D ie Mercedes first row was a compulsory exercise. Still, the Silver Arrows delivered a surprise. Valtteri Bottas won the duel for pole position against Lewis Hamilton for the third time in a row. And what a lead!
The two Mercedes drivers were 0.634 seconds apart. That is a class difference. The GPS analysis shows that Hamilton was practically on a par with Bottas up to curve 7. Then the world champion built two mistakes. The cross sticks in Turn 7 and Turn 13 were enough for the gigantic deficit.
Hamilton had already lost to Bottas in Q1 and Q2. And then the Q3 started with a technical problem. The battery in the car with starting number 44 was empty. Since it is forbidden to charge the energy storage in the garage, Hamilton had to do an aggressive warm-up lap to charge the battery.
This had an impact on the grip of the tires. In the last sector, his team mate was left with 0.234 seconds. The counterattack on the second attempt failed. In sector 3 there were too many stones on the track. No one could improve any more. Hamilton praised his stable rival: “Valtteri was strong throughout training. I had to attack too much on my lap. ”
Bottas smiled all over his face. It's got a run and is currently taking advantage of it without a single mistake: “The car does what I want. We got the set-up right and the upgrades worked. ”
Hamilton was, as usual, taciturn. As always when the teammate is faster. But he did not escape into excuses, only mentioned the battery story in passing: 'My lap could have been better.' Then the praise to the team: 'The upgrades have set us apart from Ferrari.' work on my feeling for the car. “
Slaps in the face for the competition
The competition received resounding slaps in the face in Barcelona. Ferrari was 0.866 seconds short, Red Bull 0.951 seconds. This is a completely different picture than that of the test drives two months ago. Mercedes couldn't or didn't want to explain the huge jump in the last eight weeks.
Team boss Toto Wolff at least dared to try: “It was a little warmer now than in winter. As a result, many of the tires in the second and third sectors overheated. During the winter test drives, this problem was masked by the conditions. We also understand our car and tires much better today. This understanding helped us to develop the car in the right direction. ”
Conversely, that means: Ferrari and Red Bull have not understood anything and have now lost sight of their upgrades. “We have new parts on the car, a new engine. Both seem to work. But we're not where we want to be, ”protests Sebastian Vettel.
Max Verstappen defends Red Bull: “The upgrades made our car faster. Unfortunately not fast enough. There is generally a lack of grip. The balance is good. There is no understeer or oversteer. I'm at the absolute limit. If I were to drive a little faster, I would slip off the track. ”
The opponents of Mercedes are finding it increasingly difficult to gloss over their defeats. The numbers just don't do that. Mercedes is currently in a league of its own. Vettel was just optimistic: “We tried a lot of things this weekend and hope that they will pay off at some point.” Verstappen motivated himself with the fight for third place: “We can beat Ferrari. You're faster on the straight, we in the corners. ”
Every corner a tenth
At Ferrari, the deficits are obvious. Vettel speaks to her. “We lose too much time in the corners, especially in Sector 3, which only consists of corners. Unfortunately only in thefirst two straight sectors, where we can make up for this deficit. ”A look at the sector times uncovers the Achilles heel of the Ferrari SF90.
Ferrari is only strong in the first sector. Vettel takes two tenths from Bottas, and Verstappen even four. The Ferrari drama is already beginning in Sector 2. Vettel loses three tenths to Bottas and a tenth to Red Bull. The hammer falls in the last seven corners or 1.5 kilometers. Bottas depends on Vettel by 0.733 seconds. Even opposite the Red Bull, the Ferrari sees no land. Verstappen is 0.289 seconds faster.
If you were to visualize the GPS comparison between Vettel and Bottas, the Ferrari would be in the lead up to Turn 5. Even before the back straight, the Mercedes starts to overtake and has a slight lead of 0.113 seconds at the border between sectors 2 and 3.
This delta increases to an unbelievable 0.890 seconds up to turn 15 and then shrinks thanks to the better top speeds on the home straight again by a few hundredths. Vettel flew over the finish line at 293.3 km /h and was stopped at the end of the straight at 324.2 km /h. Bottas loses 5 km /h to the Ferrari at both measuring points. Which he can easily get over.
Vettel concludes from the clear distribution of top speed and cornering speeds: “Mercedes drives with more downforce than we do.” But is that the whole truth? How is it possible that Vettel leaves a tenth on the Mercedes in each of the last seven corners?
The mechanical grip and tire temperatures also play a role. At Mercedes they are in the green area over the entire 4.655 kilometers. On the Ferrari, the rear tires in particular get too hot in the second part of the lap. So she punishes the lack of downforce twice.
Conclusion: Mercedes only has to fear one opponent on Sunday. Yourself. The greatest danger lurks on the long run-up of 565 meters and in the first five corners and the first five corners. If Bottas and Hamilton have overcome this hurdle, they will no longer be able to be met.