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

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

Browse all 2010 Spanish Grand Prix articles

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

  1. Sub said on 10th May 2010, 3:18

    I believe the longer wheelbase acts more like a lever to applying more downforce to the front tires under braking but does shift the normal weight balance to the rear of the car.

  2. Harry Plums said on 10th May 2010, 4:57

    Did Mercedes have to crash test their car with the new air box design, as the thickness of the roll cage has obviously changed.

    • Patrickl said on 10th May 2010, 7:29

      The roll structure IS that pillar.

      The air intake is not a structural part, so they can change it.

      • Harry Bits said on 10th May 2010, 17:04

        Yes, and my point is that the ‘roll structure’ seems to have changed. Or did it?

        And if it did, wouldnt that require a crash test?

  3. ayos said on 10th May 2010, 5:55

    well, we have to think that the upgrades from this race was already on schedule even before china. so its ridiculous to think that they did that all updates in 3 weeks time, i doubt so. its a matter of case that all the drivers and engineers agree. even nico said the update will improve, its just that it doesnt quite suit him yet as far as he knows. the difference between these ms and nico is ms is pretty straight forward t what he wants whilst nico is just give me a better car and i will try my best.

  4. PeterG said on 10th May 2010, 7:48

    Are you sure Rosberg switched to the longer wheelbase car? In reports it’s only about Schmacher making the change.

  5. mvi said on 10th May 2010, 8:13

    Ross Brawn in an interview with Manel Serras in El Pais said that the team has two challenges this season: that Michael returns to success, and that Nico wins some races.

  6. John said on 10th May 2010, 8:45

    It was obvious that Rosberg was unhappy with the new car. I saw how angry he was in practice.
    Somebody paid big money for Schumacher and now wants him to be better than the cheaper one.

  7. Sasquatsch said on 10th May 2010, 9:51

    Apparently Rosberg doesn’t think the car is an improvement:

    Nico Rosberg thinks Mercedes has made a backwards step with its updated car.

    Although his teammate Michael Schumacher was faster than Rosberg all weekend in Spain, the seven time world champion was still a minute behind the winner at the chequered flag — as he had been in China three weeks ago.

    “Something is not quite right on the car,” German reports quote the 24-year-old as saying after the Barcelona race.

    “In the last race I was able to fight with Red Bull, now we’re nowhere,” lamented Rosberg. “We were very slow this weekend, especially me.”

  8. Mattikake said on 10th May 2010, 10:59

    Given that Rosberg had tried 2 extreme ballast settings changes over the weekend in an attempt to get a balance that works (better) for him, says all you need to know about whether the longer wheelbase is the right way to go for him – i.e. not at all.

    I reckon all the positives he has spoken of are just his PR face.

    The car is slower, relatively speaking, than in previous races. It has to be favouritism for a driver who does not neccessarily know the fastest way, but merely is the most persuasive motivator in the team… Rightly so, perhaps. It was a WCC winning car last season. It seems that a somewhat understeery car is the way forward for 2009/2010 regulations. An oversteery pre-2009 is obviously not the way forward.

    Was it Alan Jones that said a car that feels good isn’t neccessarily the fastest?

  9. Phil4sport said on 10th May 2010, 11:21

    whilst watching the in-car shots of Nico he was seen to adjust a yellow handled lever on his lefthand side. Can anyone tell me what that lever adjusts on the car?

    • Adrian said on 10th May 2010, 16:18

      No idea, but at a guess it could be either 1)Brake bias, but that’s usually on the steering wheel, or 2) Front wing flap adjustment. Suppose there are probably other things it could be, but these are the ones spring to mind at present.

  10. Favoritism. As Brundle said Mercedes have put a lot of money into the team and Schumacher is great for publicity, they want him out front.

    • HG said on 12th May 2010, 0:33

      well that is selective, because as brundel said, it is not favoritism. As he put it, and it’s not a direct quote, but a general recolection from during the race;
      “it’s not favoritism. Micheal is a strong/forceful personality and has always been very good at giving technical feedback, and thus cars have tended to drift towards his style of driving… blah blah blah Nico and shumi have similar styles of driving anyway blah blah blah…”

      That and the fact that this update has been planned for a very long time as the car was designed with jenson im mind, i think we can leave the tin foil hats away for another day

  11. Abs said on 10th May 2010, 15:48

    So the moment MSC starts beating Rosberg, you have to go all out with the tabloid style headlines? Normally your articles are a good read, and I don’t understand why when Rosberg was beating Michael, who came back to cars without TC, different tyres, no refuelling and host of aerodynamic changes, there was no mention of the car’s characteristics suiting Rosberg more, forget the damage that Schumi’s chassis had.
    Now suddenly its all very clear how favouritism is the only darned way Schumacher could have been ahead of Rosberg.
    Meh.

    • Sandman said on 10th May 2010, 18:05

      The real question here, one that had been brought up by few people already, is:
      Did the change of the wheelbase happen while trying improve overall pace or was it just to please MSC.

      And, sorry to break it to you, but in terms of overall pace, they are loosing even more then they did last 4 races.

      • Maksutov said on 11th May 2010, 15:15

        I think it is quite obvious that the change on Schumachers car was implemented under his own requests and agreements with his engineers and overall decision makers. He was not happy with his car and he wanted the thing changed to something that he thought he could drive. So to put it bluntly yes, all changes made on cars are done so to please the concerning driver.

        What was subsequently done on Rosbergs car as a result of Schumachers car changes, is like saying if I cut my hair to a new style that yours should somehow also be magically cut by default?! Rosberg changes completely dependent on what Rosberg agrees to do with his own engineers! It is obvious that if a driver does or does not want to implement a specific change on their car then it will happen or NOT happen accordingly.

    • Todfod said on 11th May 2010, 8:05

      Well I actually did predict this happening before the season started.

      It was obvious Schumacher was not going to be upto Nico’s pace, and there would be Schumi bashing by the German press and all his critics. All his millions of fans would be looking for excuses why Schumi is not upto speed yet, and they found an excuse in Schumi’s ‘broken chassis’ explanation.

      It was kind of obvious that the car would be developed to suit Schumi, and Rosberg would have to be made to look like a sub par driver.

      The heat of the German press and the critics has reduced, and Schumi fans can look upto their tactful hero once again.

  12. Mattikake said on 10th May 2010, 16:32

    Just had a look at some stats and the all the teams and all the circuits visited in 2009 and 2010, the Merc/Brawn is the ONLY car that is SLOWER than in 2009, ONLY at Barcelona. Everyone else has stayed roughly equal or made gains of up to 1.6s, including Merc right up until the update at Barcelona.

    It seems certain that the input from Schumi, to suit Schumi, is a provable, undeniable, backward step.

    The only question is why have they done this..?

    • Mattikake said on 10th May 2010, 17:22

      Favouritism or Schumi manipulating the team purely to his own ‘greatest’ smokescreen advantage (again).

    • Patrickl said on 10th May 2010, 17:27

      Perhaps if Rosberg had found a suitable setup, he could have outperformed Schumacher?

      We don’t really know if the car is slower or Rosberg simply had a bad weekend.

      Getting rammed of the road by Kubica just after the start didn’t help him during the race.

      Have to agree that Schumacher doesn’t seem to have improved much. He lost more time compared to the others since Bahrain.

      In Bahrain he was 44 seconds off the lead holding back Button for most of the race and now he’s 60 seconds slower (again with Button behind him).

  13. skinner said on 10th May 2010, 19:08

    Rosberg said in an interview on german TV (RTL, after qualifying) that he had massive understeer(!) mid corner and Schumacher was dealing better with it. First i thought i misheard, but he really is saying they both had massive understeer “worse than ever” and Schumacher was coping better. Although you have to keep in mind, he was only one tenth off!

    http://www.motorsport-total.com/f1/news/2010/05/Rosberg_enttaeuscht_Komme_nicht_zurecht_10050819.html

    His race was over before the first corner, i guess he damaged the cars’ floor or diffuser. So nothing to expect there.

  14. Where on the grid do all you guys think mercedes would be if shu was not around to help tune?.. Nico is benefiting from all this input. simple as that.
    favouritism my ass!

    • I remember reading in James Allen’s biography of Schumacher, that Schumacher isn’t always helpful in the development of the car, because of his skill. Apparently he is able to get the best out of a car regardless of any flaws, meaning that a change can be made, which could actually result in a slower car, but Schumacher’s ability to adjust his driving style to get any car to run just right on the maximum limit means that it sometimes isn’t identified that a change is resulting in step backwards actually making the car slower.

    • Todfod said on 11th May 2010, 8:07

      Rosberg is more than capable of tuning a car my friend. He has been around the sport for 4 seasons.. its not like he is a rookie.

  15. wasiF1 said on 11th May 2010, 5:11

    Schumi is back but does feel bad for Nico. Mercedes needs to get on this problem & needs to make sure that both the driver enjoys the same performance from the car.

    • Todfod said on 11th May 2010, 8:10

      Thats not gonna happen. Schumi will make sure Rosberg becomes the next Barrichello. Its sad to see this happen to every teammate of Schumacher, but as long as Schumi gets his backside kicked in by Alonso, Hamilton and Vettel… I’m not complaining.

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