Analysis: F1 treading a fine line on competition – will updates in Spain tip the balance?
Start Sochi F1
Posted By: James Allen  |  05 May 2017   |  3:35 pm GMT  |  140 comments

The F1 season so far has a broadly positive balance sheet; it has featured two good races and two dull ones with little or no close racing, but the saving grace has been the close competition between Ferrari and Mercedes.

Because behind that there is a large gap to Red Bull, then another large gap back to the rest.

And on tracks where overtaking is hard and the tyres offer little or no degradation, like we saw in Sochi, then the cars run in performance order with no real chance for anyone to spring any surprises.

Those involved it the title battle are talking the other side up and predicting that it will go down to the wire in Abu Dhabi in November; the competition is finely balanced between Ferrari and Mercedes, but the reality is that everyone in F1 is holding their breath to see the step Mercedes makes in Spain.

Start Sochi 2017

A gap between the two front runners could easily open if Mercedes bring along an updated car to Barcelona that not only carries the aerodynamic and engine steps that all teams will be aiming to bring with this first major upgrade of the season, but also addresses its weight issue.

And if that happens then the field could spread out, to the detriment of the show.

To illustrate the point, below is the race trace from Sochi (click to enlarge), showing the gaps between the cars in seconds, see how they widen as the race goes on (end of the race on the right of the frame. The sharp drops are pits stops).

The gaps are large. Now imagine a clear gap between Mercedes and Ferrari.

Red Bull is in a race of its own and then the midfield is miles off. This is different from recent seasons, where Mercedes had a pace advantage over everyone, but the field was more closely grouped behind them and a Force India could score a podium, as it did twice last season. That’s a pipe dream for this year.

Carlos Sainz commented on it this week: “If there is something missing in F1, it is that this gap is so great between the first two and the others,” he said.

“If you look at the budgets, you know that it is impossible to reach them. So I hope Liberty finds agreement among everyone so that it [gap] can be reduced.”

This is something that F1’s new owners Liberty Media are well aware of; it’s one of the main areas Ross Brawn and his team are working to resolve for the next generation, so that all the teams have more of a chance to compete and even to win.

Mercedes on a diet

There were suggestions at the start of the season that the Mercedes, with its long wheelbase, was around 8kg over its ideal weight, which equates to almost 3/10ths of a second at most F1 venues.

They have been working on a weight loss programme back at Brackley in tandem with the usual development programmes. So if that is added to a decent step on aerodynamics and engine, it could tip the balance in Mercedes’ favour.

Mercedes F1 team

Ferrari has done amazingly well to produce such a competitive car from where it was last season.

However the pressure is on Ferrari as its record on in-season updates has been patchy in recent years. Many upgrades have not had the desired effect and kept pace with other competitors.

Anything less than a decent step from them on aerodynamics and engine and the balance could start to shift.

What Ferrari has in its favour is the way it uses the new generation Pirelli tyres, especially the softer end of the range. The Mercedes has a narrower operating window for the tyres, whereas the Ferrari has more bandwidth. This will take some time to resolve.

For Spain Pirelli has disappointingly chosen the harder tyres, despite the fact that in winter testing teams were using the ultrasoft and supersoft tyres quite happily. The ultrasoft is probably not the right tyre for the weekend but a selection of supersoft -soft – medium would have made for a more interesting weekend, as we flagged up after the first round.

Daniel Ricciardo has said as much in the Red Bull preview to the Spanish GP:

“We’re going for the harder tyres for the first time this year in Barcelona. I’m not sure if it’ll help us or not but I just don’t think it’s going to be good for anyone.

“The tyres are already hard enough so the harder compounds are just way too hard. Hopefully for Barcelona’s sake it’s hot and therefore these harder tyres work, but if it’s cold then it’s going to be a struggle for everyone.”

Red Bull Racing
Can Red Bull close the gap?
As well as the Mercedes and Ferrari updates, it will be interesting to see what Red Bull brings to the table in Spain. The energy drinks maker failed to live up to expectations with its 2017 challenger, which is not only down on power but also aerdyanamically less stable than its rivals.

Adrian Newey’s team has been working flat out on a B spec car for Spain, while Renault has said that it will be delaying its revised engine, which addresses issues with the hybrid system, until June.

Last year, for reference, Red Bull was 1.7 seconds off the pace of the Mercedes in Sochi, but then in Spain it was just 0.6s (and they won the race after the Mercedes pair took each other out) so it shows the kind of gains that can be made.

The midfield battle is very entertaining, but even there its hard for the cars to overtake or pull interesting strategy moves on each other when the tyre choice is too hard. There will be movement as some teams gain more from development than others and Renault is worth watching as they seem to be unlocking performance now from their car in the fight with Force India and Williams for fourth and fifth places. Williams has only one driver scoring points and there is no chance of the other being replaced. Renault also has only one scoring points, but the other may be less secure.

McLaren Honda

What about Honda?
The most extraordinary story of the season so far, without doubt, has been the failure of the Honda engine, after a positive upward trend in 2016. The engine’s problems are well catalogued, but engine fixes take time.

Behind the scenes Mercedes engineers have been working hard in a rare show of sporting camaraderie, helping the Japanese manufacturer to speed up the recovery process, to stabilise the parts that keep going wrong and to maximise the integration with the McLaren chassis. There is a lot to be gained and in many ways the future participation of Fernando Alonso in the championship beyond June may well depend upon it.

Alonso is currently diverted by the Indy 500 experience, which has given him a fresh motivation and distracted his attention from the F1 disaster.

A line was drawn in the sand after the testing and first race and the recovery plan will not spare Honda’s blushes; nothing less than ‘whatever it takes’ will do to make the rest of the season respectable for McLaren and to give the commercial team something to sell against for 2018.

Alonso will get wiped out in front of his home crowd next weekend, but his mind will be on Indy. Once he comes back in Montreal, it will hopefully be to a clear sign of progress.

What do you think? Leave your comment in the section below or head over to the JA on F1 Facebook page for more discussion.

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So Mercedes engineers are helping Honda?
It has been rumored for a while now, but no one said it for sure, like you did in this article, James.
I hope this help is for the sake of the sport, since I don't see any other reason why would they do that.
Why didn't they do this years ago? Honda didn't want a outside help? Or?
Why don't they help everyone else?
On aero too.
If it's true, this is one of the weirdest news I've heard in F1, to say the least.


Apparently they did help Ferrari too.


Apparently they didn't.

Matthew cheshire

There's no glory in beating an opponent who is already down. And if Honda fails there will be no other manufacturers lining up for F1.

Mercedes could make its own racing series for Mercedes only. But doesn't. Why would it want to turn F1 into that?

No one is winning from the Maclaren Honda death spiral.

And really, if you're in the market for a Mercedes road car, would you stump up for a Honda because it came 5th instead of last in F1?


Honda have already failed. For a respected company like Honda to enter their 3rd year with a disaster like this, it's either a message that Honda just can't do it anymore or a message for other engine manufacturers to back off and wait for a newer and less complicated engine formula...

Guybrush Threepwood

I don't think "good will" exists in the piranha club. Merc are helping Honda to keep them in the game and reduce the chance of a major change to the engines in 2020. The current engine formula has already been enough of a failure - only one new manufacturer that is on the brink of collapse and a performance deficit that had ruined the sport over the last 3 years . Merc will be trying to mitigate as much as the negative attention as possible so as to maintain the current engines and with it their dominance. Just like the FIA and manufacturers are trying to save face with the 0.3 engine convergence rubbish.


Now that doesn't sound like the Toto that i know....


Nailed it


@ GT...well said. i agree with all that.


Political capital is an extremely valuable currency...


Mr Allen, I respect your thoughts & judgments when it comes to F1 in general , however I disagree with your assessment in regard to Mercedes up coming upgrades to Barcelona F1 race next w/end, you positively state the upgrade to Mercedes are watertight to be success , whereby Ferrari updates not so in the view in past years Ferrari updates were in basic terms dud , I wouldn't go that far with the prediction ? unless you red the mail. As for the Red Bull one doubt to be any treat to Mercedes or Ferrari, Sochi race said 1.7 sec per lap in the rear is simply to much to gain.


The next couple of races could suit RB more than the fly away races thus far, with Barcelona being about fast corner aero stability, and Monaco all slow speed traction and suspension compliance/suppleness over the bumps and undulations. High speed swoopy corners and low speed traction have been RB's traditional strengths, so they could be in much better shape than they were in Sochi.............

Putting my head on the block, I'd say RB have suffered [in 2017] not being the main works Renault team anymore, as developments and upgrades on the PU's goto Hulk and Palmer these days, so Dan Ric and Max are effectively racing "customer" units that are down on power compared to the Renault F1 squad, let alone the Silver and Red brigade, but Barcelona and certainly Monaco are not about brute power, so the short "mediterranean season" this month could bring the two youngsters back into contention...........


I think we will see Merc and RB outperform Ferrari shortly, unfortunately. Their high use rate of their turbocharger changes are going to hurt them shorty too if. It for reliability for being able to introduce upgrades.


I am putting my other head on the block and say that RB suffered from Ferrari's inquiry into suspension legality (arguably the biggest reason they were competitive last year at all) and outright hype and paid advertising by semi-educated members of media.


Not at all

I'm saying if they do make a step we won't have a race at the front as a show

Which is a problem with these cars due to the overall difficulty of racing them


I thank you


I think the best the lighter Mercedes will do is give them a better operating window that allows them to stay competitive during the race by improving the cars balance. However, Ferrari is within the 1/2 a second of Mercedes on raw power (I still think Mercedes is the best power unit). This W08 looks like one of Paddy Lowe's bad McLaren designs and James Allison will be hard pressed to find ways to make this car dominant. Since I think the overall Mercedes platform is not as competitive as the Ferrari this year, the season will come down to race strategy and Ferrari know Kimi is no match for Sebastian during the race, so I have a feeling they will have the advantage in the end.



looks like you see it as challenge. ok, let say all you right and all wrong? prove it then

you need to know/understand difference between job titles as Engineering director/technical director and team principal. obviously you have your own job description and that made me wonder, are you really into F1? Did you even race once? did you analyse date before? data not +/-

Go read Ross Brown book to understand why Lowe went to Mercedes, what he exactly did in McLaren and why he left Mercedes to be come technical director not team principal as you might misunderstand


Fred. Here Paddy bio. Read pls
Paddy Lowe studied engineering at Cambridge University, and a couple of years after graduation joined the Williams F1 team. Working on the electronics side, Paddy was made joint head of the department before leaving for McLaren in 1993. Heading up the entire Vehicle Technology outlook, Lowe was in charge of development and innovation, working on things like the power-steering and braking in his first few years.

Lowe gradually moved up the ranks at McLaren, becoming Chief Engineer and then Engineering Director. In 2011, he took on the role of Technical Director, steering the team’s direction from the top. With the departure of Lewis Hamilton as well as some disappointing season results, Lowe left McLaren for another directorship at Mercedes.

Although joining an already crowded managerial team at Mercedes, Lowe stepped in to the newly created Executive Director (Technical) position, alongside Toto Wolff in a similar (Business) role. With the departure of team stalwart Ross Brawn soon afterwards, the pressure was on Lowe to help push the team towards a championship victory and he delivered, helping Mercedes take the world titles in 2014 and beyond.

In early 2017, after three consecutive world championships with Mercedes, Paddy Lowe confirmed he was leaving the team and after a period of intense speculation it was revealed he would be joining Williams for the coming year as chief technical officer

So what you can understand here??

1- his role in mclaren then wiliams, mercedez and back to william..techincal role not owner as you suggesting
2- left Mercedez because, LH rift and subordination in Abu Dabi. LH claiming sabatoging his car in previous race. and finally rift with Paddy when mercedez shift LH and Rosberg engineers.
Paddy swallow all these bullshit from Lewis backed by Lauda and Wolf and jump to williams to replace Pat Symond.

Try to read events and connect the dots rather than repeating what was reported/written

Also stop writing job description. Better to check Lowe work profile not just pick his last assigment and build assumption on it

You did same thing suggesting he designed Mercedez car. Again design is not eveen his speciality as he is electronics engineer.
Mercedez dominance credit should go to Ross Brown and his engineering team(Aldo costa...etc).

If its hard for you to accept what you don't like. Don't oppose it unĺess you know very well

Good luck


Fred. Your info all from books. Wikipedia. Is that all you know??

Get some connection. Mean teams connection then you will see how all you do is just relying on reports. Get info from the source and try not be just academic.

Difference is i know your sources which are everyone has access to it

Hope that clear your confusion.



nice long talk you put here. now let me correct you in some points you mentioned

1- Paddy Law job at Mercedez was In June 2013, Paddy Lowe was appointed Executive Director (Technical) at the MERCEDES AMG PETRONAS Formula One Team – overseeing the team’s adaptation to the Hybrid Formula One revolution from a technical perspective.
as you see here adaptation to hybrid from technical point of view.
He was LH engineer at McLaren then followed him to Mercedez where was promoted to Director, executive, technical( because previous one was resigned at that time). Toto was Rosberg Engineer before restructuring whole team with arrival of Lauda replacing R Brown

in addition, read what Toto said below

“Success in Formula One is not about single individuals but about the strength in depth and technical capability of an organisation.
“We have the talent in place to continue our success of recent years and we plan to build upon it in 2017 and beyond.”

In the short term, Mercedes say their technical organisation will “continue to operate under the proven and established leadership of our senior directors Aldo Costa (Engineering Director), Mark Ellis (Performance Director), Rob Thomas (Chief Operating Officer) and Geoff Willis (Technology Director).”
did we see Aldo costa rule here?? very clear Engineering director

2- Ferrari lost Sochi because
1- Vettle losing lead at turn 2
" I think our start was probably a match with Valtteri," said Vettel.
"Maybe he gained a bit of momentum at the beginning, but he had a massive tow, I defended the inside, but by the time we approached braking he was already in front and able to shut the door on me.

2- Wrong pitting time for Vettle. That is my opinion and believe some might agree/ or not with me

3- Not only Ferrari changed TC units. all teams did including Merc, Honda, Renault . Ferrari did that not because reliability issue as you assume. it did it for another reasons, a strategic planning in other words. because Fraboni Luigi, Ferrari Engine guy, stressed that the changes so far have all been precautionary to limit the chances of a failure early in the season.

"At the moment we are facing the first races with some small problems that we are analysing and the changes we have done so far for the engine and the turbo are just to be cautious because we are in a strategic part of the season and we don't want to make a mistake at the moment," Fraboni said. "What we have seen at the moment is that we should be within the fourth element of each component of the power unit up until the end of the season."

last. Cheating by team heads is not acceptable. we know some drivers do cheat during racing, but whole team? I even believe that if you do something wrong, at least do it right

By the way, do you know why Paddy L left Mercedes ?


I am not sure who is feeding you facts BUT, Paddy Lowe was NEVER Lewis Hamilton's engineer ( at the time Paddy was the Technical Director at McLaren. Toto originally signed on to Paddy to have him as the TD of Williams when Toto bought shares in Williams but they both switched to Mercedes after Toto replaced Norbert Haug as head of Mercedes Motorsports and was allowed to buy shares in the team (technically they were stock options). During the reorganization Ross Brawn wanted autonomy as head of Technical and Mercedes refused to give Ross last word on Technical decisions so they replaced him with Paddy. You should read Ross Brawn's books it will help you determine the relationship with Paddy and Toto. Also for what its worth, Tony Ross (Nico Rosberg's former engineer have been together since Nico was at Williams. Toto Wolff is an Austrian Venture Capitalist who tried out in racing but failed (accident put his sense) so he invested in Williams.

AND Paddy left Mercedes to became a part owner in Williams (like his friend and mentor Toto).


Fred.. Neither P Law nor Allison designed cars for Mercedes . it is Aldo Costa who do designing job( Google to know who is he and where he worked before- in Ferrari)

Please explain how Mercedes power unit is the best. I really like to know where/based on what you saying that. give me specifications/performance data from the source( Manufacture) not reports from reporters

Last. do you know how car weight works in FIA new regulations?? here to have better idea
Section 4-1 car minimum weight is 722kg( with lubricants/water/driver) or max 228 with tires mounted
- This year tires are about 1.5kg , ie heavier than last year so total weight is 6kg not 4kg
- Car max weight was 728 kg for both Mercedes and Ferrari and all other cars, it is a mandate as per FIA regulations not an option per manufacture. so how or where did you get this idea Mercedes is heavier?? need weight
trim? The only way is by manipulating tire pressure as they did last year and got caught. remember?( they tire pressure inflation device to lower pressure automatically once car get into racing period? then did same thing and screwed up with Bottas' car as we all know.

so Mercedes has to step up their aero work to better balance the car in order get their tyre work within wide window compared to now. or by some magical Power unit which highly unlikely as.


Paddy Lowe:
Engineering Director MP4-23 to MP4-25
Technical Director MP4-26-MP4-28
Mercedes (Executive Technical Director) W05 to W08
Since every F1 car design concept is drafted during the previous season (the initial plans for the W09 should already be on the board - ideas Mercedes would like to change on the W08 but cannot because of FIA homologation rules) there is no way Paddy Lowe did not have input into the W08. The job of the Technical Director (or Executive Technical Director at Mercedes) is to provide the leadership and final word for all design and development teams and is the final word for all racing decision. Which is why it was Paddy (not Toto) who was on the radio to the drivers in Bahrain 2014 and Abu Dhabi 2016. Aldo Costa as the Engineering Director worked under Paddy Lowe along with Geoff Willis. The only car at Mercedes which I believe Paddy Lowe may have had no design input into was the W04 which was designed under the leadership of Ross Brawn (Team Principal) with Aldo, Geoff and Bob Bell (who left Mercedes and ultimately landed at Renault). Although I am sure he was involved with developments after he joined Toto.

As for the problems with Mercedes weight - All I can say is read James Allen (on this site), or read Mark Hughes at Sky. It is generally accepted that the current Mercedes design is estimated to be between 6-8kg over the minimum weight. This weight problem is one of the reasons why the car has a narrow setup window. This affects Mercedes performance in several ways, including 1. It limits how much ballast you can use to refine car balance, 2. the car can be difficult to handle especially under braking 3. obviously heavy car = slower car. Weight is EVERYTHING in F1 even more than aero performance. For instance, ALL teams are permitted to carry 105kg of fuel for the race, BUT no team will ever put that weight in the car, because it does not help to have that extra weight sitting in the car doing nothing. So forget the maximum weight number, it means nothing to F1 - every F1 engineer is pushing the car to stay as close as possible to the MINIMUM weight of the car.

As for the superior Mercedes power unit, I think the answer was provided on Sunday, where we all know Ferrari's car was better than Mercedes at Sochi, yet Bottas was able to put 4+ seconds on Vettel before the first stint. Also (and I believe you and I had this discussion already in a different thread), the Mercedes was only clearly fastest in sector 1 at Sochi with the Ferrari marginally faster in sector 2 and awesomely faster in sector 3 yet Bottas was able to keep his car ahead of the Ferrari even with a flat spot - that has to be the advantage in power of the engine. Also, and I am guessing here DO NOT kill me, there MUST be a technical reason why Ferrari have used 3 new turbo units in each car over 4 races. F1 teams are notoriously conservative about these things. They never make changes without reason (remember you can only use 4 units for the whole year without penalty). Something interesting is happening there!

Finally ALL teams manipulate tire pressures. It is one of many games within the game of F1. I know this may be too American for some but "it's not cheating if you don't get caught" or "if you ain’t cheating you ain’t trying"


When it gets the tyres working in their optimum window the Merc is faster


Agreed, and they will get on top of that very fast, if they haven't already.


Tyres in the optimum window for how long? 10 laps maybe, blistering could be observed on Bottas left front inner toe, i realize it's (if and but) if the race in Sochi were a couple of laps longer i think there would have been a different outcome, maybe not from over taking but from a Bottas mistake from having Vettel on his rear with no Massa to get in the way. the car that is faster toward the end of a race is the better car. the reasoning in your story is somewhat predicated on believing that without a big name leading the scuderia engineers(i.e. a briton) the italians will fall short, James Allen led them the least couple of years so .......I think Mattia Binotto is going to surprise a lot of people.


Seems like they only need it to be faster to get ahead at the final pit stop. Can't overtake after that.


I doubt Mr Allen, fine journalist that he is, had any significant input in the last few Ferraris.
James Allison led the team during 2014 -mid 2016 with question let results.
Before that another Brit, Pat Fry, was the lead man in Maranello.

It appears this fabled 'British' ability isn't everything it's cracked up to be, especially when you consider Mercedes designer is an Italian, Aldo Costa.

I don't know if Ferrari will continue in similar fashion but the signs this season are promising.


The "hapless Italian engineers" narrative, and other ridiculous stereotypes, are a favourite of many posters on this particular forum.

I think that has already been de-bunked, and if Ferrari is still in-play at the end of season, I hope its finally laid to rest, once and for all.


Yeah, the nationalism isn't needed. Being british doesn't give us some innate engineering superiority over other nations. It's very common around these forums.


"and if Ferrari is still in-play at the end of season, I hope its finally laid to rest, once and for all."

Only to be replaced by accusations of cheating. I mean no one outside English speaking area can possibly put together a winning car because engineers from England are the only ones able to understand laws of physics.

Haven't you heard those Italians are both lazy and they argue all the time 🙂


Cheating...what an outrageous suggestion!


So we are all hoping for a balance between a Mercedes that works the tires well but not well enough that Lewis and/or Valtteri resume normal service from pre-2017 days and we end up with boring two by two processions! That's going to be an exceptionally fine line.


JA . so you saying that Toto wolf and Lauda don't know and we do know more??

Both stated that right now Ferrari is Faster. Mercedez is 6k more than last yr car. FIA weight regulation this yr says max weight with driver Libricants...etc except Fuel must not be less than 728Kg

So we can understand Mercedez weight is already 728kg same as Ferrari. So what weight trimming are we talking about here?? It doesn't make sense stating weight trimming here because they can not.

Its not about weight only. Its about their tyre operating window which till now can't figure it out to match Ferrari. Beside areo work ..etc


The paradox of tire wear.
Faster teams can go for longer on their stints in a much stronger pace.
Meanwhile slower teams have to pit early.
IMO drivers are reaching F1 too early - too young - and can't develop the suspension and overall balance of the car - as they should.
Of course Merc and Ferrari have their suspension tricks, but nothing stops the smaller teams to do a better job with suspensions, that are almost the same for all.
Blamming the budget gap for everything is so cheap.
F1 resents from drivers like Barrichello, Panis, Alesi and Frentzen - to name a few.


Interesting point you make about the drivers - although it could be a false economy these days to get an experienced set of hands when you can get some young upstart to facilitate the reams of data you can obtain from the sensors these days.

That said, there is a common thread about the drivers you mentioned: Barrichello, Panis, Alesi and Frentzen were all very capable of absolutely wringing the neck of substandard cars and at least occasionally landing themselves some solid results. There aren't many of the new breed that could pull off a Monaco 1996 at the moment.


I expected RB to produce an aerodynamic supercar for 2017 and be the class of the field, but for Dan Ric to be off pole by 160% shows how wrong I was - I really thought they would better than racing for 5th on a dry track.

Still, with the start of the European season, its batton down the hatches, get in the bunker and work an average of 16 hours a day 7 days a week on developing that magic new front wing or slick new diffuser which will transform competitiveness..........

Its the arms race development season - its where races are won and lost


It'll be interesting to see how their B-Spec will do. I kinda feel like that was their plan. The current car is way too plain, looks like very little effort went into it. I think they wanted this extra time and also have a chance to see what everyone else was doing and incorporate the best ideas.


In Spain Kimi will take the pole and win the race, leading from start to the end with no-one even trying to make a move on him.


bbbernie, please don't jinx the Kimster, hold fire for just a week till next sunday 🙂


Based on what evidence?


He was happy with his settings in Sochi and they will tweak it even better in Spain. Anything can happen when Kimi is happy with his settings + Kimi has always been fast in spain.


Let's hope for Kimi it's a rain free season. Rain and Kimi are no longer friends.


We will be lucky if Ferrari are still close to the Mercs


Good pedigree in Spain for Kimster:

2005: 1st, 2006: 5th, 2008: 1st, 2012: 3rd, 2013: 2nd, 2015: 5th, 2016: 2nd........


Plus 2 of his few pole positions are from barcelona!

A bit optimistic scenario but..


Ohh..... the faith runs strong in you.
We can only hope.....


Just clean practice sessions and he'll do it!


Mercedes already have the quickest car, even if it's not the best car.
They are on pole and can easily pull away. Ferrari needs to deliver


I think the reason people are expecting the Mercs to sort out their minor issues is that the Ferrari team is not speaking much this season. Unlike other seasons, Ferrari is keeping their mouth shut. It doesn't mean that the Ferrari team isn't working on something amazing behind the scenes. Everyone is surprised by the competitiveness already. So, I'm hoping more surprises ahead. Mercedes hasn't dominated even with the best car on the grid. Maybe it's the errors they made under pressure, maybe their drivers are no match for Vettel, but either way there's enough evidence out there to not discount Ferrari.


I think the thing is ferrari appear to be on the absolute limit of performance where the Mercs we know have issues they can solve and take that dominance back.


Oh man, why the silly pot shots? Maybe their drivers are no match for Vettel? C'mon, really? Bottas just held his nerve with Vettel hounding him from behind as the Ferrari was better on the supersofts. Has Hamilton been scared off the track while leading? I recall that happening to Vettel at TUR09 & CAN11, to name a couple.

He’d faced down a late Vettel charge, stayed calm and focused even after the lock-up, when it would have been so easy for it all to have unravelled. Just as calmly, he’d placed himself perfectly to take the lead into Turn 2 from the second row, getting the slipstream on the long run down there to be in front even before the braking zone, chopping across the Ferrari without compromise. The surprising thing – and the real key to the victory – was how he had then quickly put distance on the front row Ferraris of Vettel and Kimi Räikkönen. All weekend up to that point the Ferrari had looked a quicker, more flexible, more raceable car.

If Vettel had led out of Turn 2 then it would've been a cakewalk for him. The Ferrari has clearly been the best car over the first 4 races, because of their pace, their ability to follow closely, and their better tire management. They may rue not getting even more points with it.

Ferrari already brought new stuff to Bahrain. I'm sure they'll bring more to Spain, though I'm not sure it will be equivalent in size to what Red Bull (1 sec improvement) and Mercedes (who knows?) will bring.


@ KRB...There is no way, IMO, that Red Bull will catch the Mercedes and the Ferraris. This mooted 1 sec improv is yet to be witnessed and with no PU upgrades coming for a very long time i fail to see how they can possibly close to within any reasonable striking distance. That alone, without any upgrades by both Ferrari and Mecedes being introduced make any catch up appear to be a pipe dream. Hope that i'm wrong but i guess we'll see soon enough.


I agree with you. They might catch up to the back of the leading pair, but not enough to have any sort of sustained fight. Renault upgrade delayed to Baku is disappointing.


I think Ferrari can get it much better. I mean in Bahrain Kimi had a lot of setup issues and they all were gone by Sochi. And now they have time to get it even better. I think this will turn quite interesting. All Kimi needs is clean practice sessions and he can deliver. Then Silver Arrows doesn't have a chance 😉


Kimi also needs to know where he's coming in the race. Sochi Kimi sounded like he forgo to take his meds... 🙂


The ferrari strategy of using up 3 of their four allocated PUs seems odd. It limits their development in the one place where Mercedes have a hold over everybody. Hence the apprehension regarding significant improvements from them.


That was just turbo's. They are not busted, and can be reused. For the main engine, Kimi's on his 2nd and Vettel's still on his first. They're both on their 2nd MGU-H, and their 1st MGU-K.

At the start of each event, the FIA publishes how many of each PU component each driver has used to date. It's usually the first Technical Report for that race weekend, in the Event & Timing Information for that race. See it here in the Russian GP Event & Timing Information page:


i think the Ferrari is performing well above where they thought they would be at this stage. That's why their strategy hasn't worked out as planned.


Hiya James.

During the Sochi race, Will Buxton on NBCSN was reporting that Honda has abandoned the engine architecture with which they started the hybrid era. Will went onto to say that they never wanted to go that direction, but offered no further explanation.

Can you shed any more light on this story? I find it hard to believe that Honda would have taken engine advice from anyone in the early years to influence their direction. Honda has been reluctant to take any outside advice and only now are allowing Mercedes to help guide them.


I believe Will referred to how originally McLaren wanted a narrower engine, that would allow for better aero in their "size zero" bodywork plan. So a smaller turbo was used, but was down on power. And the ERS wasn't enough to overcome the combustion deficit. Hence, the redesign for 2017.


This might have been a reference to the zero aero thing that was all the rage because of the Newey aero obsession. This gave Honda an opportunity to try out a strange turbo thing they hid in the V of the ICE. Everything was predicated on helping the aero. So Honda was told to make the engine super small, and Honda went along because they thought they had an innovation that would be a game changer. Honda was not forced they went hand in hand with McLaren on helping out the aero.
It didn’t work. Now aero is no longer zero, its relative. If you can get an additional 100 hp, aero is kind of, well, I guess, not as important.


Yes they redesigned like Mercedes for 2017 but it didn't work out like one

That's my understanding

Mansell Mania

I worked in Japan for a few years previously. Without being too generalistic as I think you've mentioned the boss only makes the decisions on what he thinks is right, and does not pay too much attention to what anybody else says.

Perhaps the decision to switch to 2017 engines without really thinking through whether there is development time needed to get them working properly before season start could be the result of a not very considered decision making process?

But Honda were successful with McLaren before, right? What is the difference between late 80s/early 90s and now? I don't think the "Boss is right" culture has changed so much since then. Did Honda have a more westerners in the management structure back then that had more of a say in making decisions? Or is it simply just a matter of passing time and all the new people don't seem to be as competent and experienced as the older engineers were? Bit of both?


But the complexity of the engines and hybrid systems has changed by an order of magnitude


Although I didn't hear the broadcast comments attributed to Will Buxton, I think perhaps what Adil D was saying is that Buxton stated that the 2014 (not the 2017) Honda engine design was a product of influence from, or perhaps dictated to Honda by, someone outside of Honda. My reading of his question is based on his reference to, "advice from anyone in the early years."


Correct. Will Buxton was basically saying that Honda's original design was influenced/compromised and that it was a direction they never wanted to go in in the first place.

But then there was no follow on explanation, and that's what I'm trying to understand. The zero aero comments ring a bell for me, but it does seem odd that Honda would follow a design direction that they never believed in.



There was all this talk that Honda would copy the Mercedes PU while McLaren had it in 2014. Obviously they didn't. And now, here they are, copying. Can this be considered a Honda engine henceforth? I don't believe so.


No wonder that Mercedes techs are needed to make it work, they designed it in the first place!
R & D = Research & Duplicate


Worth a shot and it didn't work out, if it did then they had the bragging rights " So tell me Riggs who is the dickhead now"? (Lethal Weapon 2)

Lot of murmurs in 2014 that they had taken a very wrong approach 4 fans, choking combustion chamber or strangling turbo at high rpm/exhaust pressure backing up/housing too small etc.

Sounds like a bit of old school F1 to me. Back to the drawing board or copy and refine your competitors approach.

I don't think there are many F1 fans who are not disappointed this Mclaren/Honda package has fallen flat on its face!

Stephen Taylor

James Hard Medium and Soft are usually the compounds brought to Barcelona and also at Silverstone . Given that drivers are concerned that drivers say that all this years tyres are quite hard is would it not be reasonable to suggest that the compounds described as Hard and Medium should be 'retired ' for rest of the season? In your opinion James should Pirelli pick the softest three tyres for all races for which they have not made selections for- starting for Silverstone? I think. James I have also noted that Medium tyres are scheduled to be used at the Baku street circuit which give how much harder the compound sounds crazy-do you agree?


Dreading the medium and hard compound races this season. Ultrasoft, Supersoft and soft every race


Not necessarily the softest each time - have to think of the loads

But no one has used the harder compounds at the last races and pattern will continue

Stephen Taylor

Thanks James . Also doesn't the fact the hardest 3 compounds are being used in Spain suits Mercedes more than Ferrari surely? Do you think the a selection of medium soft and supersoft would be feasible at Spa, Silverstone , Monza and Suzuka.?


Force india are getting a radical update ...which may propel in front of red bull and give them a chance of few podiums


Don't forget Red Bull is bringing an update of their own. It's rumoured to be a full second faster than their current car.

That's probably far too optimistic, but their updates are usually on point.


I hope the war wound has settled down.
While I'd love to see the pink panther take the field (still the best driver pairing, euro for euro, on the grid), I expect RB will deliver huge, and Merc will adjust by pulling also pulling out their 'true' 2017 challenger (like RB), with a bunch of 'ready-to-go' upgrades on the shelf, to match whoever is the apparent challenger.
If Ferrari can't match (what I expect to be) substantial performance improvements, then the pink panther might be duelling it out with Ferrari, and (unlikily) challenging for third in the constructors.

79 bull will come back hard..but a one second jump is a far as ferrari is concerned I think they will struggle on the development and Mercedes will pull a gap .. coming to force india the best bang for the buck...they are reducing the weight and have a new floor among other upgrades...soo it's gonna be interesting and Baku and Monaco will be interesting for force india.


The new game in F1, like many other large $$$ professional sports, is not pulling too much out of the bag, so rivals can copy and/or neutralize with counter-strategies.
IMO Mercedes has been playing this game for AT LEAST 2 years, and it may have been for the entire hybrid-turbo era.
Clearly Ferrari have made revolutionary strides, and appear to be very much in the hunt now, in 2017. Their conceptual approach with airflow, cooling and overall aerodynamics are clearly fundamental, and as such, difficult to replicate in season. Next season is an entirely different situation, and several teams could incorporate aspects of the Ferrari conceptual approach, potentially finding new avenues for advancement of the concept and outpace Ferrari on development.
Mercedes came into the season, still clearly the benchmark. We're all (or many of us) are shell-shocked into not too readily hoping for real competition; as one regular contributor put it, "... I'll believe it when Ferrari wins the championship..."; I feel the same way.
The champs have to walk a very fine line, while they want to recoup their investment into their F1 project, the sheer success of their performance is driving fans off, due to lack of competition, and thus... dragging their ROI down. This year it appears a bit closer; but let's not kid ourselves, if past trends hold, Mercedes has many 1/10ths in upgrades on the shelf and ready to go, but with the perception of utter control of the competition as a counter-balance defeating their return of investment, they MUST preserve a perception of competition.
Even coming second in a tight race down to the wire, would likely yield better ROI than outright domination, as per 2014, 2015, and 2016.
So Mercedes might be more willing to 'allow' the competition to be close, up to and right to the end of the season. They could still manage the perception to turn around maximal ROI, even in the runner-up position!
Red Bull, the last of what I have been referring to as the Triumvirate, and the last team to possibly win the championship in 2017, the car looks remarkably similar to the 2016 version, especially in light of the substantial regulations changes.
I think it was always an interim car.
History shows us that Adrian Newey has been a perennial innovator; many of his concepts have subsequently been adopted, in one form or another, by the majority of teams.
I just can't see him as having come in with a dog, when there was this much new territory for innovation!
I believe, with an eye to mitigate being copied for the 2018 season, in consideration of the timing for engine competitiveness, they have purposely held back their true 2017 challenger until Spain.
If this is true, I expect it to be a zinger, right out of the box, and with engine 'parity (whatever that might mean), I could see them eclipsing the existing Ferrari in performance, enough so that they could up end their starting deficit in the points.
But Ferrari must also have figured out this game, non Maurizio; perhaps the under-pressure team couldn't have held anything back, in the bag so to speak; I hope not. I am hoping that Ferrari have much, much more at hand, and hold on to it as long as they have to.
As for Mercedes, we can test the theory that hey have been sitting on so many goodies, 'in the bag, by seeing their performance uptick, in response to the Red Bull upgrades, the full extent of which we won't see before Canada (for the PU step). Merc have already set the PR stage admirably, for us to 'understand' where/how their performance will increase.
Now all we have to do is see the increase(s) in performance(s).

Bring it on!

A short note on tires:
Ummm... Pirelli sufferred the fate of being a supplier under Bernie, i.e. tasked with developing a tire that degraded, and then... no wait a minute! not degrade like that! and, how about, uh, NO, make a tire that can last!
Is the 'Hard' tire still relevant?
If so, where might it be relevant?
I'd enjoy hearing from the usual suspects (you know who you are...)

Thanks for all the chuckles, James (and usual suspects).


Thank you for a good laughter.


Hi James,

In a previous article "what outside help will it take for Honda engine to make the grade" I brought you a question about if Ferrari was really helped during 2014 by Mercedes with the UP or it was only a rumor thrown by Ecclestone for his personal interest. At the time you answered me "I will research this rather than give you a quick answer" but probably you forgot (no hard feelings about that 😉 ) so I will insist here, anything that you can tell us about that?

I let you here my previous comment in that article so that you have a look at the specific question.
"Quite a few F1 fans in social media think Mercedes already helped both Ferrari and Renault in 2015 and 2016. I recall that in 2015 Bernie Ecclestone made some noise about Ferrari being helped in the engine front by Mercedes because the poor form showed in 2014 was not good for the sport and Mercedes wanted fans to feel they were having to fight hard to win. Of course Bernie did not give any fact to support his assertments, he only threw the stone of speculation (something he is a master at) and although Toto Wolff denied Mercedes gave any help to Ferrari, Bernie's words were bought by many fans. So, now I see there is a school of thought that Mercedes trying to help Honda is not something new in this hybrid era because many think it was already done in 2015 and 2016.

Given your deep knowlegde of the sport, do you know if Mercedes really helped Ferrari / Renault in 2015-2016 or it was only Bernie playing a chess game with media to attract their focus?
In case there was any help (sth that I really doubt), could that be in the same scale of what Honda needs now?"

Hope you can bring some light on this fascinating subject. Thanks in advance!


Mahle, AVL and Shell are the main external contributors to Ferrari's PU development steps on the ICE side. You need to consider their work in total, not piecemeal.


Why does Pirelli suck so much? Sigh. I really don't know what to say about Honda. Their bringing an upgrade but I really don't trust them.. at least Renault I believe.. they are pragmatic. I give Honda till Canada to prove a genuine improvement. I think Alonso is ready to split with Honda already, not Mclaren but Honda.

Disappointed Renault have delayed... but I'm excited for when they finally bring the upgrade
James do you believe the 0.3 second thing for the parity of Renault engine with Mercedes and Ferrari?


James Allison is known for one thing, he makes cars that are great on the tires. When at Lotus with Kimi, they were on the podium at the first race and during the year the car performed well above the budget of the team mostly due to the cars gentle nature on the tires. So, Allison goes to Ferrari and, well, the new car is great on the tires with a wider band, is anyone surprised? Now, its time for Mercedes to get the Allison treatment and I can’t wait.
When Ross Brawn needed an engine for the 2009 season I rolled my eyes when Mercedes and McLaren jumped in to be nice guys. I asked myself, WHAT ARE THEY DOING! Well we now know the story. Is it now time for McLaren to get some of that Mercedes love in return for 2009? Absolutely.


Blub, the all-Allison 2016 Ferrari had a very narrow operating window for tyres. Also, he left very early to have much influence on the 2017 car.


Tired of hearing about tyres already.
Whilst you can't deny Ferrari's poor in season development in the past something tells me they are on it this year and Mercedes' form will hopefully come and go just as Ferrari's will. The shorter Ferrari might perform better on the more street circuit tyre tracks. It would be amazing for Hamilton and Vettel to battle all year and then for Kimi to steal the trophy at the last race again.


Indeed, the season has been a joy because in the first stint we have had 4 cars nose to tail and sometimes we have had 6 cars as Red Bull has sometimes been able to keep up with the pace

So no, I don't expect the Mercedes team to open a gap with their upgrades because what usually happens in Spain is the teams cancel each other out with the upgrades

With the gaps between the top two and the rest of the teams being big, this would put Red Bulls 3rd and 4th place finishes in China in a new light

As for Ferrari, certainly, how they work the tyres may turn out to be the difference that secures them victory because at most tracks it's the softer range of tyres that are used

Regards Red Bull, the sport will be pleasantly surprised if the team can bridge such a large gap because in the sport, it's quite rare to have a situation were 3 teams are capable of fighting for wins

Last but not least, everybody will be keeping their fingers crossed for the Honda upgrades because it's so odd not having such a team rich in history not being the sharp end of the grid


Ferrari was fixated on the harder Pirelli compounds in Barcelona testing. They must be benchmarking all aero and other upgrades for Barcelona against this, and probably were tipped off by Pirelli as to tire compounds expected for the Catalunya circuit.


Pirelli nominate the compounds many months in advance, the teams have to advise how many of each compound they want, them Pirelli go and make them and deliver them to the venue... it's all takes months. I think the compounds were first listed just before or maybe just after xmas. So no "tip off" conspiracy here.


Are you saying that all their testing in Barcelona was to optimize for a single race at that circuit late in the season? Sounds very plausible...........


You're strawman argument is saying something, but even I'm not sure. 1) Spain is a benchmark race for upgrades. 2) Spain is a 'Ferrari' track 3) Everyone knows the teams with the 'closest' relationships with Pirelli have some extra operating window magic across the tire compounds 4) Conspiracy is a Walmart word that is empty. It has no value. What has value is understanding how multi-billion dollar companies operate, which is (everyone laugh) 100% on the up-and-up! No, Ferrari doesn't develop everything for Barecelona, but in case you slept through development, Barecelona is what? Oh, a Ferrari track. A track where big upgrades show up, a track where winter testing occured and a track where Ferrari ran harder compounds and a track where, wow, Pirelli is bringing out harder compounds that anyone thought. I don't know, but something tells me data at Catalunya might mean something.


@Filandro.... Hardly a straw man – it was a rhetorical question to the non-sequitur that was your original comment. As for your reply, and the central premise that Ferrari and Pirelli are somehow colluding; throwing out a bunch of unconnected pseudo-facts and suppositions and trying to join the dots does not make your argument any more persuasive. As for your conspiracy theory... you may want to look up apophenia…. 😉


What you said is 1) not inconsistent with what I said. 2) makes me wonder if you know that Pirelli developed new tire compounds for 2017 and 3) if you know that teams are choosing tires they don't even like because they are stuck with compounds that don't work well for them and/or are too hard.


So much talking about weight and how Mercedes needs to go on the weight loss program over 8kg.

PU cars are 728kg and have 105kg of fuel at the start. On the grid at: 833kg
V10 cars were 600kg and had 50kg of fuel at the start. On the grid at: 650kg

Somehow this 8kg seems like Mercedes is eating salad for one weekend only. Or maybe they self inflicted success ballast of some sort.

Can you see weight on TV? I know it's there, and 183kg heavier F1 cars at the start is not something that impresses.


Are Pirelli in danger of killing the show with the tyre selection?
The tyre wear and track characteristics produce a dreary race in Sochi.
Same again anyone? 🤔


So the overweight issue is useful technology/aero that does not work as well as it should? If it's lighter there is less of it so it will be a faster car? I'm confused. There are potential losses involved for Mercedes if a new car/spec b?/ summer diet car ends up being more hard work? Basically if you loose weight is it always good?


The only real solution is one that everyone wants to avoid and that is to move closer to a spec series.

The HAS and Ferrari partnership has proven in a way that a spec style series would work, each works team just needs to offer a car to the other non works team with a possible 2/3 different engine combinations.


James, you say the Mercedes is overweight, by an estimated 8kg, but does that mean that they have no scope for adding ballast to optimise the balance of the car? Could this be part of the reason why they have had such difficulty tuning the handling to the operating window of the tyres?
If this is the case, they presumably need to save a lot more than 8kg, so as to give themselves scope to use ballast to adjust the balance? And if they were to succeed, the payoff would be a lot more than just an improved power:weight ratio?


Wow that chart really makes the point doesn't it.
Cars simply rolling around in order of their development /budget with just the odd exepction where there is a failure or significant driver gap.
This isn't what anyone want to see (except those with the best car/budget).
I don't know what the answer is, but hopefully Ross or someone can figure something out.
God forbid - even Bernies sprinklers and shortcuts will start to look like good ideas soon if this keeps up.


When, in the last 20-25yrs, was it ever different? This is the story of F1 since technology became the major driver of performance in the late 90's...


True, It has always been an issue somewhat. But 1 single pass all race after the first lap is taking it to a ridiculous level.


"8kg over its ideal weight, which equates to almost 3/10ths of a second"

Hi James, usually I can relate to the numbers that you quote but this one is beyond my comprehension. With a minimum weight of 722 kgs 8 kgs relates to around 1.1%. As a comparison the success ballast in the BTCC is 75kg for first place, that's around 6% of the minimum weight of 1280 kgs. It was changed in 2015 from the previous 45 kgs because it was deemed to not have enough effect.

Based on my 30+ years of experience in motorsport a 1.1% higher weight would have an effect around 0.075 seconds in a 2 minute lap. Which is so far away from 0.3 seconds quoted that there must be something more to it. Is it that the 8kgs isn't the real issue but that Mercedes are looking at, say a 20 kgs weight reduction which then enables them to get down to the weight limit plus move 12 kgs of ballast to achieve a better weight balance? That may well equate to something closer to 0.3 seconds but just a simple 8 kgs reduction would be highly unlikely to achieve.


"Based on my 30+ years of experience in motorsport a 1.1% higher weight would have an effect around 0.075 seconds in a 2 minute lap."

Ssshhhh, enough with common sense. We need to maintain narrative of Mercedes being so much smarter than everyone else and to increase page views.


3498, do you really believe that's a motivation for James? It seems to me that you do not like anything even remotely negative said about Ferrari. Is Ferrari a perfect team? No. Have they stalled in the development wars of past seasons? Yes, they have. It doesn't mean that that will happen this year, but it has been a trend. It's silly to just shut your eyes to that.


Hi Gary, F1 people often say that adding 10kg of fuel costs 3 tenths per lap.

I suspect the effect of extra weight can vary greatly, depending on factors including:

- It's height (I think BTCC ballast is placed low in the car)

- The contribution of aerodynamic downforce, as opposed to gravity, to the car's grip.


any idea on when these engines will have their development frozen?
I would imagine it's 2 years away considering the move to help Honda has actually materialised


JAF1.... I am not getting email responses to my posts? Is it a general issue? Thanks


I never, yes!


James, what's the news on Mario Illien helping with Honda's engine?


Oh great we have a entertaining midfield battle 1 lap behind the leaders to look forward to. Yawn!
Lets hope Mercedes dont pull away.
How long until Redbull start moaning because cant see them winning a race.

James I usually pay £6.99 to watch the live F1 races when not on channel 4 but not this year unless it rains. Barcelona will back to normal.
First time since 1990s ill watch highlights instead. Im not paying for a high speed traffic jam

Mansell Mania

So James you're basically saying that Mercedes have a clear and tangible element to make up time on (i.e. the weight issue) whereas Ferrari are developing more on increments alone? I.e more scope for Merc to find the extra time? (Has that made sense?)

Also even if Merc do find a step, the WDC will still be very alive because although Kimi did have a strong race just gone, it looks like Bottas will be taking more points off Hamilton than Kimi will be taking from Vettel. Game on.


That is the concern - that and them overcoming the handicap of not always getting the tyres working

When they do they are faster as we have seen


They showed they were faster on the ultrasoft in Russia. It seems the supersoft has always seemed their weakest tire, though this year's supersoft is like the previous year's soft (or even medium, which Mercedes aced).

So is it a given that the teams will go to their 2nd ICE in Spain? I've suggested before that maybe the teams should be allowed to run a non-pool engine on Fridays, just like they run non-race gearboxes on Fridays. The first ICEs have done all 12 practice sessions, 4 quali sessions and 4 races so far. What would teams do now though? Would they put ICE #1 for all the Fridays until it reaches EOL, or would they need ICE #2 in there to optimize/tweak it so that it's at its best for the race? Would be interested to know.


I'm terrified that Mercedes will pull clear from Ferrari, with Allison on board now, to oversee upgrades and developments on the aero side. Maybe not as early as Spain, but over the course of the season. Surely he has a fair bit of knowledge about the Ferrari challenger. I find it hard to believe that they would have scrapped his blueprints and started from scratch after he left.
There's also more scope of development on the engine side, from my understanding, Mercedes are still on their first batch of engine components, Ferrari are on their 3rd Turbo chargers already. (I don't know about other components) So I think Mercedes have a bigger sheet to work on.


"I'm terrified that Mercedes will pull clear from Ferrari, with Allison on board now, "

If anyone is going to make real difference it will be Allison 🙂 Coincidentally Mercedes now has issue with getting tires in optimal operating window same as Ferrari last year.

I am terrified that you haven't done a basic research before posting. Turbos haven't been replaced because of the failure.


Because the Ferrari rate of development was great under Allison?


Driver: ICE / TC / MGU-H / MGU-K / ES / CE

VET: 1 / 3 / 2 / 1 / 2 / 2
RAI: 2 / 3 / 2 / 1 / 2 / 2
HAM: 1 / 1 / 1 / 1 / 1 / 1
BOT: 1 / 1 / 1 / 1 / 1 / 2


if that's accurate, then ouch... what Ferrari challenge for the WDC, it looks like Mr Finger might be taking a grid penalty every third race pretty soon. thanks for that 1.


The turbo's aren't not pooched, or at least that's what Ferrari have said. All 3 turbo's can be re-used. Of course, they only have 1 left to introduce any improvements to, but perhaps they've tapped out development on their turbo's.


This just begs the question "why change them if the are working".
Ferrari obviously spotted something that made them swap them out.
There will be penalties at the end of the year for sure and you can't stockpile as Merc did with Lewis last year.


@ James: Should the 2017 Ferrari and the surprising success the Scuderia has had with it so far be considered more of an Alison or a Binotto car ?
I fear the former, which may be very important, especially given Ferrari's patchy record of in-season development.
I do hope they Keep up with Mercedes but I worry, as James (Allen) seems to, that Mercedes may have more potential to unlock, which will make for a dull season.
Especially so since RBR are not nearly as competitive as anyone of us expected; in other words, if Mercedes disappear in the horizon . . . I don't see RBR really catching Ferrari . . . and then we have a not just RBR racing themselves but also Ferrari.
I hope none of this comes to pass, of course.

The fact that Mercedes engineers are, apparently, assisting Honda is at the same time a feel-good story for the sport (Mercedes' generosity/tactical nous) as well as a tremendous condemnation on Honda's abysmal performance in 2017.
I am an optimist by nature but cannot help feeling that Mercedes assisting Honda is also a clear indication that come what may, Honda will not be anywhere near Mercedes performance levels this year (Mercedes may be "nice", but they are not stupid; they will not help Honda THAT much).
Yes, we knew this already but nevertheless . . .
Ultimately this (Honda) state of affairs really is not good for anyone; not McLaren, not Honda, not Alonso, not Vandoorne, not Brown . . . not anyone.


Can you expand on your fears that Ferrari's surprising performance this year is due to Alison? Is there some critical thinking that leads you to this conclusion, or rather just gut feeling. If the former, please do share........


He is being lead by common knowledge that British engineers are best in the World. They are the only ones able to understand laws of physics.

Such great impact it was that Ferrari allowed Allison to join its biggest competitor within mere months.


I find it hard to understand how 8KG equates to 3/10ths?? When the car weighs over 700kg.. seems a bit optimistic.


makes sense to me, they asked poor checo to lose some weight at FI, just so u understand that in F1 things are measured in grams and not kilograms...
(I mean checo looks tiny on tv, how do u ask a tiny person to lose weight)
If the Hulk was driving this year at FI then he'd probably have to donate 1 of each organ that he can live without...


An adjective different than "optimistic" would be more appropriate but I am afraid my comment will not be published 🙂


Have an idea to spice up races. There are three tyres at Barcelona. No one is going to use the hard tyres. Why not change the rules so that you have to use all three tyres at some point during qualifying or the race. However during qualifying, once you choose a tyre, you have to stick to that tyre type for the whole of that quali section (you can change to new tyres but not a different compound). So no chance to do a banker lap on hard or medium before seeing how it's going and then going to softs if you can't get through that quali section (and this includes inters and wets).

This way, as long as a Sauber on softs is quicker over one lap than a Mercedes on hard tyres, the teams will have proper choices to make in quali, which should create one, two and three stop strategies in the same race.


Ok, in quali you can use inters or wets plus one nominated dry tyre. And if you use inters or wets during the race, then the same rules apply as now. What do you think everyone.


Great article, thanks for the insight James. Regarding Honda, I'm not sure there's any big payback available for going through 3 years of pain. Even if Honda come up with a brilliant engine the FIA are now wanting to make sure no one has more than a 0.3 second engine advantage around Barcelona. Is the benefit to McLaren of tailored control software and engine packaging really worth all these seasons of no decent results and declining sponsorship revenues?


One kilo is worth three hundredths per lap

- Nico Rosberg, undefeated 2016 F1 World Champion.

Chill ou people,
Cavalry is here.
Savour the worlds of wisdom coming from the 2016 World Driver's Champion and do the math.


Off topic a bit, but two things come to mind concerning F1 that Alonso's test bring up.
1. The Indy car starts by pushing a button. F1 is a long drawn out process by comparison, and I would say unnecessarily so. What does this say about the PU?
2. The FREE coverage was excellent, considering this was only a test. Mario's comments were very good, and brought insight about driving these cars. This was a great promotion event as well. Perhaps F1 will learn something about how to cover events. And it will actually bring more USA viewers to F1. And if the schedules allowed, more F1 drivers to Indy. Win win win.


I'll be very surprised if the update in Barcelona upends the balance between Mercedes and Ferrari to 2016 levels. Even if it does, Bottasnis clearly capable of keeping Hamilton honest.

I'd be hard pressed to describe Honda's struggles as extraordinary, they've disappointed far more often than not in recent F1.


I suppose the last thing we need is for Mercedes to take too big a step ahead of the competition. It would seem that Mercedes did not do as good a Job as they have us gotten used to the past 3 years. 8 kilos of extra weigh is a fair lot in F1 i would imagine. You can't just go around and make parts thinner to gain a bit back.
I believe the Ferrari was better born and so might be easier to fit new solutions on to improve performance. For the first time in a while you get the impression that Ferrari understands their car better than Mercedes. Ferrari is not about to go away regardless of what Mercedes comes up with. Not this year. Marc


I think we need articles like this. There's a lot of optimism in the sport so far, because we look like we have a close Merc-Ferrari battle; and because the carsare being pushed to the limit. Yet these articles are always very objective - pointing out what's good but also what's not so good about the new-look F1 in the context of the racing. There's also a worry in the article; it's all looking close now but what if Merc turn on the afterburners and surge into the lead as was the case in 2014-16? At this stage, it's a valid question because it's early days. But hopefully as the season goes on it won't be and the two-way fight will be established. Also, I didn't know about Mercedes' weight issue.


A (seems like well informed) poster on a dutch forum, who never posts except his previous scoop that VER would go to RB before Barcelona '16, before that news was out. Now posted again with some interesting news. Roughly translated: RB will present the RB14 at Barcelona to replace the RB13, wich has some fundamental issues. In simulator VER was 1,3 to 1,5 seconds faster. Time for some digging James, there must be some persons that can confirm or deny.


@ Robert...Now if that were true it would be sweet music to my ears! The fact is that RB are currently approx 1.0/ 1-5 secs off the mercedes so any gain of this magnitude would put them on a level playing field, however, the catch is, that this assumes that Mercedes do not have any significant upgrades themselves. Whatever they do they will still be in front as Mercedes will not be standing still....They're working 24/7 according to wolffie.


As long as Ferrari bring some decent upgrades, F1 should still have a bumper season. Merc running away with it again would be a disaster, even if Bottas does win the title.


Remember why Mclaren went to Honda in the first place? Because they believed that it wasn't possible to beat Mercedes as 'just' a customer engine team. They had to have a manufacturer and an engine that was atleast as good if not better than the Merc. This was the whole plan. This is what got them Alonso. It would be a long game but this was their ace up their sleeve. Once Honda got up to speed this was how they would beat Merc and give Alonso his championships. But it hasn't been so easy. Now they have had to let Merc in behind the curtain as a desperate last attempt to appease Honda, sponsors, board members, Alonso.. But they have let the fox in the hen house. This had to be why Merc would be do keen to help. Any ground breaking developments Honda might have been capable will be in the hands of Merc too now. They have given up their ace. Alonso surely won't stay next year now. Why would he?


James, does the current F1 McLaren Honda team include the Mugen motorsports tuning team? They were a prominent player back in the late 90's, but, if they are on the team now, they aren't getting any mention in the present lineup. If they aren't perhaps they should be, as their road going products do the business.
For your information my car is a Mugen supercharged Honda CR-Z, tuned by one of the UK' s leading tuning and car performance company's, TDI (Torque Developments International) Ltd. Mugen products are second to none (in my humble opinion), so the F1 team are missing out if they aren't in the partnership this time around.
What are your thoughts, James?
Cheers, Rob

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