What a difference a year makes
Listening to Daniel Ricciardo after the Canadian Grand Prix could have created the impression that he was reading a 2014 Vettel interview to the press. The Australian, whom some had perhaps somewhat prematurely declared to be the next best thing, had just suffered his way through a race that would make some of Vettel’s exploits in his last RB year look like a success. For the second time in a row the highly rated Australian was beaten by his team mate and finds himself in a classic role-reversal as like Vettel last year, he has no explanation for the fact that he suddenly seems unable to get the best out of his car. And what he has to say about it sounds astonishingly similar to the words of his former team mate.
”There must be something fundamentally wrong with the car. I’m not a whole second slower than Daniil, and I certainly haven’t forgotten how to drive.” We seem to have heard that before.
According to the ‘honey badger’ his car lacked grip despite the fact that he ran a higher downforce setup than his Russian team mate. The car’s sliding subsequently leads to higher tyre wear. Hmm, sounds familiar…
”I hope we can soon find out what’s wrong, so I can sleep peacefully again. I’m afraid though that we have to dig a bit deeper. It could be one of those problems where you have to check everything.”
Not only the interviews recall memories of Vettel 2014, so do Red Bull’s attempts at solving the problem. Last year Vettel’s chassis was changed no less than three times and the same will now be done with Ricciardo, who’ll get an all-new RB11 for the Austrian Grandprix.
Daniel Ricciardo, who is still one of the best overtakers in the field might simply be a victim of what happened to his former team mate. Last year it was Vettel, who had to make do with a car that was a definite step back from his former steeds, while even the lamest Red Bull was almost guaranteed to be better than what Danny had driven at Toro Rosso. This year he assumes the role of the German, and it appears he finds it equally difficult to let his talent shine when the car is not up to it, while the man he has beaten last year, enjoys a renaissance in a car that is better suited to his needs.
The Australian can take comfort though. His drop in performance is so far not nearly as drastic as happened to his team mate last year.
Why the Mercedes duel is decided on Saturday
Last year Nico Rosberg won the pole more often than his team mate, and Lewis Hamilton has obviously upped his game on Saturday. The reason for that is simple. Unless Vettel can split the Mercedes, like he did in Barcelona, the two will go into the first corner in first and second position and that won’t change afterwards. There are two major reasons for that. First of all, according to Mercedes’ myriad of rules of engagement, the man with the better track position gets the undercut. That only changes if Vettel is in the mix, as has happened in China.
The second reason was demonstrated in Barcelona, when Lewis Hamilton unsuccessfully tried to get past Vettel’s Ferrari for thirty laps, despite the fact that the Italian car was almost a second slower than the Mercedes. The new shorter noses react very badly to the turbulent air of a preceding car and the resulting loss of front-end grip kills the tyres in a hurry. To explain Lewis’ inability to get past Vettel, Mercedes’ Toto Wolff explained after the Barcelona Grandprix that one has to get past a car within two to three laps before the tyre wear becomes critical. Failing that, it is better to hang back and hope for the next pit stop.
Another problem, especially critical in Canada, is cooling. Again and again Rosberg was seen veering out of Hamiltons slipstream on the straights, to get some much needed cool air into his break-ducts. Thus he gave up the speed and fuel advantage of using his team mate’s slipstream. The simple fact is, with the critical front-end aerodynamics and the cooling problems of running too close to the car in front, it is almost impossible to overtake if the driver in front has access to the same car. Thus the qualifying battle between the two Mercedes drivers is even more important than last year.
Aus Raider wird Twix, sonst ändert sich nix
The head-line above is an old 1991 German advertising slogan for Twix bars, who until then were sold under the name Raider in most parts of Europe. It translates: Raider becomes Twix, but apart from that nothing changes. It has since found its way into everyday German language as a synonym for presenting something as new that’s exactly the same as the old idea. The Porsche 911 springs to mind, which has the tendency to look exactly like the model it replaces.
Since Monaco Raider has been phased out in F1 as well, as customer cars are now called franchise cars. The Big four met at Melbourne over the issue at Montreal, ‘forgetting’ to invite Williams and Force India. “The mandate of the Strategy Group was for some of the teams to sit down and discuss potential avenues of customer cars versus third cars, the rules and regulations for 2017,” Toto Wolff told Motorsport.com
“We call them franchise cars,” he said. “I think we need to have a contingency plan in place to say what happens if a team or two drops out? What do we do?
“I think we don’t want to be in front of the snake – ‘Oh my God, now we are down to 18 cars or 16 cars.’
“We hope that everything stays like it is, and they [the smaller teams] can make it commercially viable for themselves. But you need to be responsible enough for F1 to say, ‘What happens if?’
“We need to talk solutions, like how is it viable in terms of the sporting and technical regs? Who’s going to pay for it or who’s going to finance it?
“Who’s going to supply cars? Do we want to have standard suppliers entering, or do we want to do it ourselves? Can last year’s cars enter or not? Down to the detail, like who’s going to go on the podium? We’ve also discussed the downsides. We don’t want to have junior teams.
“All of us are responsible enough that we need to look at the next years. At the moment we hope it stays like it is.”
Records and Stats, Montreal Edition
- For the first time this year a driver appeared on the podium, who does not drive for Mercedes or Ferrari
- For the first time this year, both Ferrari drivers missed the podium
- Fernando Alonso DNF’ed for the third time in a row. The last time that happened was fourteen years ago, when he was driving a Minardi
- Fernando Alonso is the only non-Manor driver without any championship points so far
- Lewis Hamilton scored his 44th pole position sporting the number 44. It’s the second time he managed that feat. In 2007 he was driving car #2 when he scored his second pole position in Indianapolis. One more pole and Hamilton is tied with Sebastian Vettel. Only Senna (65) and Schumacher (68) have more poles to their name.
- Lewis Hamilton has now scored as many podiums as his Mercedes team – 77. For Mercedes that means they are now tied with their direct ancestors Tyrrell. Record holder is Ferrari with 686 podiums. Among the drivers Schumacher leads with 155.
- Lewis Hamilton has now 2.143 lead laps, more than any other Brit. His next target is Sebastian Vettel with 2.484, leader is Michael Schumacher (5.111)
- The win in Canada was the 35th for Mercedes, tying them with the Renault works team and Brabham. The record belongs to Ferrari with 222 wins
- Mercedes has had two drivers on the podium for all seven races so far. The only team to achieve that was Ferrari in 1952, but back then teams could field more than two cars.
- Kimi Räikkönen drove the fastest lap for the 42nd time. Only Michael Schumacher (77) has done it more often
- Kimi Räikkönen beat Vettel in qualifying for the first time this year. He was the last driver to at least once beat his team mate
- The six points for Pastor Maldonado mean that he scored more points than in the last forty-six races (5)
- Roberto Merhi’s DNF is the first for Manor GP so far
- For the sixteenth time in his career, Sergio Perez finished 11th, thus missing the points by a single position. Only Johnny Herbert has managed that more often – 17 times. But in Herbert’s day that meant coming 7th.
- His 13th position was the worst finishing position for Daniel Ricciardo since his transfer to Red Bull
Source: Auto Motor & Sport, Fat Hippo