Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Bahrain International Circuit, 2019

Mercedes and Ferrari expect a closer fight for pole

2019 Bahrain Grand Prix Friday practice analysis

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The standard race strategy for most drivers in Australia involved making a single pit stop. This was widely expected, and is likely to be the case for much of the rest of the year.

However the teams still meticulously cover every aspect of their race strategy and begin planning it long before they even arrive at the track, as Lewis Hamilton explained yesterday.

“There’s a strategy team and they work pre-event analysing from testing to the last race, moving into this weekend. They look at past years, races here, they look at the tyres we have here and what implications that will have into the races we have this weekend. They do a summary of that and they present that to us. For example I spoke to them about it already last week then again it’s a slightly different picture when I come here and talk about it again.

“Then as we go through practice over the weekend again a lot of analysis is done and each day you get a different perspective on what’s to be expected. But generally it’s quite similar. Depending on how good our long runs are compared to other people’s, how good our performances are, that shifts it a little bit.

“But it’s also to do with strategy in the sense of fuel, tyre usage, how many stops you do, where you save your tyres or you don’t, how close a one-stop is to a two-stop. So you get as much information as you can and again on Sunday morning you’re told the options and you take in what you feel you need so when you get into the race you know exactly what to expect.”

F1’s tyre supplier has moved away from using high-degradation tyres to try to force teams to make more pit stops as it wasn’t working. As a result the teams know tyre degradation will be minimal this weekend – around 0.1 seconds per lap on the medium and 0.2 seconds per lap on the soft. No one did a significant race simulation on the hard tyre.

While Ferrari had a clear one-lap pace advantage over Mercedes on Friday, both teams doubt it is representative and expect they will be closer tomorrow. And in terms of race pace, there’s much less to choose between the red and the silver cars. However Ferrari have made it clear they believe they have solved some of the problems which plagued their SF90 in Melbourne.

Pierre Gasly, Red Bull, Bahrain International Circuit, 2019
Red Bull lack soft tyre pace
Red Bull struggled to perform as well on the soft tyres as they did on the mediums. That won’t help them in qualifying, though as it stands on pure pace they look likely to occupy the ‘no mans land’ between Mercedes/Ferrari and the rest. However Pierre Gasly will need a better run than in he managed in qualifying last weekend or on his “messy” (his word) second practice effort today.

Renault and McLaren were high up on the time sheets on Friday, but past experience indicates they will find it harder to make the cut for Q3 on Saturday, as the drivers indicated they expect. Renault have generally not been able to unlock as much performance from their power unit for a flying lap on Saturday.

Verstappen, now with Honda power, admitted that in qualifying they “have this switch which we can use so every little bit helps”. Last year they were only 0.44 seconds off pole position at what is a fairly power-sensitive track, so if they’re in that area at this early stage it will be another sign their change of engine supplier has been a positive move.

Williams look unlikely to get off the back row in qualifying. Sergio Perez is concerned Racing Point will struggle to progress beyond Q1 with anything less than a perfect lap. Alfa Romeo’s trouble could play into their hands – they missed a significant amount of the most representative session due to water leaks on their cars.

Longest stint comparison – second practice

This chart shows all the drivers’ lap times (in seconds) during their longest unbroken stint. Very slow laps omitted. Scroll to zoom, drag to pan, right-click to reset:

Quotes: Dieter Rencken

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Combined practice times

PosDriverCarFP1FP2Total laps
1Sebastian VettelFerrari1’30.6171’28.84653
2Charles LeclercFerrari1’30.3541’28.88152
3Lewis HamiltonMercedes1’31.6011’29.44956
4Valtteri BottasMercedes1’31.3281’29.55762
5Nico HulkenbergRenault1’32.0401’29.66949
6Max VerstappenRed Bull-Honda1’31.6731’29.72555
7Kevin MagnussenHaas-Ferrari1’32.6021’30.00054
8Lando NorrisMcLaren-Renault1’32.9451’30.01754
9Romain GrosjeanHaas-Ferrari1’32.9941’30.06856
10Daniil KvyatToro Rosso-Honda1’32.3391’30.09360
11Carlos Sainz JnrMcLaren-Renault1’31.9521’30.19261
12Pierre GaslyRed Bull-Honda1’31.8151’30.42948
13Alexander AlbonToro Rosso-Honda1’32.8741’30.45860
14Sergio PerezRacing Point-Mercedes1’32.8851’30.71652
15Daniel RicciardoRenault1’32.4011’30.84849
16Kimi RaikkonenAlfa Romeo-Ferrari1’32.3851’31.08829
17Lance StrollRacing Point-Mercedes1’33.5181’31.12947
18Antonio GiovinazziAlfa Romeo-Ferrari1’32.9491’31.14432
19George RussellWilliams-Mercedes1’34.1881’31.90458
20Robert KubicaWilliams-Mercedes1’34.2531’32.93264

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2019 Bahrain Grand Prix

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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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One comment on “Mercedes and Ferrari expect a closer fight for pole”

  1. I doubt it will be a closer fight for the Pole ;)

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