China Qualifying: Mercedes delivered when it mattered the most
Is Ferrari imploding in Qualifying?
As I focus on the battle for pole position, I will look into the times of Ferrari and Mercedes
Except for Bahrain, Mercedes have been delivering stellar performance during qualifying; leading most to say that Ferrari is losing the plot at qualifying. But is this a fair statement? I take a look at qualifying time in all 3 sessions in Australia, Bahrain and China. And I will be doing so for the upcoming races as well.
Everyone was surprised with the pace of Mercedes considering the results of Ferrari in pre-season testing in Barcelona. Hamilton and Bottas locked the front row as the Ferrari’s of Vettel and Leclerc suffered slower pace on the streets of Melbourne, much slower.
However, as in all qualifying, lap times reduce between each session. Between Q1 and Q2, Vettel was not far off both Mercedes in reducing his time, and in Q3 lowered his time more than them. The same cannot be said of Leclerc, and I attribute that to him being in his first race for Ferrari.
As expected, Ferrari were the dominant force and locked the front row. However, while Ferrari were faster, both Bottas and Hamilton were able to reduce their lap times between all qualifying sessions significantly better than Ferrari. Moreover, their lap times started getting closer to Vettel in Q3.
As we know what happened in Bahrain, it does beg the question, if Leclerc’s engine did not fail, was it possible for Hamilton to catch up and challenge him?
The Mercedes duo have locked the front row again, as they were definitely faster than the Ferrari’s. While Vettel managed to secure P3, it was Leclerc that was faster in Q1 and Q2, even reducing his time between sessions the most.
Although both Vettel and Leclerc reduced their lap times more than Mercedes did, they were just slower than them and not able to challenge for pole.
Will they be able to challenge during the race?
Based on this analysis, I do not find that Ferrari are losing the plot in qualifying, as the numbers show that Ferrari drivers are able to reduce their qualifying times in almost the same amount of time. It is just Mercedes has a faster car for the time being.
However, when considering the results of Australia and Bahrain GP, I do see some signs that Ferrari is starting to implode because:
1. Ferrari are not taking risks and selecting race strategies that are reactive and risk averse
2. Leclerc is faster than Vettel, however Ferrari is favoring Vettel in everything. Although, Vettel is being inconsistent and mistake prone
Many questions remain unanswered. Can Vettel return his focus and determination, so he makes less mistake? Can Ferrari improve their performance?
Time will tell. We will know more tomorrow at the 1000th race in F1 history.