Lewis Hamilton is impressive in his F1 form and his pace in recent races has been beyond his rivals’ reach. However, you can see that the sudden increase in performance only affects the British car. What makes a Mercedes car faster? The F1 paddock is wondering about that.
Press materials / Mercedes / In the photo: Lewis Hamilton
Already halfway through the Qatar GP weekend, one thing was clear. Lewis Hamilton was out of reach. Red Bull Racing did not shock with speed, as evidenced by Q2, in which Max Verstappen came fourth, behind Fernando Alonso, and Sergio Perez did not qualify for the next edition of the qualification.
It is true that in Q3 Verstappen rose to the occasion and squeezed all the possibilities out of the car, securing the first starting row, but even Hamilton’s first run in Q3, with two minor errors, was beyond the Dutchman’s reach.
What accelerates Hamilton?
Here we come to the chase. Until a few weeks ago, Mercedes had no response to the speed of the Red Bull and openly admitted that the competition is simply faster. Now it is driving in a different category, even eliminating a few penalties on the scale of a single weekend.
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It should be noted that this sudden but very significant increase in speed only affects the Hamilton car. No other driver using a Mercedes drivetrain has experienced such an increase in form. Given that Hamilton’s “acceleration” moment was exactly the same as the replacement of the engine, it doesn’t take a detective to say that something is up.
This “something” is the biggest puzzle at the end of the current season, which many competitors, most certainly Red Bull, are concerned with. I am convinced that it cannot be just the freshness of the engine. The difference is too big, and technically nothing would stop Red Bull from taking the same step. Yet it does not.
The judges are back in action
We had a kind of deja vu on Sunday. Again, as it was in Sao Paulo, the judges’ decisions were decisive. Valtteri Bottas and Max Verstappen have received penalties for ignoring the yellow flag. Paradoxically, the driver who obviously unintentionally caused the flag to appear, that is Pierre Gasly, benefited most from these penalties and started from the front line.
Lewis Hamilton right after the start of the Qatar GP (photo: Mercedes)
It is also a symbol of not entirely optimal policy towards Red Bull drivers, which has the most extensive junior program in all of F1. Personally, these decisions are traditionally led by Helmut Marko. After all, Perez should start in Gasly’s place.
Poor starts from Bottas and Gasly contrasted with the brilliant Verstappen. Suffice it to say that on the fifth lap he was behind Hamilton. These two seem to have their own separate race. However, the speed level between the two opponents is not currently evenly matched. Hamilton is simply too fast and I am not surprised Red Bull that they suspect the source of this super weapon that is not fully compliant with the regulations.
Hamilton’s secret weapon
It was after Verstappen’s move to second position that this cosmic speed was clearly visible. And this regardless of the track, because we already have the second race in the current configuration of the Hamilton car. Of course, the Dutchman picked up the pace immediately. As soon as Hamilton was informed about it immediately, he seemed to add a few seconds to his advantage.
This shows how strongly, when unnecessary, Hamilton hides the real capabilities of the car. In a word, Verstappen could only count on some technical defect of the competitor, because in a normal scenario he had no chance.
Start to the Qatar GP (photo: Mercedes)
Hamilton’s Mercedes engine replacement was crucial, and Toto Wolff knew that sacrificing a few spots at the start of a single race was nothing compared to the advantage they had gained in doing so. The Mercedes boss was also aware that only introducing a sensational in terms of pace solution would give Hamilton a chance for another title, so in a sense the team was hopeless. He had to do something.
This secret weapon works and brings tangible benefits, and the closer it gets to the end of the season, the hotter it gets. Thanks to this somewhat mysterious weapon, Wolff managed to turn the situation from almost hopeless to at least very promising.
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Formula 1 Lewis Hamilton Motor racing Motorsport Mercedes Toto Wolff Jarosław Wierczuk Qatar GP