Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Shanghai International Circuit, 2015

Hamilton reckons “we have a race on” with Ferrari

2015 Chinese Grand Prix Friday practice analysis

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Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Shanghai International Circuit, 2015As in Malaysia, Lewis Hamilton is not underestimating the potential threat posed by Mercedes’ red rivals.

“It was quite close between us and Ferrari,” said the Friday pace-setter. “They look just as fast as they were last time out and Nico [Rosberg] was quick as well, so we definitely have a race on.”

Although Mercedes aren’t in any immediate danger in qualifying – Hamilton had a solid four tenths of a second in hand over Kimi Raikkonen – the SF-15Ts continue to show promise over a race stint, particularly when using the soft tyre.

Pirelli estimated the soft tyre was worth around 1.7 seconds compared to the medium, while some drivers found two seconds or more. Some appeared to have difficulty adjusting to the huge swing in performance.

Shortly after switching from mediums to soft Nico Hulkenberg was told he needed to increase his tyre temperature. He responded saying it seemed to him as though he had “plenty of grip”, but race engineer Brad Joyce felt his driver had formed that impression because he was “judging against the medium”, and there was actually more performance to be found.

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Longest stint comparison – second practice

As in Malaysia, the potential of the softer tyre over a race stint will shape the contest between the two teams. Can Ferrari eke enough life out of the soft tyre to use it more often in the race and take the fight to Mercedes?

Remeber that in Melbourne Sebastian Vettel was able to keep the soft tyre going so long he was able to jump ahead of Felipe Massa by staying out on his old tyres for three more laps.

What Mercedes believe the soft tyre is capable of was spelled out in a radio message to Rosberg during the second practice session. “We expect the [soft] tyre will do eight timed before it grains on the front, and we expect at least a second a lap quicker than the [medium] was. May need to manage the rears early on for overtaking.”

Last year’s race saw little variation in tyre strategy: a first stint on softs followed by two on mediums was the way to go for most teams. But in the second half of the afternoon practice session today the top teams checked out what both tyres were capable of, keen not to miss anything.

For their longest stints Hamilton and Vettel used the soft tyres while their opposite numbers at Mercedes and Ferrari used the mediums. Running true to form, Vettel looked capable of taking the soft tyre a few laps longer than Hamilton could. There wasn’t as much to choose between the two cars on the medium tyre.

Hamilton said his car felt “way better than the last race” in terms of balance. “I feel like I’ve got some improvements to make and I think we’ve got the pace to stay ahead,” he added.

Daniel Ricciardo’s Red Bull also looked good on its brief soft tyre stint, but as he didn’t run as long as Vettel or Hamilton it’s hard to draw any firm conclusions. However he did say the team had made another improvement with the drive-ability of their Renault engine.

This chart shows all the drivers’ lap times (in seconds) during their longest unbroken stint:


Lewis Hamilton102.328102.481102.259102.404102.459102.421102.841103.084103.39109.099103.646105.985107.145107.355
Nico Rosberg103.191103.123103.864103.702103.602103.58103.31103.405103.297103.476103.563103.992103.927
Daniel Ricciardo103.014103.482103.385103.507104.381103.353103.589103.841
Felipe Massa100.781120.472100.423
Valtteri Bottas103.258103.636103.833104.317104.55104.075104.095104.128104.59104.913
Sebastian Vettel102.748103.161108.566103.59103.021103.199103.143103.467107.406103.335103.523108.495104.323104.118
Kimi Raikkonen103.094102.822103.45103.289103.217104.349104.008104.018103.734103.391103.567103.841104.521103.787103.873103.605103.971103.734103.782
Fernando Alonso105.341105.505106.411104.926105.709105.283105.673105.435105.413
Jenson Button104.792104.728104.974105.204106.577105.91105.979
Nico Hulkenberg106.326106.603106.295106.255106.2106.393
Sergio Perez106.451107.749105.928105.937106.127105.799106.83106.402110.148106.301
Max Verstappen103.931104.342104.425104.671108.022104.634104.227104.503104.596105.291104.697104.719
Carlos Sainz Jnr103.927104.302104.595104.385104.07104.421104.264104.293104.475104.193104.548
Romain Grosjean103.457103.436109.008103.682107.519104.239104.559105.421105.562105.609105.358105.773106.352
Pastor Maldonado105.078105.027104.868106.1105.524105.591105.99105.683105.809105.917105.844106.105106.39106.504106.962107.158109.824
Marcus Ericsson104.15104.299104.482105.794104.631104.536106.052104.611104.282104.412105.785105.336105.596
Felipe Nasr105.086105.021106.793105.381104.497104.713104.716104.996105.381
Will Stevens109.573104.564111.366106.198
Roberto Merhi107.434107.165108.27107.341115.901116.249108.239108.745108.598108.482108.502109.394116.867109.57

Complete practice times

Jenson Button’s appearance in tenth place raised hopes McLaren could make it beyond Q1 and even all the way to Q3. But he felt the car’s performance had been flattered by the problems experienced by others.

“We seem to have been able to extract the maximum out of our car today,” he said, “whereas perhaps some of the other teams haven’t”. Among those are Toro Rosso, as both their drivers had to abandon their initial runs on the soft tyres when Felipe Massa’s crash brought out the red flag.

PosDriverCarFP1FP2Total laps
1Lewis HamiltonMercedes1’39.0331’37.21953
2Kimi RaikkonenFerrari1’40.6611’37.66262
3Daniel RicciardoRed Bull-Renault1’41.0291’38.31145
4Sebastian VettelFerrari1’40.1571’38.33948
5Nico RosbergMercedes1’39.5741’38.39956
6Daniil KvyatRed Bull-Renault1’41.0971’38.73734
7Valtteri BottasWilliams-Mercedes1’41.3031’38.85050
8Felipe NasrSauber-Ferrari1’41.0121’39.03244
9Romain GrosjeanLotus-Mercedes1’39.14232
10Jenson ButtonMcLaren-Honda1’41.8451’39.27548
11Pastor MaldonadoLotus-Mercedes1’41.3351’39.44453
12Fernando AlonsoMcLaren-Honda1’42.1611’39.74347
13Marcus EricssonSauber-Ferrari1’41.9181’39.75157
14Max VerstappenToro Rosso-Renault1’41.5751’39.89460
15Carlos Sainz JnrToro Rosso-Renault1’41.1121’39.97151
16Nico HulkenbergForce India-Mercedes1’42.1841’40.15147
17Felipe MassaWilliams-Mercedes1’41.3041’40.42324
18Sergio PerezForce India-Mercedes1’42.1411’40.86846
19Jolyon PalmerLotus-Mercedes1’41.96725
20Roberto MerhiManor-Ferrari1’46.4431’42.97347
21Will StevensManor-Ferrari1’45.3791’44.56426

2015 Chinese Grand Prix

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Keith Collantine
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55 comments on “Hamilton reckons “we have a race on” with Ferrari”

  1. Sem (@05abrahamsemere)
    10th April 2015, 13:11

    Kimi will be Hamilton’s biggest challenger this seaon with his long-run pace – expect him to expose Vettel as Riccardio did last season.

    1. @05abrahamsemere – Very odd comment… So far, Vettel is 2-0 in qualifying, 2-0 in races, 2-0 in podiums and 1-0 in wins.

      If Kimi is planning on exposing Vettel, he’ll need to try and keep up with him first!

      1. Accept all your numbers. But can you point a race where Kimi had a normal weekend?

        2 – 0 in Qualifying, Seb and Kimi were 4th and 5th in Melbourne,and in Malaysia Kimi got caught out in rain.

        2- 0 in Race?
        In Australia, Kimi was ahead of Seb approaching the first corner and then seb pushed a bit too hard and braked too late and Kimi had to take evasive action to avoid contact or else both their races would have been over then and there. Because of Vettel’s error in judgement(you cant brake that late on cold tyres and expect to keep the car where you want) others hit Kimi and he lost places,and was running 5th before the retirement.
        In Malaysia, even after starting from 11th and suffering puncture as a result getting dropped to dead last he still managed to finish 4th. If you remember,it was Kimi’s race pace that was the talking point all the weekend,not vettel’s. Kimi suffered massive bad luck which gave vettel a chance. Kimi lost downforce after the puncture as the floor was damaged a bit.

        1. 3-0 in quali now. 3rd for Vettel and Kimi couldn’t get in front of the Williams…..

    2. You’re missing one step to your logic. Vettel being exposed last year by Ric, is the same as Raikkonen being exposed by Alonso, so that means they’re both at the same pace!
      I’m not sure there is any merrit to your comments, given there is no data from 2015 supporting your argument.

      1. kimi was also exposed by massa in 07 and 08 and 09. he was good at lotus, but that was against grosjean – a midfield driver and rookie at the time, who was nearly as good as him by the end. i expect Vettel to thrash kimi the same way alonso did. Vettels last season is excused – he must have been too tired of being the best!

        1. Exposed in 2007 by Massa? Who was WDC in 2007? Yes ;)

    3. If only Kimi had better luck. Something always seems to go wrong for him.

    4. As you can see from my avatar I am a Kimi fan. But, no way will Kimi ‘expose’ Vettel. Vettel is a more of a complete racer. Kimi is just fast. He can’t set up a car or communicate with his mechanics what he needs as well as Vettel. Seb’s goal is to rally Ferrari around him same as his hero Schumacher.

  2. Looking at the long stint charts, Kimi’s run of 18 laps is impressive, considering his pace has remained within 1 second over stint. However, before getting too excited, the pure pace from Hamilton is scary, while Rosberg doesn’t seem to be dialled into the track at the moment, which is a surprise given his successful history here.

    1. @dragoll – remember though – the drivers have to do it for themselves now rather than being coached.

      1. He can still see Hamilton’s data in the garage and between sessions.

        1. He can see Hamilton’s data on twitter as well

          1. Mgschreiberling
            10th April 2015, 21:23

            So funny brilliant

  3. Unfortunately Rosberg isn’t quite good enough to beat Hamilton. An average driver up against a slightly better than average driver.

    1. Ham is still good, funny thing is people say Ham has a dominant car, well two Rosbergs in the Merc and Ferrari look to be able to pounce. Hamilton getting more out of that car is what is making it look fast, so unlike last year people cannot say Hamilton has an unfair adv in the race. As Ros dominated the grid last year aswell yet he is under threat not Hamilton. So just proves how good Hamilton is

    2. Of course Schumacher was only an average driver too, him and Rosberg were both equally average during their time together.

      1. Are you going to compare Rosberg with Schumi who was back in f1 after a retirement. The point to be noted here is that by the time Schumi had his inputs going into the car, he was lapping faster than Rosberg in 2012.
        Britney needs to learn how to overtake slower cars with a car that is 1-2 seconds a lap faster lol.
        1. Mark Webber finished ahead of Rosberg even though he had more number of retirements when compared to Nico in 2006.
        2. Relatively unknown driver Alex Wurz scored more points that Rosberg in 2007 in first part of the season. But he had more retirements and did not participate in all races because of which Rosberg outscored him marginally.
        3. Next he went up against Kasuki Nakajima in 2009 and we all know how good he was :D
        4. In 2010, he comprehensively beat Schumi who was coming back after a long retirement scoring almost double the points.
        5. In 2011, he outscored Schumi by merely 13 points though Schumi had 5 retirements against his 2.
        6. In 2012, Schumi had 7 retirements against his 3 and numerous other reliability problems.
        From all this, it is not clear whether Rosberg is as good as many rate him. Personally I believe most of them do it just to make Hamilton look good by comparison.

    3. Never gets old, eh?

      1. So Hamilton is average. Vettel is OK, and Schumacher is bellow average of Nico. Right.

        Fact is, most F1 drivers are exceptional at racing. And some are champions amongst them

        Anyone can dish NR, as average, but MB consider him worthy of champion machinery, their oppinion counts.

    4. I am big fan of Nico, been watching him since GP2. However, I have to admit, he’s just not as good as Lewis. Ask him 10 years from now when’s retired and he would probably admit that he just wasnt quick enough.

    5. Wonder how a “slightly better than average driver” managed to match Alonso in his rookie season. I guess that makes Alonso a slightly above average driver as well, which would make Kimi a below average driver, and now Kimi is teammates with Vettel… etc. etc.

      I guess with your view, all the world champions are only roughly average drivers! I wonder where all the great drivers are hiding then!

    6. Nice try – managed to wind a few up.

  4. Kimi can only be hamilton’s biggest challenger if luck remains on his side :p
    hope he gets a clean weekend..i’m sure he can fight hard with mercedes if not win

  5. Force India seem to be firmly holding on to the second last spot.

  6. To me the difference between Hamilton and Rosberg seems massive this weekend. Rosberg said he didn’t put his lap together, but also on the long runs he is behind. As for Ferrari Kimi seems a bit more at piece with the car then Vettel at the moment, but let’s not get carried away. Kimi still has to nail his qualifying lap and have a good race start, which not always is the case. But let’s hope for a decent fight for 1-2-3-4 this weekend.

    1. Rosberg was on mediums whilst Hamilton was on softs. I read elsewhere that Vettel’s run was indicative of a one stop race stint. Might not be feasible come Sunday but I think it’s masking his pace at the moment. Should definitely be very close for 1st – 4th!

    2. Rosberg went all four off at the last corner on his soft tire fast lap. So that was not a true test. But he has looked a bit ragged all weekend.

  7. I’d love Kimi to have a win.

    Fascinating question for the race, whether Lewis can keep his tyres going long enough to hold off the Ferraris.

    1. With half a second/lap pace advantage Hamilton can build 2-3 sec gap then manage it from there, provided he gets pole of course.

      1. What you mean like in Malaysia, where Vettel was about to overtake Lewis only for him to dive into the pits…2-3 seconds is nothing, if the tyres don’t play ball.

        1. Ferrari’s tyre management has definitely introduced uncertainty on race day.

          We’ll have to wait and see.

  8. i love when some team can extract such a different performance on the same tyres. It opens up the strategy and make the race much more intersting :)

    1. I hate when the whole race is about how fast or slow the tyre wears out.

  9. Rosberg could find himself in 4th place this Sunday, because he does not he the pace of Hamilton and the two Ferraris. This is rather surprising as this was one of Rosberg’s strongest tracks, including Monaco.

    1. im sure he’ll have a better setup tomorrow,so it should be closer between lewis and nico

    2. Yes he was here and in Monaco, but that was with coaching.

  10. Well, well, well, things are getting very interesting now. This season could be great. If Williams improve a little bit also…

  11. It is interesting that Toro Rosso seem to be much weaker on this circuit.

  12. The 1.7 sec difference between the compounds will have interesting implications for the race as only (based on today’s times) Lewis Hamilton has enough speed to go through Q1 on Primes. The rest, including Rosberg, must use at least one set of Options in order to be on the safe side. Q2 as well as Q3 will see everyone need two for a sum of five sets, more than the allottment. Come race day, some will have not enough options left but will be condemned to a long stint on primes. A three-stopping Hamilton should have tree sets of options in decent condition but with the Mercedes being hard on tires, will that be enough against the Ferraris potentially doing two-stoppers with an equally short stint on the primes? And the Red Bulls? Probably only minor points for them because of this.

  13. I’ve just about had enough of such prominent coverage of Carmen Jorda, first in the FOM feed, and then in a naive interview with simple Simon on Sky – but she has NO NATURAL ABILITY. She has manipulated her way into the paddock through sponsorship and will likely remain there since she is conveniently attractive in a sport that is simply not ready to deny men of their eye candy. Perhaps a WEC reporter would have the courage to ask Carmen why she is Lotus’ development driver when her best finish in three years in GP3 was 13th? The WEC likes feminism…

    1. @countrygent Was there any interviews with Simona last year? I’m struggling to recall any…

      1. @fastiesty Not one television interview, no. I interviewed Simona for the mag I work for after her Fiorano test at the Spanish Grand Prix (where she was talking about a realistic shot at a race drive – before her sponsors let her down), but sadly I don’t think she was “hot” enough for TV. Absurd and disgusting: she probably represented the best chance of a competitive female driver in F1 for over a decade, but people simply weren’t interested in her.

        1. It’s kinda ironic isn’t it that whilst there is a campaign against the grid girls, people like Carmen get into F1 thanks to their looks and sponsorship (most likely related to looks too) rather than actual achievements.

          1. @njoydesign I don’t think it’s ironic since it is so unlikely grid girls will be banned. The sexy female is just too intertwined with the F1 brand, an ancillary of the global representation of girls as “rewards” in sport. F1 so overtly endorses patriarchal heterosexuality, Jorda’s tiny shorts at Sepang appear to be viewed as a legitimate strategy in furthering her career.

          2. I don’t think you know what ironic means. Both “campaigns” are based on the same interest, breaking down barriers and creating an environment conducive to having more women drivers. This is not a surprising contradiction, nothing is happening the opposite way to be expected in light of opposition to grid girls.
            Basically you want the next woman driver to be the Jackie Robinson of drivers–a person with such incredible skill and such incredibly thick skin that they can justify their place at every possible second and still deal with constant fly-specking from self-appointed defenders of the natural order. Obviously Robinson wasn’t the first black baseball player good enough to play in the Major League, just the one good enough and mentally strong enough to put up with a ton of BS. He also had supporters in his team who wanted to make a point and probably passed over better white players to start him. That’s how it starts. It took a long time for him to come along and he had to come at just the right time. So it will be with women in F1. And as for getting ahead on looks, it’s well-established that men get ahead on looks, height, and perceived fitness, in the world of business, politics and elsewhere. But when a woman is attractive, it’s actually preemptively counted against her. That is an example of irony.

  14. Nice to see that the 2 Manor cars made it on track at the same time. Or at least it appears that way?

  15. Mercedes, again, look vulnerable on the harder tire. But Hamilton has real pace over Vettel on the soft. They would be wise to consider an aggressive three stop approach and use speed to their advantage. If they can go like stink from the lights, they may be able to emerge in stint two with a good lead and force Ferrari to run faster than a tested pace to catch them and also retain the option to stop only once more, depending. Then again, the medium tire comparison involved Rosberg, who did not look that sharp today. Maybe Hamilton on the medium can run a race covering the Ferrari strategy and stay ahead. Of course Ferrari could split strategies and make it interesting anyway.

    1. Hmmm @dmw I reckon Merc would look vulnerable on the Option – the crossover looks like maybe 7 laps. The Medium is a much better tyre than the Hard that was Prime in Sepang.

      Option, Prime, Prime for Merc / Option, Option Prime for Ferrari, is my bet. But the Mercs need a window for their first stop of course.

      And FOR ONCE the Merc strategy nerds need to target a just-fast-enough lap in Q2 to preserve their starting tyre.

      1. Totally agree. One question is what if Bottas finds pace and challenges Ferrari during Qualy!? Then perhaps Vettel will be forced to sacrifice an Option during Qualy and that should make for a very interesting race. In the Option, Option, Prime scenario (all tires nearly fresh) Ferrari could even have 2 drivers on the Podium. Time for Merc to help Williams out…

      2. That’s what I’m saying. They can’t make options last, but they are fast on them. So go option option prime prime. 3 stops. Go out fast and make Ferrari chase and maybe take hasty decisions to try to catch them on one fewer stop. I think trying to play tire-nurse against Ferrari is dangerous.

  16. I noticed that Vettel had faster top speeds compared to Raikkonen, maybe he was using a different setup. In any case, he didn’t look too comfortable in FP2, so his long run on soft may could be improved.

    It’s good to see Red Bull catching up a little, hopefully Willams can find a bit of pace tonight.

  17. Hamilton better sign that contract in a hurry – if Ferrari do indeed have a competitive car, he will be under a lot more pressure than last year and probably look a lot less impressive than he did against Rosberg.

    Vettel and Kimi, unlike Rosberg know how to overtake and won’t apologize and crawl into a corner like Rosberg did (or was told to do) if they do damage in the process.

    I don’t buy theory that Hamilton could be holding out to ascertain whether Ferrari has caught up to Merc so he could use leverage against Merc. Ferrari won’t bring him in with Vettel there – maybe in a few years but no need for that now.

    He may be in the same spot Alonso got himself into – no really good teams are available if he wants to jump ship. If Alonso and Button get McLaren competitive sometime this season, Alonso’s move to McLaren may not be such a bad move after all.

    I wonder if Merc will start to sputter – they chose Wolff over Brawn and I can’t for the life of me figure out why. They were out of sorts in Malaysia and maybe it’s partly due to Brawn’s absence.

    This could end up being a fascinating season even though it appears to be a dying series.

  18. Hard to know where to start but I thought Arrivabene has already said he’d like Hamilton? And Seb is already making it clear Merc need Lewis or Nando. The closer Ferrari get the stronger Lewis’ hand is – Merc need him more and Ferrari becomes an option.

    As for Merc falling apart… Dream on lol. They have more downforce and more power and loads of money.

    1. Ferrari have long sought Vettel and now they signed him. They will never pay Hamilton what he wants and more than that they would not bring him in with Vettel. You know and think the same.

      The season is young – Merc is faster but Malaysia proved they are vulnerable.

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