Long-time TheJudge13 reader Iestyn Davies has been investigating the effect that the powertrains are having on qualifying this year and has come up with this new post. As TJ13 reported prior to the season commencing, this year is an engine Formula where the strongest package is the most competitive – as we have seen from Mercedes. Qualifying times have been adjusted to compensate for the disadvantages other cars have to highlight better or worse performances.
Austria 2014: *The engine-corrected grid*
“I came to the rough conclusion that Mercedes were gaining 0.75 on Ferrari and 1 second per lap on Renault in outright pace at Austria, given the lap time analysis from FP1 and FP2. Look how this would tighten up the grid:
(Ferrari -0.75, Renault -1 second)
|1||Lewis Hamilton||Mercedes||1:08.442 -Lost Pole|
|5||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull||1:08.466 +0.02|
|7||Daniil Kvyat||Toro Rosso||1:08.490 +0.05|
|4||Fernando Alonso||Ferrari||1:08.535 +0.10|
|1||Felipe Massa||Williams||1:08.759 +0.30|
|13||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull||1:08.801|
|14||Pastor Maldonado||Lotus||1:08.939 +0.50|
|15||Jean-Éric Vergne||Toro Rosso||1:09.073|
|6||Kevin Magnussen||McLaren||1:09.473 +1.00|
|10||Nico Hülkenberg||Force India||1:09.624 +1.20|
|11||Sergio Perez||Force India||1:09.754|
|17||Adrian Sutil||Sauber||1:10.024 +1.60|
|19||Jules Bianchi||Marussia||1:10.662 +2.22|
|20||Kamui Kobayashi||Caterham||1:10.673 +2.23|
Noticeable here is the Williams team being the ‘preferred Mercedes customer engine’ as has been reported from numerous corners of the media, getting upgrades first getting the most assistance from Stuttgart.
The Toro Rosso cars are not that inferior to those of the senior team, Red Bull. Some would say almost identical in pace with a plethora of reasons for this. The more cynical of readers would say they are trying to marginalise Lotus and ‘manage’ the Caterham relationship.
While Button really looked off the pace, even more so than the car, there is strong evidence for Gutierrez, Chilton and Ericsson to be replaced. All three have looked to have been thoroughly outclassed by their teammates which must loom large on their minds as we head into the summer break.
In any case, it’s likely we’ll see Red Bull close up on Mercedes next year as 48% of the powertrain is allowed to be redesigned, while Ferrari and McLaren should be moving on up ahead of the Mercedes customers. Lotus will have an intriguing battle with Williams and Force India for 5th place when they finally sort out their software woes. Toro Rosso will probably stay ahead of Sauber and the two small teams from the big push Red Bull is giving it, possibly closing on Force India or Lotus, if their ‘development cash is lacking.’
Germany 2014: *The engine-corrected grid*
Handicap – I tried to establish an ‘equalisation factor’ at Germany, and have applied it here:
(Force India, McLaren -0.25, Ferraris -0.75, Renaults -0.90)
|5||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull||1’16.373|
|16||Lewis Hamilton||Mercedes||1’16.433 (-2.25 sec)|
|6||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull||1’16.677|
|2||Valtteri Bottas||Williams||1’16.759 +0.386|
|7||Fernando Alonso||Ferrari||1’16.899 +0.516|
|4||Kevin Magnussen||McLaren||1’16.964 +0.581|
|8||Daniil Kvyat||Toro Rosso||1’17.065 +0.692|
|13||Jean-Eric Vergne||Toro Rosso||1’17.385|
|9||Nico Hulkenberg||Force India||1’17.764 +1.391|
|10||Sergio Perez||Force India||1’17.785|
|14||Esteban Gutierrez||Sauber||1’17.989 +1.616|
|15||Romain Grosjean||Lotus||1’17.994 +1.621|
|18||Jules Bianchi||Marussia||1’18.926 +2.553|
|20||Kamui Kobayashi||Caterham||1’19.508 +3.135|
|22||Marcus Ericsson||Caterham||No Time Set|
Renault brought a software update for this track, so I’ve credited them with a tenth, rather than a few tenths more, as Vettel gave feedback after practice that it didn’t make much difference. The question that remains is whether it was worth more time to Ricciardo than it was to the World Champion who even after 10 races is still not comfortable with the car. The Renault powertrain’s improved reliability in the extreme heat was noted by Adam in his Castrol GP predictor summary.
Given that Rosberg left a little time out on the circuit, and Hamilton is usually 1 tenth faster on average, I think the time credited is a an accurate compromise. So, we have a pole battle between the top 4, with Vettel on this occasion running early and not getting a great middle sector. Ricciardo and Hamilton would have likely made up the front row.
Lotus have been hit hard with the loss of FRIC, perhaps by something around 0.5 per lap, with some time gained back by Renault’s upgrades. In truth, this is not at all surprising given they were the team who had been developing the system for the longest time. Something of note was the Ferrari still overtook Red Bull on the straights, despite their lack of top speed, as shown by Alonso’s battle with Ricciardo. Ferrari engines are noticeably geared for a lower top speed than Renaults and Mercedes are – hence their ‘sitting duck’ display at Bahrain. Expect more of the same at Monza…
Top speeds show that Vettel in particular ran more wing, posting the joint 2nd best sector 3 with Kevin Magnussen. The Dane and Kvyat are really flying the flag for the rookies, and we can assume Kvyat could even be a match for Vettel most times out this year. As debuts go, his is pretty impressive. He could be the ‘chosen one’ come 2016 if Vettel does opt to jump ship – although given Kvyat’s impressive display in Austin last November, maybe we should have expected this!
Gutierrez, for once, has shown good pace – he must really be scrambling to save his seat for 2015. His only saving grace at the moment is the fact that the Mexican GP is set to return, as it’s quickly becoming last chance alley for him. Maldonado screwed up his last run at T1, so he’s out of place but probably around Grosjean, going off race pace, and Lotus have confirmed him for 2015, should his petro-dollars keep flowing.
Bianchi did well, eventually being the best part of a minute ahead of ‘Super Max’ Chilton in the race, which works out to roughly 0.75s per lap, as had been shown in qualifying. I feel he is ready for Ferrari, if they wanted to try for 2015, though inevitably they will play it safe and aim for a decision in 2016 (Bianchi, Vettel or Hulkenberg). Latest murmurings on JS’s blog are that Hulkenberg is still in contact with a top team for 2015.
Track improvements we can estimate to be about 4 tenths in each session. What is apparent is that Red Bull’s push to improve Toro Rosso (possibly in a bid to make it more attractive to a potential buyer) is putting them in contention for points each time out, while McLaren’s recent updates are bringing them back into solid points contention. Williams’ pace looks genuine, like in 2012, and Toro Rosso are ‘doing a Sauber’ from that year, also producing a good car. Let us not forget, James Key did move there from Sauber…
Force India’s lack of development cash is really starting to hit them hard. Only Hulk’s consistency is keeping his points-scoring run going, a bit like Alonso in the early 2012 Ferrari. What a pairing those two would make….Who would you like to see in the donning the Ferrari red in the future?