or the next?

    • Last year Red Bulk had over a second a lap advantage. Remember, the Renault engine is still down on power until they’ve sorted all their problems. This weekend Renault provided RBR and TR with updated ICE for reliability but Ricciardo was flying and Vettel was not slow either.

      Maybe by Silverstone we’ll see the RBR charge.. And there will only be one leader at RBR… the guy that gets the most out of the package. Merc will be forced to make a call or risk losing the WDC.

    • You are forgetting that those chasing them were involved in their own battles.

    • Merc has the same constraints as any other team so it’s only to be expected they have pace in hand.

  3. I’ll settle for the top two duking it out, rather than just one of them driving over the horizon. I also like the fact that the Mercedes PU have made FI and Williams infinitely more competitive, increasing the amount of racing we get to see.

    • I’m not yet sold on the new formula. Australia was – meh – and Malaysia was a rather boring affair. I reserve judgement until Barcelona. If we see proper racing there than you can say the new rules are better. People jump the gun, starting to sing Kumbayah already after a single great race, completely forgetting that it was preceeded by twice as many dull ones

      • Referring only to the top 2, Australia HAM mechanical, Malaysia ROS “issues” this was the first race where both were on song.

        We shall see what the future brings 🙂

        • A race is more than the Top 2 – 2010 and 2012 were not nad seasons if you cared for more than who wins it. In fact more often than not it’s the midfield action that defines a race

  4. worth watching that clip.made by Sky F1 showing the different turbo system of W05, using the hot part behind, linked with the cold part through a shaft in the middle of the engine
    explains a lot of Mercedes team advantages

    • Basically mimicking the advantages of having the turbo mounted inside the Vee of the engine ( which is not allowed ).

      That’s why Audi chose this design ( exhaust inside the Vee of the engine ) for their Le Mans / WEC cars, resulting in smaller intercoolers, shorter inlet pipework, etc.

  5. I wonder how much Honda have learned from the M-B engine / power unit? I wonder what the FIA / Todt will do if the Honda engine / power unit is say 100 HP more powerful than everyone else’s next year? And as development is frozen in 2016 Honda could dominate for years.

    • You would expect Honda to produce the best engine ….

      given the advantage of seeing what the opposition have done, allied to an extra year of development, but …..

      they’ve produced quite a few failures in their time too.

      • Yes the RA273 was a heavy dog but produced a wonderful noise from the incredibly complex exhaust system.

  6. As usual Lorenzo, great piece and the graphs and tables are lovely and clear this week, even on my phone and zoomed in. Well done for that as I’m an F1 tech geek at heart too.

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