#F1 Forensics: Fragile Mercedes still class of field

Brought to you by TheJudge13 Technical Analyst Lorenzo De Luca

Mercedes dominates despite reliability issues

Another race, another win for Mercedes. The Silverstone race will be remembered more for Kimi Raikkonen’s shunt and the fight between Alonso and Vettel rather than Hamilton’s victory – given that the Mercedes W05’s supremacy is nothing new. Indeed without Rosberg’s gearbox failure, we could have had three Mercedes powered cars in the first three positions – possibly even four if Button had had an additional couple of laps to overtake Ricciardo.

The performances of both Bottas and Button offered good news from the British race which, on a very demanding – aerodynamically speaking – track produced positive answers in terms of performances. This last weekend also pointed out to us that, with the power unit elements subjected to quotas, reliability will now play a more significant role for the continuation of the season – therefore expect to see an increasing number of failures which will impact heavily upon the teams performances.

Hamilton-Rosberg rivalry undermines W05 reliability

If we have already written many words about the Mercedes supremacy, it is worth highlighting how the Rosberg-Hamilton rivalry is undermining the W05’s reliability. It’s not the first time we have seen a W05 scoring a DNF, and we all still remember the double failure they suffered in Canada. And, according to who is writing, it’s all due to an attempt to always trying to find the limit more than the extremism of the project. To prove this theory we could look at Hamilton race pace, which slowed considerably once Rosberg was out of the race.

Hamilton vs Rosberg lap time chart comparison

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Hamilton vs Rosberg vs Bottas race pace comparison

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As we can see from both the charts above, when both Mercedes were still fighting for first place, the average lap time advantage over their opponents varied between 1.5-2 seconds with Hamilton clocking a fastest lap of 1:37.176 on the 26th lap. A benchmark that he would never lower again during the race even with less fuel and fresh tires.To be clear, both championships are not at risk, but paradoxically, their biggest enemy is the freedom with which Mercedes leaves its own drivers battling on track.

Williams override Red Bull from the role of first challenger ?

Sir. Frank Williams’ team’s has surely been the most improved team during the last few races. After brilliant pre-season testing sessions, the team seemed lost and unable to react to the improvements made by other teams, but now the FW36 appears to be the most fit car on the grid (apart from Mercedes) and, along with Red Bull, has become a serious candidate for the foremost challenger to Mercedes.

The FW36 shares a design philosophy with Mercedes – the intercooler placement: inside the chassis unlike other teams who have placed it inside one of the side pods. This solution has helped, among other things, to maintain the tapered side pods design, a key feature for the FW36, whose trump card is its low drag.

Mercedes PU106 power unit elements placement (via Giorgio Piola)

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Resurrection Mclaren

Mclaren is without doubt the team, with Ferrari, which has most disappointed all expectations. After the podium scored by Magnussen in Australia, the team from Woking have struggled finding solutions to get the most out of the car – issues which may be linked to a bad integration between MP4/29 chassis and the Mercedes power unit. Finally in Silverstone, we saw things changing, and the MP4/29 ran a convincing race. In part this is also due to the new updates introduced on the car throughout the season.

In Silverstone, we saw a new Re Bull-esque cut-out floor slot design in order to help reduce the turbulences generated by the rear tire.

New cutting out floor slot

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This, combined with the latest updates that had been introduced in Austria, like the new under chassis turning vanes.

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And the latest modifications to the rear suspension, now with only one “mushroom” arm (which should now create less drag and give a better balance to the car

MP4/29 rear suspension

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This helped Magnussen and Button to recover part of the competitiveness lost. The pace showed by Button on Sunday was very encouraging for the continuation of the season for the Woking team, so much so, that the podium is not a dream anymore.

Race pace comparison between Button and Ricciardo

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Old style Red Bull

It has been said many times that with a more powerful power unit, Red Bull could easily match the Mercedes W05 performances. The RB10 undoubtedly has excellent aerodynamic qualities and seems to have maintained it’s design philosophy which is held so dear by Newey. They have built a car that is pitched significantly to the front (rake) and with a lower top speed to favor traction (Red Bull highest top speed 320,1 Km\h vs Bottas highest top speed 329 Km\h)

Red Bull RB10 rake

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Whilst last year this was a winning philosophy, this year it seems not so. Most likely due to the poor performance delivered by the Renault power unit, but the the new regulation could maybe force them to sacrifice their precious downforce for less drag since it is proving difficult to find more aero load on the car.

After the Austrian debacle, in Silverstone, Red Bull has shown signs of revival, although they still trail by some distance the Mercedes (and now even Williams), while the focus of Newey – to bringing new parts to every race – continues unabated (as is the Red Bull tradition). This time we saw a new rear wing with a new slot on the end plate trailing edge and a new support swan neck style pillar

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There was also a revised front wing, with an “L” shaped winglet behind the cascade section – which was for a more aggressive outwash – and a new endplate slots.

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Red Bull is for sure the most competitive non powered Mercedes car on the grid, but if a month ago it seemed like the only team capable of snatching a victory from the Mercedes duo now, as it’s happened for Ferrari, Vettel and Ricciardo must surrender to the Mercedes power unit’s dominance.

Ferrari back with the feet on the ground

In Austria many people highlighted the fact that Alonso finished his race at “only” 18.5 seconds from the winning Mercedes without taking into account the track characteristics. In Silverstone we finally had the counter-proof. The F14-T which started from the 16th grid slot finished 6th almost 60 seconds from Hamilton and 40 seconds from the Williams. Much has already been said about the 059/3 weaknesses (too small a turbine, PU design sacrified for more extreme aerodynamics etc.) Ultimately it will be very hard fo them to repeat the podium scored in China.

Race strategy : The fight with Alonso costed Vettel the chance to fight for podium ?

Top 12 race pace comparison

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Top 12 average lap time \ stint average lap time chart

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Unlike last year, most of the teams chose to do only one stop due to the 2014 harder compounds, a strategy that helped Bottas and, most of all, Ricciardo to hold their positions. Only Ricciardo seemed to be able to manage his tires as he was able to make the medium compound last for 36 laps! Although it was a very poor strategy by Red Bull, who seemed unable to react at the double restart, like Ferrari did by discarding the hardest compound. To highlight, once again, the performance delivered by Bottas who started from 14th place and was able to climb the grid finishing behind only the unbeatable Mercedes.

Alonso vs Vettel race pace comparison

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Despite the beautiful fight orchestrated with Alonso, it’s possible that Vettel lost the chance to fight for the podium. Indeed after their last stop, both were faster than Button and Ricciardo, but once they started to fight, both lost significant time and the gap built was too big to be bridged in just few laps.

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12 responses to “#F1 Forensics: Fragile Mercedes still class of field

  1. Rockin’ analysis Lorenzo. I’m interested in the fact that it seems the Mercedes cars were better on the the prime tyre, but the Red Bull seemed better on the options.

    Do you think there was really more pace in the Primes for Mercedes, or did it just look that way due to Rosberg chewing up and spitting out his gearbox.

    Since you mention penalties, I thought I would ask before it got round to this point. In the documents on the FIA site, Control Electronics (CE) are listed as multiple components, but the rules state that you are entitled to I think 5 CE before you begin being penalized. IF you use a 6th CE DC-DC and get a penalty and next week you use a 6th CE CUHK it will be yet another penalty, correct? Because that multiplies out to be an awful lot of grid spots.

    Also, do you have any information as to the different software versions being run by the ECU. Quite regularly teams will run different versions during the race and I would like to know if the teams get to choose whether to use the latest software or whether the FIA or McLaren simply decides who gets upgrades first and the teams have to live with it.

    Thanks as always.

  2. Thanks Matt 🙂

    I think there was more pace for Lewis due to his aggressive style, he’s capable to let the hard compound working better, while it’s quite the opposite for Rosberg. Also If I recall correctly, Rosberg started to have gearbox issues just after his 1st stop, so obviously he wasn’t able to push as fast as he could

    About the rules, you’re correct , bust still don’t know which team used a different ECU software version, but I guess it’s the FIA who decide which team gets the updates first

  3. Hi Luca

    In terms of setups, how much of a difference is there between the wet and dry?

    I ask because after qually I think it was, during Ted’s notebook, he stated that Mclaren had gone for a wet setup on Jenson’s car for the race.

  4. I second the compliments above.

    Two small points, though:

    with a lower top speed to favor traction
    Might not the lower top speed be merely a consequence of their power deficit ?

    And how much credence do you give to Alonso’s claim of multiple problems with his car during the race (which if true suggests the Ferrari has a little more pace than it demonstrated) ?

    • Hi Nigel,

      About Red Bull, It could be related to the less power available for Renault powered cars, but Toro Rosso proved that with a less draggy setup, you can reach respectable top speed. But looking at Red Bull recent history, I would say that top speed is not something they are interested to reach.

      About Alonso, He said that he was close to withdraw the car, but Mattiacci replied that the issues were not so serious. Having said that, even before he started to have problems (according to Alonso’s statement), his pace didn’t seemed good enough to reach Button or holding back Vettel

  5. Apologies for if this is a silly question, I have never really looked at much race data i.e. the race pace comparison charts before.
    The gaps obviously refer to when the drivers pitted for tyres. I understand not referencing their in-laps or out-laps but why are you excluding a third lap?

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