Data suggests you need to back the wrong Mercedes driver

Despite a couple of missed races in this season due to some personal circumstances, TJ13 returns this weekend with some predictions for the race on Sunday.

As the title of the article alludes, we all need to now forget Ferrari as a serious contender for anything apart from the odd race win, if they’re lucky this season. Mercedes have demonstrated the ultimate sandbagging in testing, and simply not allowed the competition in as the season has progressed, so hats off.


Now we need to look at the inter-team battle for the title, rather than the extra-team Championship fight.

And what better place to start than Friday’s free practice two in Barcelona at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, F1’s traditional testing venue during the winter months. The very place where we thought Ferrari had a step lead in terms of pace over the competition back in February at winter testing. 

Friday practice yesterday can reveal a lot about the form of any given team and free practice two says a lot about a teams race pace as teams simulate long runs on real fuel loads expected on Sunday, TJ13 attempts to unravel this data to give an idea on who might be fastest on Sunday should things remains mostly the same.


Friday practice 2 results 

  Pos No Driver Car Time Gap Laps  
  1 77 Valtteri
Mercedes 1:17.284   35  
  2 44 Lewis
Mercedes 1:17.333 +0.049s 35  
  3 16 Charles
Ferrari 1:17.585 +0.301s 42  
  4 5 Sebastian
Ferrari 1:17.673 +0.389s 41  
  5 33 Max
Red Bull Racing Honda 1:18.035 +0.751s 30  
  6 8 Romain
Haas Ferrari 1:18.153 +0.869s 42  
  7 10 Pierre
Red Bull Racing Honda 1:18.238 +0.954s 34  
  8 20 Kevin
Haas Ferrari 1:18.355 +1.071s 40  
  9 55 Carlos
McLaren Renault 1:18.658 +1.374s 45  
  10 26 Daniil
Scuderia Toro Rosso Honda 1:18.722 +1.438s 40  


The outright fastest times above are never the best way to look at the performance of a driver for the up and coming Grand Prix. Indeed if we gather the data for the race simulations, discard the laps in traffic or in / out laps from the pit lane, we can get a better picture as to who is consistently the quickest driver.

Ever critical for Barcelona is who gets pole, the likelihood of overtaking at this track is very low, unless you have a significant pace advantage over the car you’re following, the pole sitter usually wins here unless something odd happens or a faster car can pass in the pits.


The fast lap qualifying simulations are not so accurate on Friday when compared to Saturday’s practice three sessions, but they do still simulate single lap pace.

Mercedes again look to be at the front for this, with Bottas quickest on the C3 (softest) compound doing a 1:17.284, slightly quicker than teammate Hamilton’s 1:17.333.

Ferrari look fairly fast sitting around the mid 17.5’s, but nothing compared to Mercedes and Red Bull are nowhere close for their C3 qualifying simulations, both Verstappen and Gasly around the 1:18 mark.



Looking at the average long run pace on each tyre during race simulations, Bottas again is the fastest but by quite a margin and far more than the official times say (only 0.049 ahead of Hamilton).

Averaging out the times set on each tyre, combining those times and comparing to the rest of the top 6 teams with their drivers, we see that Hamilton is way off Bottas’ race pace, a staggering 0.4 seconds a lap.

Unless Hamilton manages to sort out his car balance issues in time for tomorrow, it’s very likely we’ll see Valterri on the top spot of the podium once again with the quicker car thus far.

Should that happen, the next big question (and one number crunching cannot predict!), will Mercedes continue to allow Bottas to take the lion’s share of the points on Sunday?

One suspects that whilst Ferrari fails to put up a decent fight, there’s every chance we might see Mercedes continue to throw Bottas a bone, for now.



8 responses to “Data suggests you need to back the wrong Mercedes driver

  1. If you look at the long runs on combined soft / medium tyre compounds – they is a very good chance that Verstappen splits the M-B’s from Ferrari. And that would be a Ferrari ego deflater of epic proportions. A track that a mere 2 months ago that had Ferrari, in the opinion of some pundits, nearly 2 seconds ahead of everyone else, they now can’t even get a podium on.

  2. “Averaging out the times set on each tyre, combining those times and comparing to the rest of the top 6 teams with their drivers, we see that Hamilton is way off Bottas’ race pace, a staggering 0.4 seconds a lap.”

    The tyre compound on the 2nd set of tyres differs between the two M-B drivers. (mediums vs hards). If you’re going to make comparisons, at least compare apples and apples! If you’re going to make these statements, then include the Pirelli “difference between compounds” offset.

    To me, the hard compound run by LeClerc against the hard compound run by Hamilton and the medium compound run by Vettel is a more interesting analysis, but that doesn’t fit with your (pre-determined?) narrative.

    • ok if you wish to go there, I didn’t want to add too much complication into the mix – Bottas ran his softs for longer and still achieved faster ave lap time. Hamilton frequently elects to run hard during FP2 race sims when the balance isn’t to his liking, so it’s not to say his side won’t make a change before Sunday that corrects it (he did in China), but it seems the hard is the fall back when the car isn’t hooked up. This article is merely analysing what data is currently available and it is our opinion that the most interesting aspect of this season is going to be how Mercedes handles Bottas 2.0 rather than if Ferrari will challenge

      • I would argue that what compound is run by each driver in the FP2 race sims is dictated by the tyre selections made weeks before, rather than the driver not being happy with his balance and therefore electing to run hard. Historically, M-B often has an offset between Hard and Medium, but both drivers have equal Softs. This year, only Shanghai and Barcelona has had offsets so far, but it was very evident in previous seasons.

        To use Shanghai as a reference, FP2, Hamilton ran mediums and softs, Bottas ran softs and hards. This matches their pre-determined allocation of 4 mediums / 1 hard for Hamilton and 3 meduims / 2 hards for Bottas. (ref

        Having said that, Bottas is a much much different driver to the one that had to serve as wing-man last year and it will be interesting to see how M-B react if he can sustain this level (and match Hamilton’s performance step ups) for the rest of the season.

        • Fair comment and thanks for the link. It’s worth noting also that Merc again mostly ran harder compounds in testing, and as a team seem more comfortable with the lack of heat deg in general. I still maintain that Ham seems to prefer running harder tyres in FP generally and sticks with it when not so happy with balance

  3. Pingback: Bottas hints at pace masked, damning regs killing F1 - thejudge13·

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