Progress or favouritism at Mercedes? (Spanish Grand Prix team-by-team)

Posted on | Author Keith Collantine

Schumacher beat Rosberg for the first time this year
Schumacher beat Rosberg for the first time this year

With a longer-wheelbase car and a radical new airbox this weekend Mercedes reckoned they made progress at the Spanish Grand Prix.

But a look at the data suggests they might have done nothing more than transfer the weight of their problems from Michael Schumacher’s side of the garage to Nico Rosberg’s.

Here’s how their drivers fastest laps at each race weekend compared:

Mercedes' gap to the leaders
Mercedes' gap to the leaders (click to enlarge)

This shows the fastest time of each Mercedes driver at each race weekend as a percentage of the fastest time set that weekend.

Clearly, Mercedes were no closer to the pace at Barcelona than they had been in the first four races. Red Bull’s step forward in performance is partly the cause of that – but Mercedes’ pace compared to their other rivals seemed little better.

But of potentially greater concern is the sudden swing in competitiveness between their two drivers – leaving them open to accusations that the W01 is being developed to suit Schumacher instead of Rosberg.

Schumacher is known to favour a ‘pointy’, oversteer-biased car – one which his team mates have often found hard to drive. Has extending the W01’s wheelbase produced that characteristic?

Here’s how they compared in the Spanish Grand Prix:

Michael Schumacher Nico Rosberg
Qualifying position 6 8
Qualifying time comparison (Q3) 1’21.294 (-0.114) 1’21.408
Race position 4 13
Average race lap 1’27.974 (-1.273) 1’29.247
Laps 66/66 65/66
Pit stops 1 2
Spanish Grand Prix lap times - Mercedes
Spanish Grand Prix lap times - Mercedes (click to enlarge)

Michael Schumacher

His best weekend of the year so far, faster than his team mate in every session having struggled to do so before now.

From sixth on the grid he held position then took fifth off Jenson Button through the pit stops.

Defended his position to the flag but finishes 62 seconds behind winner Mark Webber. That’s 22s further behind than Rosberg was at Bahrain, so you have to wonder whether Mercedes really have made progress here.

Compare Michael Schumacher’s form against his team mate in 2010

Nico Rosberg

Arrived at Barcelona second in the drivers’ championship and left it having failed to score and fallen to fifth.

Qualified behind Schumacher for the first time and was pushed onto the grass at the start by Robert Kubica. He lost more places when a brake caught fire during his first pit stop, and he had to make a second visit to the pits later in the race.

There may be other reasons for their difference in performance.

Perhaps misfortune exaggerated Rosberg’s problems in Barcelona the way it did Schumacher’s in Shanghai. The gap between their race lap times indicates otherwise, but, in public at least, Rosberg said the new car was an improvement:

It’s been a difficult weekend for me and we need to look into the reasons for this and understand why. The changes that we have made with the car are obviously good and we have made a step forward but I haven’t really been able to use the improvements so far.

Considering that I have found the car difficult to drive and haven’t had the best of set-ups, our performance today was acceptable but it’s not where I wanted to be fighting this weekend.
Nico Rosberg

Schumacher reverted to an earlier chassis this weekend – perhaps his poor performance up to this point was down to an unidentified problem with his previous chassis?

Whatever the explanation, the concern for Mercedes is at the moment it seems they can get one of their drivers close to their potential but not both on the same weekend.

Compare Nico Rosberg’s form against his team mate in 2010

2010 Spanish Grand Prix

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