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Monday, May 27, 2024

Why Mercedes’ Japan F1 podium claims appear far-fetched

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At Suzuka, Mercedes endured one other disappointing weekend, through which George Russell completed seventh and Lewis Hamilton ninth – reversing their respective qualifying positions in a prepare behind Fernando Alonso.

In response to crew boss Wolff, Mercedes’ tough qualifying was compounded by an “atrocious” first stint because the Silver Arrows initially tried a daring one-stopper, which in contrast to Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc they needed to abandon in favour of a extra typical two-stop race.

“We ended up the place we began and it was simply very tough,” Wolff advised Sky Sports activities F1. “We had a second and third stint that had been tremendous fast and we’d’ve been racing for a podium however [for] an atrocious first stint.

Increasing on his feedback afterward, he stated: “We had been very fast by means of the Esses, whereas final yr we had been nowhere.

“We had been making an attempt to make a one-stop stick, most likely over-managed the tyres and had an atrocious first stint however a really aggressive second and third stint the second we principally did what the others did, and that will have appeared utterly totally different.”

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Toto Wolff, Workforce Principal and CEO, Mercedes-AMG F1 Workforce

Picture by: Sam Bloxham / Motorsport Images

Suggesting Mercedes may have mounted a reputable podium problem raises some eyebrows, given the 25-second hole between third-placed Carlos Sainz and Russell, with Mercedes as an alternative seeming to verify its fourth place within the pecking order behind Purple Bull, Ferrari and McLaren.

So do the numbers behind Wolff’s daring claims actually stack up?

Because of the various totally different race methods, made potential by all three of Pirelli’s tyre compounds being viable choices, it is not as simple as evaluating lap occasions and calling it a day. However there are a number of knowledge factors that present a very good indication.

First up is the Mercedes duo’s second stint on onerous tyres, which roughly coincided with Leclerc’s stint on the identical compound, in addition to McLaren’s Lando Norris who shadowed Leclerc by pitting on the identical lap.

And whereas the Mercedes automobiles had been certainly fast on their first laps out of the pits, their common lap time because the stint progressed shortly shifted in direction of a 1m36.6s for Hamilton and 1m36.4s for Russell, in comparison with 1.36.1s for Leclerc and 1m36.2s for Norris.

It must be identified that Russell and Hamilton pitted three to 4 laps earlier, so Leclerc and Norris loved a slight tyre life benefit throughout the 11 laps we may examine. However the latter pair additionally needed to nurse their tyres to the tip of the race, whereas Russell and Hamilton knew they nonetheless needed to cease for mediums.

The third stint on Mercedes’ most well-liked medium tyres is the opposite out there knowledge level. Right here it’s simply Sainz’s ultimate stint that may supply some comparability because the Spaniard pitted proper earlier than the W15s, however his Ferrari was placed on the slower onerous compound so it’s not an ideal match.

Russell was held up by battling Oscar Piastri for seventh and was a mean of 4 tenths off Sainz, however throughout the ultimate 15 laps Hamilton was simply 0.050s off the Ferrari whereas in clear air.

George Russell, Mercedes F1 W15, Carlos Sainz, Ferrari SF-24

George Russell, Mercedes F1 W15, Carlos Sainz, Ferrari SF-24

Picture by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

Right here, Hamilton was lastly capable of money in his earlier stints on the “horrible” onerous tyres, but it surely appears moderately bold to counsel that the Briton may have chased Sainz if he had began larger up or chosen a special technique.

Hamilton admitted as a lot, saying his automobile could not get on with the onerous tyres at any level. “I don’t know what the totally different technique would’ve been, whether or not we stayed on the medium to begin, however we nonetheless had two actually horrible onerous tyres to run by means of,” Hamilton acknowledged. 

Whereas podium claims are pretty simply debunked, the query stays why the crew struggled a lot within the first half of the race, solely to seek out extra competitiveness in direction of the tip when it was already too late.

Within the run-up to the Suzuka weekend, technical director James Allison stated the one fixed the crew had discovered over its early-season struggles was a relative weak spot in hotter circumstances when the observe temperature ramps up.

If Mercedes’ principle is additional confirmed, that will go a way in direction of explaining its kind fluctuations as race day was rather a lot hotter than the remainder of the weekend, with observe temperatures as much as 14 levels larger at the beginning of the race.

Intriguingly, the cloud cowl returned for the second half of the race, which dropped the asphalt temperature from 40C to the low 30s by the point Mercedes bolted on the medium tyres. But it surely would not essentially clarify the efficiency distinction between the primary two hard-tyre stints, when the observe wasn’t that cool but.

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes F1 W15

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes F1 W15

Picture by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

Mercedes has needed to do plenty of soul looking out to seek out out why the efficiency and downforce it sees again on the manufacturing unit is not translated into outright nook velocity or lap time.

“We’ve 70 factors extra downforce in a specific nook in Melbourne than we had final yr, however on the lap time it is not a kilometre per hour sooner, so it would not make any sense,” Wolff revealed.

“So, the place’s the limitation? I feel we wished to tick some few packing containers to know if there’s any limitation that we’ve noticed, and I feel there’s.

“Whenever you take a look at the outcomes, that is clearly not good and all people is aware of that. However we have undoubtedly made an enormous step ahead in how we wish to run the automobile, and in our understanding.”

A silver lining is that Mercedes might have discovered some solutions on how you can put its W15 in a extra snug spot, with Hamilton saying the automobile was the nicest to drive it had been in three years.

Combating for podiums, although? On the proof of the primary 4 rounds of 2024, that also stays a pipe dream.

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