Analysis: Lap times show Mercedes “miles away” in Austin

Lewis Hamilton and Toto Wolff have been repeatedly talking up their progress during the current Formula One season. Maybe this is to gee the team up to keep working hard to close the performance gap of their W13 car to the front runners. Yet despite much lauded upgrade packages in Barcelona, Silverstone and at the latest GP in Texas, the silver arrows has made less progress than Mercedes would have us believe.

There was an exciting finish to the US GP last weekend as Max Verstappen hunted down Lewis Hamilton after the last round of pitstops in a battle for the win of the race. However, the fact Lewis even had a sniff at winning his first race of the season depended on a number of external events falling into place.



Mercedes ‘luck in’ after US GP qualifying

The first was that of the 6 front running cars, 2 of them received grid drops for introducing new power unit components. Hamilton who started the race P3 had only qualified in 5th and his Q3 time was almost 0.6seconds slower over one lap than Carlos Sainz who claimed pole position.

With two of Lewis’ four rivals Perez and LeClerc relegated for there start of the race, Hamilton moved up to P3 on the grid. Then at turn one his team mate T-boned Carlos Sainz taking him out of the race promoting Lewis to second behind Max Verstappen.

The early laps saw Max build a substantial lead over Hamilton and by Lap 11 the gap was up to 4.373 seconds. Hamilton then pitted on lap 12 with Max stopping for fresh rubber a lap later.

By lap 14, Hamilton was almost 5.7 seconds behind Verstappen and this grew even further to around 6.3 seconds on lap 17 before a safety car was deployed by race control.



Lewis’ race pace 20 seconds off Verstappen

Had the race run to the form of the first 17 laps, Lewis would have been over 20 seconds behind Verstappen at the chequered flag on lap 56. Yet safety cars and an unusually poor pit work from Red Bull when the race leader came in for his final stop saw Hamilton in the net lead of the race with on lap 36with 20 laps to go.

Following the second safety car cause by Stroll moving in an unsafe manner to block a Fernando Alonso overtake, Verstappen had been instructed to bring his tyres in slowly, so his gap to Lewis new to just  2.049 seconds by lap 31.

Then disaster struck for Verstappen and Red Bull. Lewis pitted on lap 34 for his final stop and the FIA post race timing data revealed his total lost time including the pit entry, stop and exit was 48.497 seconds. 



Red Bull pit stop disaster

Max responded a lap later but a problem with the front left wheel gun saw him suffer an unusually long stop costing a total of 56.120 seconds. This gave Lewis a 7.6 seconds advantage and Verstppen returned to the race in a net third place behind the Ferrari of Charles LeClerc.

The dutch driver dispatched LeClerc relatively quickly and by lap 41 the final round of pit stops amongst there front runners was complete and Lewis took the lead.

Verstappen was now just 3.432 seconds behind his arch rival.

On lap 50, Verstappen caught Hamilton and regained the lead of the race with just 6 laps remaining.



Hamilton powere at the finish

At the chequered flag Verstappen was classified with a winning margin over Lewis of 5.023 seconds so now its time to do the maths.

Before the safety cars Lewis was 6.3 seconds behind Verstappen. Before the final round of pit stops that lead had been increased by another 2 seconds.

Verstappens slow pit stop handed Lewis a 7.6 second advantage and by the end of the race Max was 5 seconds ahead of the Mercedes car.

6.3+2.0+7.6+5.0 = 20.9 seconds was the real race time difference between Verstappen’s Red Bull and Lewis Hamilton.



Mercedes upgrades not that effective

At the opening round of the season when Verstappen had a power unit failure, Lewis finished the race P3 just 9.675 seconds behind race winner Charles LeClerc.

At round round 10 in Silverstone Hamilton also finished the race in third, just 6.225 seconds off the pace.

Round 15 in Zandvoort saw Russell finish in P2 as the lead Mercedes driver and his time gap to the winer at the chequered flag was a mere 4.071 seconds.

To be fair to Mercedes their previous two outings before the US GP in Austin saw their lead driver 61 and 40 seconds behind the race winner, so their upgrades for Austin did indeed stop the rot.



Remaining F1 rounds suit Mercedes

Yet Austin is a circuit where Mercedes have gone well over the years with Lewis Hamilton winning 5 of the 10 events and Bottas clocking up another win for the silver arrows.

Since its return in 2014, the Mexican GP which is next up has been won 3 times by Mercedes and 3 times by Red Bull Racing, but the last two victories have been for the Milton Keynes team.

Whether the Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez circuit will be kind to Hamilton and Mercedes this weekend is yet to be seen. 

Brazil is the next ig hope for Lewis Hamilton to continue his run of winning a race in every season he has driven in Formula One. During the hybrid V6 era, Mercedes have won this on 5 of the 7 occasions the event has been held.

For the final event of the year in Abu Dhabi Mercedes have dominated again during the hybrid era taking 6 wins from 8.That said, Red Bull have won the last two at the F1 season finale, though in 2021 it was in controversial circumstances and Mercedes and Hamilton dominated the race, only to be denied by a late safety car and a missed pit stop opportunity.

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3 responses to “Analysis: Lap times show Mercedes “miles away” in Austin

  1. The so call new TV offered sucks. It is far better and we don’t have to deal with self righteous commentators and wait for all the showman’s crap until the ACTUAL racing getting going??

    • Most if not all Mercedes points came from having a reliable car that capitalised on misfortunes of the 4 in front of them. I can’t remember a fight for podium position by either car . Still reliability and being third fastest gets a nice haul of points and an opportunity for fact free PR.

  2. Red Bull are in a class of their own. According to Toto the extra windtunnel time that Mercedes will have, will close the gap to RB, but I’n not so sure that Newey has played all this trumps?

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