Mercedes are ahead but for how long?

2013 British Grand Prix pre-race analysis

Nico Rosberg, Silverstone, Mercedes, 2013Mercedes have locked out the front row of the grid for the third time this year. Unlike the previous two occasions it’s Lewis Hamilton, not Nico Rosberg, who’s at the sharp end.

They now face 52 punishing laps of Silverstone which will reveal just how well they’ve got to grips with the tyre wear problems that plagued them earlier in the season.

Mercedes’ difficulties with tyre degradation was brutally exposed in Spain where they lined up first and second but finished sixth and twelfth. How will they fare at Silverstone, a circuit which is every bit as tough on tyres as the Circuit de Catalunya?

The start

Directly behind the Mercedes pair on the grid are the two Red Bulls, so except a combative start to the race. The Mercedes drivers have tended to get off the line well but have been vulnerable in the opening laps – recall how Sebastian Vettel attacked them in Spain and Bahrain.

After the flat-out blast through Abbey and Farm, the slow switchbacks of Village and The Loop which lead onto the Wellington Straight will give plenty of opportunities for position-swapping in the opening seconds of the race.

Fernando Alonso starts from tenth on the grid and will need one of his trademark brilliant starts to begin the process of getting on terms with title rival Vettel.

Silverstone’s lack of slow corners compared to many other circuits can make it a tricky circuit for overtaking. But as has become commonplace this year and extra DRS zone has been added. In addition to the one on the Wellington straight there is also one on the Hangar straight leading into Stowe.

Strategy

The medium and hard tyres are available this weekend and the drivers in the top ten will all start on the softer compound. Jenson Button, who lines up 11th, said he is pleased with the benefit of having a fresh set of tyres and being able to start from the cleaner side of the grid.

Alonso is expecting the race to be an “uphill struggle” as Ferrari seem not to have the pace this weekend.

Red Bull will be hoping Mercedes’ prior difficulties over a race stint will continue to dog them. Hamilton admitted he has concerns about their tyres: “We know that tomorrow is another day and our Sunday performance isn’t quite as strong right now.”

“Our long run pace looked OK yesterday and we were able to manage the tyres quite well. It’s going to be tough to keep Seb behind but we will give it everything we’ve got.”

Two of the most interesting storylines for the race are found on row three. Paul di Resta failed to get beyond Q1 in the last two races but clearly had excellent race pace in his Force India. He starts fifth tomorrow which will allows us to see what he can do when he has the springboard of a good qualifying position.

With the often slow-starting Mark Webber one place ahead of him, and the degradation-heavy Mercedes at the sharp end, a home podium for Di Resta is not out of the question. “Our tyre wear looks healthy and we?ve given ourselves a good opportunity to get in some clean air during the race,” he said.

Pirelli expect two or three pit stops to be the norm. Di Resta ran a canny single-stop race in Canada, and he has a good chance of being able to make one stop fewer than those in front of him.

Daniel Ricciardo has chosen an opportune moment to remind Red Bull what he is capable of by qualifying sixth, two days after Webber announced his impending retirement.

Here’s all the data from qualifying:

Qualifying times in full

Driver Car Q1 Q2 (vs Q1) Q3 (vs Q2)
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1’30.995 1’31.224 (+0.229) 1’29.607 (-1.617)
2 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1’31.355 1’31.028 (-0.327) 1’30.059 (-0.969)
3 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 1’31.559 1’30.990 (-0.569) 1’30.211 (-0.779)
4 Mark Webber Red Bull 1’31.605 1’31.002 (-0.603) 1’30.220 (-0.782)
5 Paul di Resta Force India 1’32.062 1’31.291 (-0.771) 1’30.736 (-0.555)
6 Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso 1’32.097 1’31.182 (-0.915) 1’30.757 (-0.425)
7 Adrian Sutil Force India 1’32.002 1’31.097 (-0.905) 1’30.908 (-0.189)
8 Romain Grosjean Lotus 1’31.466 1’31.530 (+0.064) 1’30.955 (-0.575)
9 Kimi Raikkonen Lotus 1’31.400 1’31.592 (+0.192) 1’30.962 (-0.630)
10 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1’32.266 1’31.387 (-0.879) 1’30.979 (-0.408)
11 Jenson Button McLaren 1’31.979 1’31.649 (-0.330)
12 Felipe Massa Ferrari 1’32.241 1’31.779 (-0.462)
13 Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso 1’32.105 1’31.785 (-0.320)
14 Sergio Perez McLaren 1’31.953 1’32.082 (+0.129)
15 Nico Hulkenberg Sauber 1’32.168 1’32.211 (+0.043)
16 Pastor Maldonado Williams 1’32.512 1’32.359 (-0.153)
17 Valtteri Bottas Williams 1’32.664
18 Esteban Gutierrez Sauber 1’32.666
19 Charles Pic Caterham 1’33.866
20 Jules Bianchi Marussia 1’34.108
21 Giedo van der Garde Caterham 1’35.481
22 Max Chilton Marussia 1’35.858

Sector times

Driver Sector 1 Sector 2 Sector 3
Lewis Hamilton 28.537 (1) 36.499 (1) 24.571 (1)
Nico Rosberg 28.684 (3) 36.650 (2) 24.650 (2)
Sebastian Vettel 28.748 (5) 36.697 (4) 24.766 (3)
Mark Webber 28.564 (2) 36.689 (3) 24.900 (5)
Paul di Resta 28.705 (4) 37.047 (8) 24.984 (7)
Daniel Ricciardo 28.969 (9) 36.831 (6) 24.953 (6)
Adrian Sutil 28.886 (8) 37.100 (10) 24.840 (4)
Romain Grosjean 29.058 (10) 36.806 (5) 25.081 (12)
Kimi Raikkonen 28.845 (6) 37.076 (9) 24.993 (8)
Fernando Alonso 28.859 (7) 37.024 (7) 25.052 (10)
Jenson Button 29.094 (11) 37.437 (11) 25.033 (9)
Felipe Massa 29.188 (14) 37.456 (12) 25.090 (13)
Jean-Eric Vergne 29.123 (12) 37.495 (13) 25.106 (14)
Sergio Perez 29.164 (13) 37.515 (14) 25.107 (15)
Nico Hulkenberg 29.368 (17) 37.607 (15) 25.070 (11)
Pastor Maldonado 29.231 (15) 37.811 (17) 25.231 (16)
Valtteri Bottas 29.352 (16) 37.967 (18) 25.267 (17)
Esteban Gutierrez 29.552 (18) 37.782 (16) 25.314 (18)
Charles Pic 29.743 (20) 38.496 (19) 25.609 (19)
Jules Bianchi 29.721 (19) 38.732 (20) 25.655 (20)
Giedo van der Garde 30.065 (22) 39.281 (21) 26.135 (21)
Max Chilton 30.013 (21) 39.661 (22) 26.167 (22)

Speed trap

Pos Driver Car Speed (kph/mph) Gap
1 Felipe Massa Ferrari 311.8 (193.7)
2 Jules Bianchi Marussia 310.2 (192.7) -1.6
3 Max Chilton Marussia 309.9 (192.6) -1.9
4 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 308.8 (191.9) -3.0
5 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 308.8 (191.9) -3.0
6 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 308.6 (191.8) -3.2
7 Jenson Button McLaren 307.5 (191.1) -4.3
8 Adrian Sutil Force India 307.5 (191.1) -4.3
9 Sergio Perez McLaren 307.4 (191.0) -4.4
10 Paul di Resta Force India 307.3 (190.9) -4.5
11 Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso 306.9 (190.7) -4.9
12 Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso 306.4 (190.4) -5.4
13 Nico Hulkenberg Sauber 305.5 (189.8) -6.3
14 Esteban Gutierrez Sauber 305.2 (189.6) -6.6
15 Kimi Raikkonen Lotus 303.9 (188.8) -7.9
16 Romain Grosjean Lotus 303.9 (188.8) -7.9
17 Mark Webber Red Bull 303.1 (188.3) -8.7
18 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 303.1 (188.3) -8.7
19 Valtteri Bottas Williams 302.3 (187.8) -9.5
20 Pastor Maldonado Williams 302.1 (187.7) -9.7
21 Charles Pic Caterham 301.9 (187.6) -9.9
22 Giedo van der Garde Caterham 299.9 (186.3) -11.9

Over to you

Will it be a home win for Hamilton? And how well will Alonso be able to limit the damage from tenth on the grid?

Share your views on the British Grand Prix in the comments.

Update: After this article was published Paul di Resta was sent to back of grid as his car failed a weight check

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59 comments on Mercedes are ahead but for how long?

  1. mantresx (@mantresx) said on 29th June 2013, 19:12

    Red Bull 1-3, Merc 2-4 that’s it.

  2. AdrianMorse (@adrianmorse) said on 29th June 2013, 19:38

    If the Mercedes drivers are one and two, the best strategy to keep the Red Bulls behind, at least in the first stint, would be for the second driver to remain in the DRS zones, so the Red Bulls can only attack them elsewhere. I highly doubt they will go for such a strategy, though.

    Something about this year’s Mercedes and the way it uses its tyres continues to baffle me. How can they be so quick over one lap, but so comparatively slow on race pace? If they are quick to warm up their tyres, but also quick to degrade them, why are they so weak at the beginning of the race? As Keith wrote:

    The Mercedes drivers have tended to get off the line well but have been vulnerable in the opening laps – recall how Sebastian Vettel attacked them in Spain and Bahrain.

    If they warm up their tyres so quickly, why don’t they storm away from the field in the opening lap (and why is Alonso so quick on the opening lap, if the Ferrari has problems warming up its tyres)? It can’t just be that they have to take it easier to preserve their tyres. In Bahrain Nico Rosberg said he knew after the third corner he would not be able to keep Vettel and Alonso behind.

    • Akshay (@hamilfan) said on 29th June 2013, 19:43

      Alonso was, is and will always be astronomical off the line… I don’t know how he does it :O

    • ME4ME (@me4me) said on 30th June 2013, 0:02

      It’s a total different thing to be quick on 5kg of fuel or 150kg of fuel. Mercedes have long gears and high top speed, which they only are able to reach in qualifying and at the end of the race. Thereby they sacrifice a bit of acceleration. Redbull go the other way, they focus on quick accerleration and therefor have an advantage in the race with high fuel levels.

    • Jason (@jason12) said on 30th June 2013, 1:55

      @adrianmorse
      Great question….
      We really need an expert to explain this, as heating up their tyres quickly totally inadequate as an explanation.

      Then they would be flying at the beginning of the race, whilst other teams struggle to heat up their tyres.

  3. Akshay (@hamilfan) said on 29th June 2013, 19:41

    I think a lot depends on the start . If Nico can keep Seb off Lewis , then I think Lewis can have a chance for 2nd position . If vettel charges initially , then Lewis can try for a podium . A key player in the start is Webber . If he fights Seb off the line , that will be interesting . Instead , they can sandwich Nico into loosing the position . I think Seb will win unless he crashes or runs off :( .
    hmmmm……. more importantly ,
    I can’t wait for the start :D

    • Krichelle (@krichelle) said on 29th June 2013, 19:57

      Correct. Very good. But the DRS ZONES, particularly in Hangar Straight can be overpowered… Should have been one, I really don’t like races where they put DRS in areas that are too east to get a slipstream or tow to overtake… What’s next??? DRS in the front straight in Brazil??? We saw that in Canada that DRS made the overtaking too easy, particularly because of 1 detection point..

      • GT_Racer said on 29th June 2013, 20:23

        DRS in the front straight in Brazil?

        That is actually where the 2nd DRS zone will be at Interlagos for this year.

        Only races not to have 2 DRS zones will be Monaco & Suzuka.

  4. quads said on 29th June 2013, 21:40

    Tomorrow will show. I think they are going to be ahead as long as they can run multiple days testing, that other teams are not allowed, without punishment – And getting beneficial treatment by the tire supplier, that choose to provide the harder range of the rubber available to races that usually get softer compounds wont heart either.

    • D (@f190) said on 29th June 2013, 22:04

      But they did get punished. And the test was nearly two months ago. I don’t understand your point. They have no special treatment from Pirelli at all, to suggest that is insane. The car has been good since day one and the tyres have NOT changed. You really need to read what’s happening before commenting as yourcomment makes you loom clueless.

      • quads said on 30th June 2013, 0:24

        Let me clarify.

        They have not been punished yet. They will get “punished” in a few weeks time, when all other teams get to test with current car (but not with the race drivers). Until then they will be benefiting from every testing km that they did post Barcelona, and that they (and only they) will have done in the current car and with the current race drivers.

        “And the test was nearly two months ago.”
        Are you suggesting that they and their drivers now have forgotten what they learned at that test?

        Correct, tyres have NOT changed, but Pirelli have announced harder compounds for a few of the coming races, than what was used last season. That plays in the hands of the teams known to have problems making the tyres last (guess which teams those are!).

        “You really need to read what’s happening before commenting as yourcomment makes you loom clueless.”
        Ditto.

        • Theoddkiwi (@theoddkiwi) said on 30th June 2013, 1:47

          You realise the car remained unchanged from the Barcelona Grand Prix apart from worn parts during the entire Pirelli run test?
          Explain to me how much Mercedes learned during the 1000km they did on unknown experimental tyres, that they hadn’t already learnt from 3 Practice sessions, Qualifying and full race distance on two cars when they could change and alter the car as much as they wanted on tyres that they knew about.

          People need to get their head around how limited the information learnt would have been. The car remained in the same spec and settings, they tyres were unknown, they had no control over how the test was run.

          Really all they could have confidently learnt are what parts of the car did not wear out and break and what parts did. Interesting as they had already done a race distance, qualifying and three practice sessions with pretty much that same parts on two cars.

          • quads said on 30th June 2013, 10:22

            “Explain to me how much Mercedes learned during…”

            It is a perfect setup to find out exactly that. Barcelona is a twisty circuit, so is Silverstone. In Barcelona they qualified at front row, so did they in Silverstone. In Barcelona they were LAPPED during the race. In Silverstone they [...].
            Lets wait and see what happens at Silverstone to understand the extent of the advantage they and their drivers got from the exclusive testing. No need for guesswork.

            “unknown experimental tyres”
            Tyres maybe were unknown to you and me, but NOT for the relevant people.
            http://www.f1fanatic.co.uk/2013/06/06/rosberg-was-aware-what-tyres-pirelli-were-testing/

  5. Mike Dee (@mike-dee) said on 29th June 2013, 21:42

    I thought Alonso used hard tyres in Q3 – or did he have a second run on the mediums?

    (The article states that the top 10 will ask start on the medium tyre.)

  6. Putti SPIII (@veldaarf1) said on 30th June 2013, 8:50

    This is going to be a bloody fight between Red Bull and Mercedes for the win. I hope it’s exciting! Pity that di Resta has to start last. It has ruined a solid double points finish for Force India. Can Alonso and Kimi pull off something magical? Fingers crossed!

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