Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull, Sepang International Circuit, 2016

Red Bull need start gains to take fight to Mercedes

2016 Malaysian Grand Prix pre-race analysis

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It’s been a frustrating season for those hoping to see a bit more competition for the all-conquering Mercedes. They’ve won all bar one of the 15 races so far this year.

So it’s understable to see suggestions that their rivals are in good shape being met with a degree of scepticism.

The curious aspect of Mercedes’ season so far is that while they have only been beaten once, compared to three times last year and the year before, they have had far fewer one-two finishes.

This points to their occasional weaknesses: unreliability, poor starts, and driving mistakes. They are beatable, but only when the opposition is on top form. Arguably Ferrari squandered clear victory chances in Australia and Canada, and Red Bull did the same in Monaco.

Another of those such chances may present itself tomorrow. Friday’s long-run lap times showed the RB12s could extract superb pace from the soft tyres. Not wishing to miss a trick, in qualifying Red Bull had Daniel Ricciardo save one set of them for the race – a luxury no other driver inside the top ten enjoys.

Crucially for Red Bull they got both their cars ahead of the two Ferraris. Their best hope of beating Mercedes is to find a way past at the start and force the W07s to run in the heat of their wake at one of the hottest races of the year.

What are Red Bull’s chances of disrupting the Mercedes at the start? The problems hLewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg have had getting their cars off the line this year have been well documented.

However Max Verstappen has had a run of poor starts in recent races, too. But he believes their problems are solved.

“After Singapore I talked with the team and we changed some things on the car and it seems to have worked,” he said, “hopefully we can keep improving in this way.”

“We have made some changes to the clutch so we shall see if it has improved tomorrow, so far everything looks positive.”

Sepang has one of the longest runs to turn one of the season. During qualifying there was a large amount of cement dust on the racing line across the first and third place grid spots where Hamilton and Verstappen will start from. But with more support races being run tomorrow it’s likely the worst of this will be gone.

It also bears pointing out the Mercedes drivers will be in no mood to play gently with each other. The drivers’ championship hangs in the balance, but the constructors’ championship title is as good as won by Mercedes – they will tie it up tomorrow unless their rivals have a very good day.

If Mercedes’ rivals can’t get the job done, the silver team stand to equal the longest winning streak for a team in F1 history. But they were in the same position once before this season: and their victory hopes disappeared when their drivers crashed into each other.

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Qualifying times in full


Q2 (vs Q1)

Q3 (vs Q2)
1Lewis HamiltonMercedes1’34.4441’32.850 (-1.594)
2Nico RosbergMercedes1’34.4601’33.609 (-0.851)1’33.264 (-0.345)
3Max VerstappenRed Bull1’35.4431’33.420 (-2.023)1’33.604 (+0.184)
4Daniel RicciardoRed Bull1’35.0791’33.526 (-1.553)1’33.467 (-0.059)
5Sebastian VettelFerrari1’34.5571’33.916 (-0.641)1’33.584 (-0.332)
6Kimi RaikkonenFerrari1’34.5561’33.632 (-0.924)
7Sergio PerezForce India1’35.0681’34.538 (-0.530)1’34.319 (-0.219)
8Nico HulkenbergForce India1’34.8271’34.441 (-0.386)1’34.489 (+0.048)
9Jenson ButtonMcLaren1’35.2671’34.431 (-0.836)1’34.518 (+0.087)
10Felipe MassaWilliams1’35.2671’34.422 (-0.845)1’34.671 (+0.249)
11Valtteri BottasWilliams1’35.1661’34.577 (-0.589)
12Romain GrosjeanHaas1’35.4001’35.001 (-0.399)
13Esteban GutierrezHaas1’35.6581’35.097 (-0.561)
14Kevin MagnussenRenault1’35.5931’35.277 (-0.316)
15Daniil KvyatToro Rosso1’35.6951’35.369 (-0.326)
16Carlos Sainz JnrToro Rosso1’35.6051’35.374 (-0.231)
17Marcus EricssonSauber1’35.816
18Felipe NasrSauber1’35.949
19Jolyon PalmerRenault1’35.999
20Esteban OconManor1’36.451
21Pascal WehrleinManor1’36.587
22Fernando AlonsoMcLaren1’37.155

Sector times

DriverSector 1Sector 2Sector 3
Lewis Hamilton23.818 (1)31.212 (1)37.802 (1)
Nico Rosberg23.915 (2)31.248 (4)37.995 (2)
Max Verstappen23.977 (4)31.227 (2)38.127 (6)
Daniel Ricciardo24.016 (8)31.237 (3)38.108 (4)
Sebastian Vettel24.002 (6)31.469 (5)38.113 (5)
Kimi Raikkonen23.961 (3)31.560 (6)38.052 (3)
Sergio Perez24.013 (7)31.755 (7)38.423 (8)
Nico Hulkenberg24.107 (10)31.819 (8)38.458 (10)
Jenson Button24.182 (12)31.919 (9)38.307 (7)
Felipe Massa23.977 (4)31.989 (11)38.456 (9)
Valtteri Bottas24.066 (9)31.955 (10)38.484 (11)
Romain Grosjean24.225 (13)32.111 (14)38.665 (13)
Esteban Gutierrez24.153 (11)32.026 (12)38.686 (14)
Kevin Magnussen24.287 (14)32.206 (16)38.549 (12)
Daniil Kvyat24.330 (15)32.175 (15)38.796 (15)
Carlos Sainz Jnr24.364 (16)32.089 (13)38.797 (16)
Marcus Ericsson24.474 (19)32.437 (18)38.905 (18)
Felipe Nasr24.617 (21)32.354 (17)38.978 (19)
Jolyon Palmer24.369 (17)32.558 (19)38.898 (17)
Esteban Ocon24.470 (18)32.769 (20)39.212 (21)
Pascal Wehrlein24.505 (20)32.796 (21)39.180 (20)
Fernando Alonso24.668 (22)33.040 (22)39.369 (22)

Speed trap

PosDriverCarEngineSpeed (kph/mph)Gap
1Pascal WehrleinManorMercedes335.6 (208.5)
2Esteban OconManorMercedes332.1 (206.4)-3.5
3Felipe MassaWilliamsMercedes330.2 (205.2)-5.4
4Kevin MagnussenRenaultRenault329.6 (204.8)-6.0
5Valtteri BottasWilliamsMercedes328.9 (204.4)-6.7
6Sergio PerezForce IndiaMercedes328.8 (204.3)-6.8
7Kimi RaikkonenFerrariFerrari328.3 (204.0)-7.3
8Lewis HamiltonMercedesMercedes327.9 (203.7)-7.7
9Romain GrosjeanHaasFerrari327.2 (203.3)-8.4
10Jolyon PalmerRenaultRenault327.2 (203.3)-8.4
11Nico HulkenbergForce IndiaMercedes326.9 (203.1)-8.7
12Esteban GutierrezHaasFerrari326.7 (203.0)-8.9
13Nico RosbergMercedesMercedes326.4 (202.8)-9.2
14Felipe NasrSauberFerrari326.3 (202.8)-9.3
15Sebastian VettelFerrariFerrari325.5 (202.3)-10.1
16Marcus EricssonSauberFerrari325.3 (202.1)-10.3
17Max VerstappenRed BullTAG Heuer324.8 (201.8)-10.8
18Daniel RicciardoRed BullTAG Heuer323.9 (201.3)-11.7
19Jenson ButtonMcLarenHonda322.6 (200.5)-13.0
20Fernando AlonsoMcLarenHonda322.0 (200.1)-13.6
21Daniil KvyatToro RossoFerrari321.6 (199.8)-14.0
22Carlos Sainz JnrToro RossoFerrari317.1 (197.0)-18.5

Remaining tyres

Pirelli recommends maximum stint lengths of 17 laps on the soft, 23 laps on the medium and 28 laps on the hard tyres.

Lewis HamiltonMercedes201003
Nico RosbergMercedes111003
Sebastian VettelFerrari110103
Kimi RaikkonenFerrari110103
Felipe MassaWilliams021003
Valtteri BottasWilliams201013
Daniel RicciardoRed Bull200112
Max VerstappenRed Bull110103
Nico HulkenbergForce India201003
Sergio PerezForce India201003
Kevin MagnussenRenault111013
Jolyon PalmerRenault111022
Daniil KvyatToro Rosso110014
Carlos Sainz JnrToro Rosso110014
Marcus EricssonSauber111022
Felipe NasrSauber111022
Fernando AlonsoMcLaren201130
Jenson ButtonMcLaren200004
Pascal WehrleinManor201022
Esteban OconManor201022
Romain GrosjeanHaas110014
Esteban GutierrezHaas110014

Over to you

Will Red Bull find a way to beat Mercedes in Malaysia? Can Ferrari get in the mix?

And where will Jenson Button finish in his 300th race? Share your views on the Malaysian Grand Prix in the comments.

2016 Malaysian Grand Prix

Browse all 2016 Malaysian Grand Prix articles

Author information

Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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10 comments on “Red Bull need start gains to take fight to Mercedes”

  1. Haryanto gets his tyre allocation?

  2. Essentially Lewis Hamilton needs to make a poor start… and we have ourself a motor race…

    1. If Hamilton has poor Stuart then it’s in the bag for Rosberg. Hardly exciting @jureo.

      1. Stuart needs to stop interfering!

        1. It’s bernies new idea to help competition, both Mercedes drivers have to carry a man named Stuart.

          1. At least its something to bring lif

  3. How will the Stewards react when Stuart is disrupting the race?

  4. If it stays dry I really dont see how Merc is going to lose this one.

    They have a massive speed advantage on the straights and even if a rb will get in front at the start, with DRS to boot its no contest

    1. Depends how well they can follow if behind red Bull, brake and engine management and such. Malaysia is humid and Hot, tough for eniges as well.

Comments are closed.