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