A clean sweep of all three training passes and one-two in the qualifier provides a perfect start to the season so far for Mercedes.
The hope of their rivals that will not continue on Sunday can be summed up in one word: temperature.
Cooling was Mercedes’ regret during this race 12 months ago. It was a particularly hot Austrian Grand Prix, and that combined with the relatively high altitude of the track and the limitations of the cooling configuration used by Mercedes at that time contributed to their first defeat of the season until then.
Of course, they are unlikely to repeat the same mistake twice. At the same time, the forecast for Sunday’s race has been revised since the start of the weekend, and predicted temperatures are now quite higher ̵
And as Mercedes team manager Toto Wolff acknowledged on Saturday, they have made a change to their car that could have an unintended consequence on its performance. Switching from silver to black life to show their support for diversity and resistance to racism is a noble gesture. But it can also endanger the car’s heat rejection.
“The message and the marketing is very important,” Wolff said. “But if performance is damaged, it’s obviously not good.
“We have made some calculations, but tomorrow when the weather is expected to be about 30 degrees. We will see if our simulations with a silver car have been different from the results on the track with a black car. So [it’s a] fair point. It’s a little unknown to us. “
It would be easy to exaggerate the role Mercedes can play in this. But Red Bull and Ferrari see the expected turnaround in the weather forecast and hope it will play to their advantage.
“We were blessed last year with particularly hot conditions and a Mercedes that was not equipped to drive under hot conditions so they lost a lot,” said Red Bull’s chief of car technology Paul Monaghan. “[But] I don’t suppose they will fall into the useful trap for us tomorrow. “
But he said that Red Bull’s decision to qualify Verstappen on C3-medium composite tires instead of C4 soft was awaiting the change in weather.
“If you look at Friday’s longer runs in cool conditions, I think the C4 tire showed a fair amount of waste or degradation for everyone,” he said. “And the yellow wall [medium] the tire looks to stand up a little better.
“Now if the forecast is correct and tomorrow’s even hotter than today, which in turn will do that, we think a little harder for C4 to survive. So we have decided to try to give ourselves a better tire first and make our choices from there. “
Alexander Albon, who starts two places behind his teammate in fifth place, qualified on the soft tire.
“So if C4 is fighting tomorrow then we’re on a C3 with Max, and just as much if C4 is fantastic tomorrow, we’re on a C4 with Alex,” Monaghan said. “And we can pull Max in at one point and put him on something else.
“So that’s all to play for, really. At least we are not on the same deck two places behind the pole-sitter. “
It could only be better for Ferrari after a dismal qualifying session where Charles Leclerc led his cars in seventh place, while Sebastian Vettel did not even manage to reach Q3. Sports director Laurent Mekies said the team is also throwing a hopeful eye on the weather forecast.
“It’s much warmer again tomorrow,” he said. “And that will change a little bit of order. It will not be a revolution, but things will change.
“In addition, the field is very dense. So of course I’m not talking about Mercedes, but surely behind them the field is very close.
“It will be a big fight and we know that Charles and Seb are very good at it and therefore try to give them the best weapon to be able to fight in these conditions.”
But how well will Leclerc and Vettel be able to fight given the hit that Ferrari has had straight liner over the past 12 months. Their two drivers have lost more momentum in the official trap than everyone else in the field.
In this race last year, Leclerc qualified for pole position and was the fastest driver through the speed trap, clocking 325.7 km / h. This year he is at the opposite end of the table, a 13.3 km / h slower. Vettel has lost 8.3 km / h.
That, together with the significant loss in lap times from all three Ferrari-powered teams, is another sign that the Ferrari power unit is not the power it was 12 months ago.
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Over to you
Can anyone prevent Mercedes from starting the year with one-two? What can Ferrari save from their tough start to 2020? And who is “the best of the rest”?
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