Lewis Hamilton would have woken up after the Italian Grand Prix with a smile on his face. With victory on Sunday, he has taken the lead in the 2017 driver’s championship. Sebastian Vettel in his Scarlet Ferrari has had the lead for a long time, and it must feel good for Hamilton to finally be in front.
It was the manner of his victory that would have pleased him the most. Both the Silver Arrows came in first and second with Vettel coming in 36 seconds behind. The gap was disappointing with Ferrari president- Sergio Marchionne, not impressed at all, saying: “The set-up for the car was wrong, I think we underestimated the circuit.” But is this new found dominance going to play out to Mercedes’ advantage for the rest of the year?
Let’s have a closer look at the reasons for this latest swing in performance for the Silver Arrows and whether it’s going to go all their way for the rest of the year.
Both teams have acknowledged that when it comes to cranking on full wing, the Ferrari is able to generate a bit more down force than Mercedes and that is why they have dominated on circuits that require full down-force such as Monaco and Hungary. At the opposite end of the spectrum, Mercedes seem to have a car that is stable on low down-force, which is what you need for high speed tracks with long straights, hence their wins at Canada and recently in Italy.
It has actually been a fascinating championship to see play out as both teams have pursued different philosophies with their cars- Ferrari with a short wheel base and Mercedes with a long wheel base. Where else Mercedes have been strong on are circuits that require good aero efficiency. Namely tracks with straights on them but that still require down-force. So the compromise of lift (down-force) over drag needs to be good.
However I feel things have changed a bit in that department. Mercedes dominated in the UK at Silverstone with an excellent lift over drag ratio, but aero upgrades Ferrari brought to Belgium meant they were able to fight with Mercedes very closely. I think for the rest of the year it’s going to be more even on tracks like that.
So let’s look at the rest of the year to see what races are coming up to determine which ones will favour which teams.
|Country||Team expect to win|
|Singapore (High downforce is key)||Ferrari|
|Malaysia||Mercedes or Ferrari|
|Japan (Aero efficiency is key)||Mercedes|
|USA||Mercedes or Ferrari|
|Mexico (High altitude, aero is key)||Mercedes|
|Brazil||Mercedes or Ferrari|
|Abu Dhabi||Mercedes or Ferrari|
When you look at the chart, Mercedes should be dominant on two tracks (Japan and Mexico), while Ferrari should have the edge on one (Singapore). The others will be too close to call and so I’ve shown them as joint favourties for those circuits.
The other joker in the pack in regards to this super tight battle is the power unit. Mercedes brought their latest power unit to Spa, which is definitely a step forward. So much an advantage Ferrari decided to delay their introduction of their last engine to Malaysia, in the hope the extra time will maximise the potential gains.
For Ferrari, they need the new engine to be very good. It’s so close in performance between them that a step forward could be enough to turn the 50/50 tracks (Malaysia, USA, Brazil and Abu Dhabi) into races that will allow them to win. And wins make Champions.