Rosberg adopts the Mercedes go-slow policy

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The race last week in China should have brought fear into the hearts of every Formula One fan who hopes to see competitive on track racing in the first half of this season.

Having a lightning one-lap pace advantage over Ferrari, the two Mercedes drivers established themselves on the front row of the grid in Sepang. Yet when the lights went out on Sunday, we saw a very different Mercedes.

In fear of Ferrari’s superior tyre management capabilities, Lewis and Nico were instructed to trundle around the circuit at about a second a lap slower than they were in fact capable of doing.

This nullified the Ferrari tyre degradation advantage, as the Mercedes pair were able to run much longer stints on the soft tyre due to their snail-like pace.

This also nullifies the likelihood of seeing a proper race between Nico and Lewis, as Mercedes goal is to deliver a 1-2 which meant both drivers had to extend their option tyre runs by not engaging in battle with each other.

With Lewis dominant in qualifying, this creates a problem for Rosberg this year. In 2014, the Mercedes pair were able to run split strategies – one adopting a tyre strategy which was theoretically slower but created a race between the two silver arrow protagonists.

Mercedes no longer have this advantage, so when the quickest way to the chequered flag is clear-cut – this year both cars will be forced to run the quickest strategy to defend against the Ferrari’s.

Today in Q2 we saw an interesting development. Those predisposed to the idea that Lewis is now über dominant and Rosberg is crushed, failed to spot that Nico had decided he would save the tyre he was to start the race on and trundle around setting a time good enough to make it into Q1, however this time was a whole 1.1 seconds slower than his team-mate.

Rosberg has been no further back than around 0.3 seconds in qualifying to Hamilton this year, so clearly this gap should have set the cat amongst the pigeons.

This tyre saving exercise in qualifying will give Rosberg a significant advantage in terms of tyre durability and longevity during the first stint of the race tomorrow.

Whether Nico planned to slot in third behind Vettel on the grid, is more difficult to argue. However, he now has the advantage of not having to play rear gunner for Hamilton.

Should Vettel and Hamilton go at it hammer and tongues from the off tomorrow, it could be the Nico and Kimi play a long game, to see if by reducing their tyre wear they can get the jump later in the race on their team mates.

So Nico has adopted the Mercedes go-slow policy they deployed in China, though it is likely this was for his own personal battle with Hamilton and not a team instruction.

Lauda was displeased with the german following the race.“We had the pressure from Vettel, and it’s a pity that Nico couldn’t get him, from a Mercedes a point of view.”

37 responses to “Rosberg adopts the Mercedes go-slow policy

  1. This tyre saving exercise in qualifying will give Rosberg a significant advantage in terms of tyre durability and longevity during the first stint of the race tomorrow.

    An advantage quite possibly nullified by running in dirty air – or he drops back far enough for Raikkonen to have a go at him, with similar deleterious consequences.

    It’s equally possible for Vettel to play it smart and back Rosberg up into Raikkonen, as Vettel saves his tyres.

    Saving tyre wear in Q2 was smart; compromising Q3 wasn’t.

    • Prior to seeing your comment, i thought, the author/writer of this article doesn’t realise that even if Rosberg was to be handed brand new tires, they would be dead before Lewis’ (once he clears the first 3-4 corners in-front of vettel). Rosberg will be running in the dirty air of Vettel whilst having Kimi on his back like cheese on toast.

      At the end of Qualifying, Rosberg was noticeably disheartened and unhappy with his results.

      Also, why did Rosberg feel the need to make his strategy (saving tire life in Q2) known to everyone??? Makes no sense as Lewis and Ferrari will be wise to it in the future.

      • Nico”s plan was to save his race set in Q2 AND to then get pole. Being on better tyres and in front at the first corner may have given him the race.

        • He would have definitely had the upper hand there… had he succeeded… Quite unlucky for him really.

          • Yh, it was actually pretty smart. It’s also maybe a sign he’s aware he can’t beat Lewis in identical conditions.

            Now that Nico will come second at best, I’m just hoping the Ferrari hype can be believed so there’s some interest at the pointy end beyond duelling pitstops.

  2. I don’t understand why Hamilton set such a quick time in Q2 as it achieved nothing. Once again tomorrows race will be compromised by those bloody awful Pirelli tyres. I’m not so sure we will see any actual racing as every driver will be worried about tyre wear.

    • To ensure that it will get him through to Q3. lol…. what would have happened if Rosberg’s calculations were incorrect and he had to use another set of options or make a second run on those tires???

  3. A few weeks back he joked with Seb how he’d like them to improve and join the fight, I bet he’s starting regret that now?

    Whatever makes him sleep at nights. He said after FP3 yesterday that the tyres were fine and there’s no issues with deg, so what’s with the preserving of tyres now?

    Just another excuse.

  4. Also…

    If he was thinking strategic in Q2, he accomplished that part of his plan, so that means in Q3 he should’ve gone flat out to ensure he finished in front of Seb.

    “I underestimated that Seb would be so quick”…..yup!

    • Hmmmm… but then he would have had Seb pushing him and Hamilton backing him up into Seb. Now Hamilton has a hungry Ferrari on his tail.

      All good but we will see. If Hamilton manages to pull out a good few seconds and go back into cruise mode it may help.

      • Well He should’ve just seen to it that he was on pole, then he wouldn’t have to worry about that.

      • Now he has a keen Kimi in a Ferrari that is known for it’s excellent starts behind him. It really has not worked out well for him (or so it seems).

  5. If his Q2 run was purposely that slow and steady then he ruined it in Q3. Over 0.5 behind Hamilton and with a lot of dirty air to contend with. In trying to outfox Hamilton he got outfoxed by Vettel, not the best way to please your bosses!

  6. Lewis IS now über dominant and Rosberg is crushed

    Nico is a right mess if he is going to these lengths. Well at least he is trying something. Good luck to him but I doubt it’s enough. That tire advantage will be gone by the end of the 1st stint.

  7. I bet Nico wishes he was as dumb as Lewis who can only drive fast. Nico did so much superior thinking about tyres and strategy and simply forgot to drive fast when it mattered. I think its the teams fault, they should have coached him over the radio that it was ok to trash the options in q3. Good thing is Nico has about an extra half second in his q2 race starting tyres over bozzo who stupidly went 1 second faster on his
    Also lets not forget that Nico is still unsettled by being forced by the team to give away wins to Lewis after Spa (according to a Merc insider who only informs the top top race attending ‘reporters’)

  8. “Should Vettel and Hamilton go at it hammer and tongues from the off tomorrow, it could be the Nico and Kimi play a long game, to see if by reducing their tyre wear they can get the jump later in the race on their team mates.”

    Yes, and what if Vettel analyzes the last race and decides to wait it out until the first round of stops to see where everyone stands and realizes that Lewis’ tire wear is just as good as his, and then decides to settle for 2nd and screws around with Nico, backing him up into Kimi, etc. I mean, saving tires is great, but when you do it and then your plan goes awry, because you forgot to get pole or 2nd, then you just look stupid.

  9. ” … Should Vettel and Hamilton go at it hammer and tongues from the off tomorrow, … ”

    should be: …. ” hammer and tongs” ..

    But tongues is good.
    Hammer for hammertime.
    Tongues for (1) doing the talking on the track for lewis and (2) bitching in the press conference for Nico.
    😉

  10. Hmm post race presser Nico said that his plan went awry as going slow Q2 threw off his rhythm for Q3. It was clear that Ferrari did the same thing but it was obvious Nico did not plan to be P3. As far as disheartened, he didn’t really seem to fussed about it, more like tried it, didn’t like it, back to the drawing board.

    • If have thought Q2 is also a good chance to hone your settings for Q3 so running slow risks you not having the optimal anyway.

      Good plan if you have speed in hand, not so good if things are tight.

      • Agree, seemed to work out pretty well for Vettel since Ferrari did the same thing. Also interesting in that presser is the fact that Nico expected both runs in Q3 to be on fresh options, suggesting that Merc expected to be able to get through Q1 on the Prime tyre.

  11. I did not realize Q2 tires were used for the race start. For some reason I thought it was the quickest lap tires from Q 2 or 3.

    At any rate, if Hamilton was smooth on his fastest lap, his tires should be in good condition for the race. The big question is why Rosberg did not have a better Q time than Vettel?

    Also, I missed the qualification live, because NBC for some reason.

    • I think that it used to be quickest lap tire in Q3… However, there was a problem with some teams not running at all in Q3 if they believed that they would qualify P9/P10 consecutively. This gave them an advantage and created a “Dull” Q3 for the viewers…. So i believe they changed it to fastest lap tires in Q2 (as everyone will undoubtedly run in Q2) and an extra set of tires for those who get through to Q3.

      Someone correct me if i’m wrong of course…

  12. Hands up if anyone knew that Nico’s Q2 lap was a strategic so as to save tyres for the race?

    It seems to me people are only saying it was a good move because of what he said after. If we corrected the Q2 times based on their Q3 times, Lewis only went 6 tenths faster than Nico and 5 tenths faster than Seb, which is pretty much the same as Q3. So what advantage did either driver gained? How many laps extra does that give either driver over the pole sitter? Lewis didn’t seem too worried about it in the press conference.

    How I see it, if he goes on to win (which I seriously doubt he can unless Lewis sufferers the cruelest of luck), then he can point to that decision being the key factor and then everyone praises about how smart and intelligent he was for thinking that way. If he loses, then he can say, well it was due to what happened in Q3.

    To come out and say he underestimated how fast Seb would be, was just stupid.

    • True, Fortis. I will repeate that, other than the briefest of Ted Kravitz mentions, no one admitted Hamilton so saved fresh options. Perhaps the reason Hamilton wasn’t fazed by Rosberg’s statements is because he knew the truth of the matter… but, once again, we have to figure that neither Hamilton nor anyone else on his side of the garage is smart enough to consider the same strategy.

  13. Seems the omission here is that Hamilton so had saved a set of fresh options. However, like so much when it comes to “intelligence” between Rosberg and Hamilton, this fact was reported by Ted Kravitz as he quickly changed the subject to ensure that few people caught his statement.

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