F or Lewis Hamilton is the third starting place the ideal starting position. He has the Red Bull, which is a bit slower at top speed, in front of him and World Cup opponent Sebastian Vettel, who is much faster on the straight, diagonally behind him. “I will get a good slipstream from the Red Bull and will try to gain positions. But we know what happened to the red car behind me last year. We want to avoid that this time. 'Hamilton alluded to the three-way battle between Max Verstappen, Sebastian Vettel and himself, from which only Verstappen got away unscathed.
On Friday, Hamilton would not have dreamed that he would have 24 hours would later be able to fight for pole position with the Red Bull and Ferrari. “On Friday nothing really went together. The guys did a great job overnight, analyzed the problems and put us in a completely different car today. ”Then Hamilton went into detail. “On Friday, the mechanical set-up didn't work, and there was also a little missing in the aero setup and the engine.”
Team principal Toto Wolff explains: “We lost too much grip on Friday because we closed the car had to open strongly. And we couldn't drive the engine at the power limit. We fixed that with different engine settings and a better chassis setup. ”Apparently there are still concerns about the engine cooling. Mercedes customers were in constant contact with the factory team to ask what the current parameters for cooling the drive components are.
Valtteri Bottas brought the sharp drop in temperatures into play. “They also helped. When the temperature picked up again in Q3, I had trouble using the hypersoft tires for a full lap. In the last sector, grip was lost again. ”However, the Finn also made it clear:“ With the cars on Friday we would have finished 5th and 6th at best. ”
Tie with Ferrari
Even the small moment of shock in the third training session did not bother Mercedes. Bottas rolled out with hydraulic damage. Apparently a wear problem. The Finn got the Spec3 engine, which should actually be spared. Wolff praised the technicians and mechanics: “It was a masterpiece how they swapped the engine in such a short time and also calibrated it to the height.”
The comparison to Ferrari is practically undecided. Hamilton buttoned Vettel 76 thousandths. While Hamilton was able to improve by a strong tenth in the last attempt, Vettel remained seated on his time from the first attempt. They will meet again in the race. The defending champion knows, however, that his challenger cannot afford anything in the duel. Each collision only benefits Hamilton. A 7th place is enough. Or if Vettel doesn't win.
Toto Wolff dares a look into the future: “This starting grid screams for a slaughter.” Bottas can watch the show from a safe 5th place. “A lot has happened between turns 1 and 3 in recent years. I have nothing to lose in the World Championships, but I mustn't forget that the Constructors’s Championship is still open. ”
A question of downforce
The GPS analysis gives it interesting insights into the strengths and weaknesses of the three top teams. The Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez is tailor-made for Red Bull. The loss of power is less significant than the advantage in aerodynamics. This comes into its own with the RB14 at maximum downforce.
Ferrari is the other extreme. Since Ferrari had to upgrade the aerodynamics to a two-month-old version, the red cars are well balanced again in terms of good tire usage, but they have also lost contact pressure relative to the opponents. After the summer break, they added downforce. That doesn't matter on tracks like Austin, but when you have to drive in Monaco trim like in Mexico, the grip is simply missing. Let's start with the sector times: Ferrari dominates the first sector with its long home straight, three corners and another straight two tenths ahead of Mercedes and three on Red Bull. The second section with the faster corners belongs to Red Bull, two tenths ahead of Mercedes and another two ahead of Red Bull. In the maze of curves in the stadium, Red Bull is once again ahead. One tenth ahead of Mercedes, three ahead of Ferrari.
We allowed ourselves the fun of calculating the best time for the individual cars by always taking the best sector value of the faster driver in each case. And that's what came out.
Mercedes loses 10 km /h on Red Bull
Only two values are relevant for the speeds on the measuring loops. The top speed at the end of the home straight and the speed on the finish line, which is only 250 meters behind the 100 km /h curve 16 and is therefore a good indicator of the acceleration under increasing centrifugal force. Ferrari drives away everyone at top speed. Kimi Raikkonen was stopped at 356.4 km /h, the best Mercedes only at 348.0 km /h, and Red Bull only managed 341.9 km /h without slipstream.
Ferrari's good top speed but not only has to do with the lack of downforce compared to the competition. There is also enough power. At the finish line, too, Ferrari was number 1 with 265.2 km /h. Mercedes achieved 259.0 km /h, Red Bull 259.6 km /h. Which is a good indicator that Mercedes has significantly reduced engine power for the race on Mount Everest, as Toto Wolff put it.
Mercedes loses half a second on Ferrari on all straights, adding half a second, gets this half Second back alone in the slow corners. Amazingly, Daniel Ricciardo won a tenth on Lewis Hamilton on all straights despite the poor top speed. Which is due to the better acceleration. The Red Bull showed their teeth in the fast corners. Ricciardo beat Hamilton in turns 7 and 10 by 10 km /h, Vettel by 20 and 18 km /h respectively. In turn 1 Ricciardo and Hamilton were the sameon. Vettel lost 10 km /h on both of them.