W ar the Ferrari victory in Malaysia just a one-off, fortunate due to the extremely high temperatures? Did the GP of China restore the old pecking order? Mercedes clearly ahead of Ferrari, then nothing for a long time? At first glance it might be so. But be careful: Shanghai is a Mercedes track. That was already the case when the Silver Arrows had a real tire problem in 2012 and 2013.
A Mercedes engineer was not impressed by the one-two result for their own cars in China: 'I'll stick with it: In the next two races in Bahrain and Barcelona it could be tight for us again. ' Team boss Toto Wolff also warns: 'Ferrari is a danger for us on all tracks, on which you can use different strategies thanks to their good tire treatment.'
Mercedes and Ferrari tracks
The attraction of the duel is that the Mercedes AMG W06 and the Ferrari SF15-T are two very different cars. Which in the end arrive roughly at the destination. The route type determines in which order. Or how much pressure Mercedes has to endure. The asphalt conditions and temperatures can be additional factors in how the pendulum swings.
If Shanghai was the ideal Mercedes track, then the same is true for Ferrari and Sepang. According to James Vowles, head of strategy at Mercedes, the different characteristics of the two cars can give Formula 1 a highly entertaining season. Because Mercedes will consistently occupy the front row, but then get fire from the red cars. Sometimes more sometimes less. Where the rear tire is problematic, Ferrari has an advantage. Even if Mercedes does everything possible to reduce this shortcoming.
Wolff admitted that Brackley and Brixworth spent two weeks wondering how to keep the rear tires happy. Constructive, from the setup, from the race preparation and the strategy. For Shanghai, Mercedes had reduced the downforce on the rear axle. The new rear wing with the flaps that sloped on the outside helped. Clearly recognizable by the top speeds in training. Nico Rosberg was the fastest with 334.6 km /h. In the race, the Silver Arrows fell back into midfield. Which is because they rarely came into the DRS area and did not have to release any extra power.
Longest strategy meeting of all time
Mercedes not only lastedTechnology upgrades ready. 'We gave a lot of thought to the setup of the chassis, the aero balance and the engine drivability, how we can keep the tires in good condition longer,' admitted Wolff. On Friday the Mercedes drivers covered 109 laps and completed four long runs. More than ever before.
The strategy meeting on Sunday lasted an hour. Longer than ever. It was a strategically easy race. 'All possible and impossible scenarios were played out,' said Wolff with a smile. Niki Lauda smoked his head: 'I never know my way around,' he groaned after the maneuver criticism.
The effort shows that Mercedes' fear of Ferrari is real. Wolff admits: 'After Malaysia we have to expect the worst possible scenario before every race.' That can happen again in Bahrain. The six acceleration zones force the rear tires to their knees. The asphalt texture is similar to that in Sepang. In return, the night race will bring the participants relatively low temperatures. Last year 29 degrees were measured on the asphalt.
Mercedes with Red Bull problem from 2013?
But Ferrari doesn't necessarily need sauna temperatures like in Malaysia to challenge Mercedes. The red cars are a danger on all routes where the rear tires are heavily used. Because tire protection is in their DNA.
The Mercedes is more likely to be confronted with a problem that plagued Red Bull in the first half of the 2013 season. The Pirelli tires capitulated to too much downforce. It was only solved by Pirelli building other tires.
But isn't downforce a blessing for the tires? 'Not necessarily,' an engineer tells us. 'More downforce means more energy that is introduced into the tire. The car does not slip. This means that the surface temperature remains within the green range. However, the contact pressure can overwhelm the tire because it heats up from the inside through too much flexing. If that If the balance between the external and internal temperature is not right, the tire will degrade. ' In Pirelli's opinion, Ferrari has found exactly the right balance. Enough contact pressure not to let the car slide, too little to put too much strain on it.
Just as the Mercedes cannot adopt the Ferrari's DNA, it becomes difficult for Ferrari to understand the characteristics of the Make the Mercedes AMG W06 your own without having the same disadvantages. Mercedes would slow down with a Ferrari copy, Ferrari would have tire problems with the Mercedes hereditary factors. That makes the development program so difficult in both cases.
It is not enough to simply add downforce, mobilize more engine power or design the chassis so that it caresses the tires. Once again our expert: 'All factors have to fit together: downforce,Aero balance, chassis kinematics, engine characteristics, shift strategy, tire pressure. Every car has its own window in which you can move as an engineer. If you want to break out of the puzzle, the shot backfires. 'There is a reason why a Mercedes man says:' The key will be who of us can get around our weak points better. '