Analysis: Who’s got the real speed after Melbourne season opener
Posted By: James Allen  |  21 Mar 2014   |  2:41 pm GMT  |  142 comments

As always on JA on F1 we like to bring the fans closer to the sport in many ways and after the first race of the new Formula 1 in Australia, we’ve analysed the performances of some of the leading teams to give a better picture of the relative pace at this early stage of the season.

Thanks to JA on F1 technical adviser Mark Gillan, we have some pace charts which give a good idea of the relative speed of the cars and Mark has given us his thoughts on what it all means and what we can expect in the coming weeks and months. The graphs show the fuel-corrected lap times of the cars in question, as a direct comparison of pace.

[Note: Click to enlarge the graphs – The vertical axis is the lap time in seconds, the lower the position on the graph the faster the lap time. The horizontal axis is the Lap Number. The start of the race is to the left and the finish is to the right on lap 58]

Williams vs McLaren
Two of the great names of F1, Williams and McLaren are back on form this season and were contending for podiums in the opening race. McLaren managed to get Kevin Magnussen up there – joined by Jenson Button after the disqualification of Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo – while Williams was challenging for a podium with Valtteri Bottas until he hit the wall on Lap 10. He still recovered to finish 6th.

The first speed graph (click to enlarge) shows the relative pace of McLaren and Williams. Things to note here are Button’s final stint on the medium tyre, which is strong and indicates that the McLaren goes well on that tyre. Magnussen lost some time on his middle stint and dropped back a bit from Ricciardo during this period, possibly a mixture of inexperience and instructions to save fuel. He was clearly following varying fuel modes in the final stint, as a prelude to an attack on Ricciardo at the end, but the challenge never came to much as he didn’t want to risk a certain third place.

What is clear from this graph is the inherent pace of the Williams in the dry. It is clear to see in the first stint, which is superior to the McLaren pace. Bottas was able to push hard and gain places. Being aggressive like this is easier when working through the positions from P5 backwards but becomes harder the further forward you go as the stakes get higher. Bottas crashed when in P6. Had he been in P3 at the time, chances are he would not have been pushing quite so hard.

There is every reason to believe that they will challenge for the podium in Sepang next week, based on the impressive pace shown in Melbourne.

A concern for Williams will be its wet weather performance (not shown in the graph). In the wet qualifying, the Williams lacked rear end stability in the wet. Williams has had a problem in this area for a few years now and never perfected the Exhaust Blown Diffuser, which helped calm down the rear end of the F1 cars. The EBD is banned now, which helps Williams, but the car is clearly still quite unstable at the rear, which the drivers can cope with in the dry conditions, but struggle with in the wet. This will be a concern for Malaysia next week, where it is often wet.

How big is Mercedes’ advantage?

Looking at the second chart above (click to enlarge), which features only the Mercedes-powered teams and the one below which features Mercedes, Red Bull and Ferrari, it is clear that Mercedes has a significant pace advantage, but looking at how it was managed, it’s clear that they did not reveal the full extent of it in Melbourne.

Only at the start and after the Safety car (Lap 15 onwards), as Rosberg looked to establish a lead, did we see some of the speed the car has. The rest of the time he was managing the race. This is reminiscent of the way Sebastian Vettel drove the final part of last season in the Red Bull, but the pace advantage here is greater than Vettel enjoyed in the second half of last year.

At times, particularly in the second stint after the safety car, the Mercedes is 1.2 or 1.3 seconds faster than its pursuers. In development terms, with last year’s rules that is equivalent to about a year of aerodynamic development. But with this “immature” 2014 technology of the new hybrid turbo power units, the gap will be made up more quickly, as teams and engine builders make breakthroughs. Renault and Ferrari have yet to fully exploit the power unit they have.

The teams look at graphs exactly like these and the others will consider Mercedes’ pace ominous. They have a buffer and it will take a lot for others to catch up.

Red Bull were faster than expected after their testing problems, while Ferrari did not show its true pace as the drivers were managing electrical issues and braking issues in Raikkonen’s case.

Key to this will be the Technical Directives from the FIA’s Charlie Whiting and Jo Bauer. These are private documents circulated only to the technical heads of teams which give permissions and instructions from the FIA, essentially amendments to technical regulations. The public and media do not get to see them but effectively they supersede the F1 Technical Regulations.

This year, as the fuel flow metering row in Australia showed, there will be all sorts of advantages sought by teams and the FIA will be issuing Technical Directives left right and centre to deal with them. It is here, as much as in the development race in wind tunnels back at the factories, that the title will be won.

The power units are supposedly homologated now, which means only adjustments for reliability reasons are permitted. But sometimes things are permitted under the premise of reliability which have performance advantages or allow an engine maker to maximise what is already there. This is the key to the 2014 championship.

Mercedes will not want to change anything!

And for Malaysia? What happens there?
Malaysia will be a huge challenge for the teams, as the heat and humidity will stress the cooling ability to the limit and many teams will be obliged to open up the body work to increase cooling. This will damage aerodynamic performance and in some cases will add to the car’s instability in corners. Unlike Melbourne it is very easy to overtake in Sepang, thanks to the two long straights linked with a hairpin and so a battle like Ricciardo vs Magnussen would have a different outcome, when one car has 309km/h top speed and the other 273km/h, as was the case in Melbourne.

Featured Innovation
technical innovation from tata COMMUNICATIONS
Share This:
Posted by:

Add comment

E-mail is already registered on the site. Please use the Login form or enter another.

You entered an incorrect username or password

Sorry that something went wrong, repeat again!

So the big question is WHY is the Merc so fast? Is it the PU? Is it mechanical grip? Is it aero? When Button’s Brawn was this much faster than the opposition, we all knew it was the DDD. But no-one seems to be pointing at one particular feature on the Mercedes as being the “killer” feature which others can’t copy (yet). Is it just that their PU use is “better”, their mechanical grip is “better” and their aero is “better”, each contributing similar amounts to their performance advantage? I’m surprised this isn’t being discussed more widely, which implies (to me) that no-one knows!!


It is never just one thing

The Merc is fast mainly because they spent two years designing the engine and chassis to work perfectly together and they have thrown huge resources at the Energy Recovery department in Brixworth


I thought I posted the several days ago and it didn’t work

This article is exactly why this website is probably my favorite website that doesn’t have anything to do with work the one website I come to almost every day and I know some of my comments seem to be critical or negative of FIA and I’m not even have disagreements with James your markers any of the other contributors here but I really do enjoy all information given here thank you James thank you Mark thank you everyone that gets his website going.

I learned a long time ago and actually somebody probably told me this but it’s true that to understand whether someone that you’re dealing with this smart and competent is how easily they can explain complicated matters to you in an easy to digest understandable fashion. That’s one thing I get when dealing with ultimate professional such as my child neurologist who actually took 30 minutes to explain to me how the brain works in a way that I can understand obviously I can’t go to brain surgery but I do understand what the medicine that he was given my kid did I get the same thing here and that’s one of the reasons I truly enjoy this website.

Mr. Allen I see your post above crying about having to fly eight time zones and yes I’m sure that’s an absolute meet there but I travel about 20 days a month 10 months a year all in the United States all multiple connections it seems like an never worked anyplace fun since my company only does business with third tier market dealerships and I would happily switch my job for yours. So if you want to switch out for Saturday couple months of the next flyway season this fall give me a call thanks again for all the work you and your to make Formula One understandable British country hicks like me


Texas not British hicks


It’s hard to believe that in an article where Williams, Mclaren, Ferrari and Mercedes were mentioned and in a race where he retired due to reliability issues and thus effectively did NOT participate, the first few posts would degenerate into an argument about HAMILTON. Smh!


Williams must be kicking themselves that they don’t have someone like Hulkenberg in Massa’s seat.

What a waste.

Ferrari must be thinking the same about their drivers. In my opinion Hulkenberg would almost certainly beat Alonso and Raikkonen in equal equipment.

Come to think of it, McLaren must be thinking the same with their inexperienced rookie driver getting the edge over Button. You can’t make a serious run for the championship with Button as your number one driver.


Personally think Mercedes is fastest by far, followed by Williams and Mclaren. Next Ferrari and Red Bull. Hopefully, Mercedes will not be to far away to catch by the others.


Why are the Tech Directives kept secret? This is typical of the way F1 is treating the fans with a total lack of respect. If the results in 2014 are so dependent on these directives then let the public know about them so we can appreciate what is happening. It is the same issue during the races when we get no indication of what is happening with the ERS, fuel flow etc. By keeping everything in a “black box” F1 is robbing fans of the full experience and will end up losing fans.


You said: “At times, particularly in the second stint after the safety car, the Mercedes is 1.2 or 1.3 seconds faster than its pursuers. In development terms, with last year’s rules that is equivalent to about a year of aerodynamic development.” It sounds like an almost definitive verdict for the season, although the F1 cars are still “immature”: are we going to see a Mercedes championship and a “league for the others”?

Another fact: top speed of Magnussen (podium finisher)in Melbourne only 273km/h?


RE Formula One or rename it Formula Slow

What has happened to the “Masters of Speed in Formula One”.

They have been given electric wheelchairs.

Is not Formula One the pinnacle of “Speed and Fast”.

Is not Formula One to race flat out from start to finish no matter what

Is not Formula One supposed to be loud and shake your body with engines about to explode

Why do we have tyres that can’t go the distance and don’t provide grip for drivers after 5 laps.

The FIA should be all sacked.

Why do we have tyres that can’t go the distance and don’t provide grip for drivers after 5 laps.

Let’s just have one set of tires that work and makes 60% of race distance flat out, with one mandatory tire change. Get rid of soft altogether and of course have wets when it rains (cost saving idea to formula one).

Let the teams play with suspension setups for advantage only.

Why do we have fuel saving in a Formula One Race they spend 100’s of millions to save a few dollars on fuel (it makes no sense it F1), having to slow down to save fuel is not racing. Have the greenies taken over Formula One. Let them have an electric car race all for themselves.

Why do we have different front wings? Let’s level the field, every team to have the same front wing and ok make it adjustable. Stops also the aero game and huge costs for all teams so they can buy fuel.

Level the field for all teams for a fair flat out REAL race and position fight with drivers showing what they can really do.

Why get penalised for a gearbox change or engine change (get rid of that rule). Give the teams ten engines and gearboxes then its equal in performance all year.

If a formula one driver has to back off for fuel or tires and can’t go flat out ITS NOT RACING.


The Red Bull has the best chassis, Merc. has the best engine. It’s never going to happen but I would love to see them combined.


Mercedes > Williams > Red Bull/Mclaren > Ferarri > Force India.

It will change through the season with drivers handling I hope.

Alexander Supertramp

Lewis hasn’t been able to complete a single race distance since testing. The Merc package is still fragile. Nico has had a good run, but who says both Mercedes cars don’t DNF in Malaysia?


Graphs are said to be ‘fuel corrected’

What precisely does this mean?

I appreciate that they are intended to be a basis for informed discussion but without a definition of ‘fuel corrected’ they are meaningless.


The lap times are corrected to remove the effect of fuel, i.e. at the start of the race the cars have 100kg on board and at the end they should have effectively zero. I have simply removed the impact of the fuel throughout the race so one should be able to compare lap times at any point in the race and any difference in lap time is the result of traffic, tyre degradation, etc and not the result of reducing fuel level.


Thankyou for the information. I thought perhaps that, considering how critical fuel consumption and fuel flow has become that you might have had access to some more accurate, car specific information, although I realise that teams are unlikely to publish this. Apologies for delay in replying.


James, you say that the other teams will catch up to Mercedes, but Mercedes wont be staying still. Id imagine that they will keep developing to maintain the gap. A


Ferrari had an issue with the MGU-H (mainly) which dramatically effected their pace. Amazing how people forget Ferrari was quickest in a straight line during free practise – it was always one of if not the quickest in a straight line at the Bahrain tests also- but obviously the Mercs get to that top speed faster and are better all round. Anyway things are still being sorted and I wont be surprised if someone totally different wins at Malaysia because whilst Nico cruised to victory – look what happened to the other Merc… Reliability is still key in these early races and the outcome of the WC could be down to who manages to finish these next few races with decent points until everyones reliability improves.


After Australia, here are the current points streaks:

10: ROS

5: PER

4: ALO



I think reliability will be a bugbear for the entire first half of the season at least.


Wow, 10 consecutive points finishes for Rosberg. I didn’t realise he’d had such great consistency. I’d almost say he’s turning into a Nick Heidfeld, except for the fact that Nico wins races 🙂 Hamilton is going to find him very hard to beat in the championship.


Hmm, not sure it’s consistency rather than just a current spate of luck with reliability. The only time Mercedes finished out of the points last season was Hamilton’s 2nd-to-12th nightmare in Spain.

Rosberg’s last retirement was when his engine blew late on in Hungary.

The longest points streaks from 2013 were:

13 ALO

11 VET

10 RAI






Given the Mercedes’ current pace advantage, any incident-free race finish should be in the points.



5- Perez???

3- But ? 1 Hulk/ Magnussen wtf are you talking about.

Here is the actual top 10 table..

NR is 25, KM18, JB15, FA12, NH10, VB 8, KR6, JEV4, DK2 SP1..

Where on earth do you come up with such crazy “streaks”


Sorry KRB -brain fade. Kinda pointless having rookies in there though..


Elie, consecutive points finishes. As a Kimi fan, I would’ve thought you’d be well versed in those! 🙂

Ok, there’s no correlation between reliability in 2013 vs 2014, or not likely to be. But still, I think it’s been awhile since the consecutive-points-streak (CPS) leader at any given moment was under 10 races. If and when Rosberg has a DNF or non-points finish, we’ll likely be in such a situation.

Still far away from the great unreliability of the 70’s and 80’s … Nigel Mansell retired from nearly half his races!

Grands Prix: 187

Finished: 92 49.20%

Retired : 93 49.73%

Classf’d: 99 52.94%


No, you’re wrong – KRB has correctly listed the numbers of consecutive points finishes.


When red bull get full power they will be the team to beat,you’ve only got to look at their corner speeds compared to the rest..I fear they will be back quicker than anyone thought possible and dominate this set of rules too.

Rb10 looks so different to the rest….let’s hope that it takes a while for Renault to deliver however it wouldn’t surprise me at all if they challenge and close gap next weekend.



You are not wrong, but a 5th title for Vettel will kill F1 for sure.


Why would it kill F1? I for one am looking forward to someone breaking MSC’s record 7 titles watching F1 should be about excellence and performance!




Red Bull will not get near Mercedes this year.

This is not 2009, with a penny-less brawn losing their advantage the second half of the season.

This is Mercedes, a quality team, with quality drivers and a huge budget.

Being a Hamilton fan and also liking Rosberg, I’m just glad I can enjoy the dominance of one team for once.


What happened last year then ? Same team with same drivers and budget..they still have a great deal to prove and deliver it under great pressure

My money is on red bull to take them and win it again this doubt it is Mercs best chance to win it this year but if they don’t beat the bulls this year they never will


What happened last year? Mercedes were very competitive, but took too long to get a hold on the tyres, so switched most o their attention to 2014.

Formula one moves is cycles, last year was the end of that evolution of car, which Red Bull had nailed from the beginning.

Red Bull will not even get close this season in my opinion. Mercedes is a big an advantage since the first few races of 2009 with Brawns double diffuser.

Nothing lasts forever and Red Bulls time of dominance is over, that’s not to say teu won’t be competitive, but dominance… No way.

I can’t wait for the race next week


Depends. Historically, they’ve done well with good corner speeds, and “ok” straight line– but this year, the straight line speed is going to be much more important. Gaining a tenth in the corners doesn’t help if you lose half a second on the straights.


The pictures say it all. Thanks!


Another great article, thanks James and Mark. JB’s last stint was very consistent as was Hulkenberg’s.


Many of you comment on the huge speed advantage of the Mercedes Team. This being the case, I wonder how much the team will let their two drivers race one another. With reliability and maybe fuel being factors, they might be told to keep the order whatever it might be, and this could occur rather early in the race.


At least early in the season, I would expect it to be “race, but don’t be stupid”– Both cars need to finish in the points as much as possible. From the team’s perspective, it doesn’t matter which car is in 1st and which is in 2nd, as long as they lock out the top two.

Last year in Malaysia, for instance, both Red Bull and Mercedes decided that whoever was in front at the end of the last pit stop rotation, would bring their car home in the lead.

Nico complained bitterly, but kept position, and well, we know about Multi-21.


It would be a strange race if they didn’t. The two Mercedes cruising along 1,2, thirty seconds ahead half a dozen cars racing hard for third.


I do feel for Ross Brawn, obviously this car is still a big part Ross, imagine him staying one more year and maybe (i know season is long) but maybe would have gotten one last championship title. I have more respect for him then most in F1 (never meet him, and was never a Ferrari fan during the MS time, but one needs to acknowledge what this man achieved.)

Also at McLaren, many things happening this year is probably due to someone who is not in the front of the team anymore.

Btw…will be interesting to see if Kimi and Boullier left the sinking boat the last second, or if they will get the water out of it and keep it afloat

Cant wait until next week! 😀


Ross Brawn is overrated.

Let’s look at the facts.

He only ever gave Schumacher the best car on the grid in 2001, 2002, and 2004. Brawn also came up with the best car in 2009, but that was more to his very liberal interpretation of the regulations more than anything.

Those are the facts. Brawn wasn’t fired, it was made clear to him a year ago that this would be Toto Wolff and Niki Lauda’s team going forward. They made Brawn irrelevant in the team knowing Brawn would walk away. You can’t even really say this car is Brawn’s car because he had been made increasingly irrelevant in the team.

Mercedes made the change because Brawn wasn’t getting the results despite the massive funds and resources at his disposal.


It looks like the Malaysian race will be dominated by Mercedes-powered teams with only RBR possibly spoiling the party behind Mercedes.


In a dry race, yes. Mind you, a wet race with these new torquey turbo’s will be a complete lottery in terms of form!


“The power units are supposedly homologated now, which means only adjustments for reliability reasons are permitted.”

Does this relate only to hardware, or to software as well?

I have in mind that Mercedes’ advantage seems to be largely in integrating the three power sources into one seamless flow of power. Renault acknowledged a few weeks ago that they had a way to go on that front, and Ferrari couldn’t utilise all of their harvested electrical power in Melbourne and had problems in integrating the braking and harvesting.

To the layman, these sound like the kind of problems that might be solved by tweaking software, so I wonder whether that is still permitted, even though the hardware has been homologated.


Agreed. I cannot believe that Merc, Renault or Ferrari can have achieved an optimum mapping between the outputs and inputs of the various elements of their power trains on their race simulators, without any race experience and driver input. To deny them the oportunity to correct this mapping, without resorting to claims for ‘increased reliability’ or ‘cost reduction’ is absurd.


Back in 2010 when it was announced that F1 will see a complete change in engine regulations in 2014, I remember hearing quite often then that MERCEDES will have a big advantage. How come?


Can we have lines joining the graph points? It will make it much easier to read, especially for tired or bad eyes.


Data from FIA official Web site. Intermediate 1 – top speed: 275,5kmh for Bottas. 264,7kmh for Ricciardo, but 271,4kmh for Kyviat. 267,3kmh for Rosberg!!! Intermediate 2 – top speed: 306,2kmh for Perez, 287,6kmh for Ricciardo. 296,0kmh for Rosberg!!!! Finish line: top speed 303,3kmh for Bottas, 286,5kmh for Ricciardo, 294,4kmh for Rosberg!!!, 295,7kmh for Kyviat. The diference of top speed between Ricciardo and Rosberg was never above 9kmh. The numbers show that Williams have chosen a low downforce setup, RB probably a high downforce setup and Mercedes GP a intermediate option. What´s the diference from 2013? The advantage of Mercedes GP is nothing but a myth. I don´t believe Mercedes can handle with Malaysian track as they did at Melbourne´s track. Rosberg opted for a level of torque that allowed him to build that advantage. The track was less abrasive and that help to save the tyres. I think that there is a lot of people letting their hearts go to fast.


You are comparing the BEST top speeds.

That’s not the speeds they do every lap. When I was watching on Friday FP2 I was paying special attention to the speed difference at S3 (across the start finish line) between Mercedes and Red Bull was almost always over 10kmh.

But, it’s not like there’s anything new in that. Red Bull have had a history of running with the highest downforce and lowest straight-line speeds of the field. Just go and look at speed trap data from 2013 in Australia and Malaysia and they did alright in those races.


Ok. The top speeds, but my comparison, I think, is better than believe that the diference between Renault and Mercedes is simply that range of 309km and 274kmh. That´s not the truth, I think. F1 is more complicated than that. Ok. that´s not the speed they reach every lap, but the truth is that Rosberg never reached 309kmh and probably the Mercedes will never be able to do that im Australia because it depends on the aero design and optimization of the package. The more simple the projects are and less appendices the cars have, more easy the cars reach highest speeds, but they dont win races only with high speeds on the straights. A lot of people says that Rosberg didn´t show the true pace. First, I think is not the truth. You can see the race lap analysis from FIA and it is clear that the tyres on the Mercedes deteriorated at the same time of the race of the others drivers. If Mercedes have more pace, they will need to improve a lot the balance of the car, because the tyres will not follow that possible pace. During the race (lap 31) there is a slow motion that shows that the front tyres of Mercedes was clearly deteriorated.


There is something fundamentally wrong with Ferrari. In the last couple of years they have been changing personnel rather frequently: Costa –> Fry –> Allison.

They have phenomenal drivers, best of the best – Alonso and Kimi. They have money and have everything. I think it is a Management/Leadership Problem. Will Domenicali now get rid of Allison? Ferrari needs a new (non Italian) management and ideally they need to have many more non-Italian people working there.


I don’t think it’s the whole situation but Ferraris dominant years were built on unlimited testing eras – they are not really a high tech simulation company, they always preferred hard testing. It could be a generation before the whole Ferrari structure adapts – regardless of the staff they pull in from elsewhere…

But I guess even Newey with an unlimited budget took years to get RBR up to their dominance – so is give the new Ferrari set up a few years before judging it (although I expect both drivers will have moved on from either F1 or the scuderia by then)


All teams had unlimited testing. That’s why teams based themselves around Silverstone. To test their cars.

Ferrari in that golden era was one of several teams with huge budgets. Toyota had a larger budget and McLaren had a budget the same size as Ferrari — plus Newey designed the McLaren.

What Ferrari did have in that era was Schumacher. He was the difference at the end of the day.

Top Tags
SEARCH Innovation