Following on from criticism from Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo that Mercedes’ form over the five races since its controversial Pirelli test in May damages the credibility of the championship, we’ve done a couple of graphs analysing the car’s race tyre performance over the last three events, with the help of JA on F1 technical adviser Mark Gillan.
In the first graph we compare Lewis Hamilton’s lap times with those of Sebastian Vettel in the Red Bull and Kimi Raikkonen in the Lotus.
The vertical axis is the lap time, (faster lap times towards the bottom, slower lap times higher up); the horizontal axis is the number of laps in the race. So the race runs from left to right)
Hamilton’s degradation is pretty linear and comparable to Vettel’s on the soft set and he did a very good job on the first set of mediums, from lap 10 to 31, where he was able to push and still maintain tyre life (look at the black plot between laps 10 and 31. Generally speaking this second stint is very consistent)
If you look at our second graph (below) – In Germany the team struggled on the one-off Pirelli compromise tyre which was rushed out after the Silverstone failures.
In Budapest, despite the high temperatures. Mercedes demonstrated tyre degradation in line with the average for the field. It was clear from Budapest that the new Pirelli tyre suits the Mercedes much better, so the indications are they will be strong for the rest of this season, although a note of caution; we still need to see how the tyres cope with high lateral loads on tracks like Spa and Suzuka.
The three race comparison graph (below) of the British, German and Hungarian GPs, it is clear that there were still issues in Silverstone (red plot) and Germany (blue plot) but it’s extremely difficult to extract any definitive facts or trends here, bar the fact the overall race pace of Hamilton at Budapest looks more consistent than the other two races, which is generally due to the driver having a better overall chassis balance and tyre utilisation and the strategy team having more confidence in the driver achieving the required stop laps.
Prior to these races, Monaco and Montreal were one-offs, both with very low tyre energy, where Mercedes’ higher tyre use would not be such a factor anyway. Track position was more decisive in Monaco, where Mercedes and Rosberg had the advantage from qualifying.
Meanwhile in Canada Hamilton was well beaten by Vettel and Alonso into third place; he finished 16 seconds behind Vettel and was caught by Alonso seven laps before the end, but his performance showed that Mercedes has made some progress on improving tyre life in the race. The consistency on Hamilton’s car was much better than than for Rosberg, who needed to make an extra stop.
So, although the championship table tells a very obvious story, with Mercedes scoring almost double the points in the five races since its test compared to the five races before, it’s hard to draw too many firm conclusions about timelines for improvement, other than to say that Hungary was clearly a breakthrough and showed that the team has definitely got its act together now and that the new Pirellis suit it.
* Additional input from JA on F1 technical adviser Mark Gillan