Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Silverstone, 2020

With little threat from outside, Mercedes have to manage “tensions” inside

2020 British Grand Prix pre-race analysis

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Mercedes were almost a full second clear of the field in Hungary – only Lance Stroll’s Racing Point prevented them putting at least 60 seconds on every car on the grid.

At Silverstone, Lewis Hamilton’s pole position lap left the opposition a second in arrears.

There’s no sugar-coating these statistics. Being this far ahead of the competition does not bode well for the standard of competition in the season ahead. Just as the 2016-16 championships were contested exclusively by Mercedes’ drivers, the season looks set to deliver more of the same, albeit with Valtteri Bottas now in the position formerly occupied by Nico Rosberg.

This will put a renewed focus on how Mercedes operate their cars’ strategies. How far may their drivers go to get a tactical advantage over the other guy?

The two Mercedes occupied the front row of the grid 12 months ago, but that time Bottas was ahead. Hamilton’s early attempt to pass him was repelled, but when Bottas pitted Hamilton stayed out longer in an attempt to gain the strategic upper hand. As things turned out, the Safety Car made an appearance, and Hamilton was able to secure his lead in the pits.

While Mercedes are unwilling to let their drivers pursue radically different strategies, this avenue is open to Bottas, assuming he holds second behind his team mate at the start.

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Max Verstappen, Red Bull, Silverstone, 2020
Verstappen accepts he may struggle to keep up with the Mercedes pair
“We will do what we have always done,” said team principal Toto Wolff. “It’s the car leading that will have priority on the stop. And if the second place car wants to get longer and can extract performance from his tyres that’s perfectly fine with our racing intent.”

Giving their drivers greater strategic freedom isn’t an option because teams only have one pit box each, rather than one per driver, according to Mercedes’ trackside operations director Andrew Shovlin.

“The way that we run a race is you prioritise the guy who’s leading and you optimise his race, and then once he’s done a stop, we can then optimise the guy behind.

“You can’t run them like we would if we’re racing Ferrari or Red Bull because we’ve only got one pit stop crew and one box. So every team has to have some sort of mechanism for doing that.”

However unlike by the Hungaroring, where races tend to be ‘follow my leader’ affairs, Silverstone offers possibilities for a driver in Bottas’s position, says Shovlin.

Nico Hulkenberg, Racing Point, Silverstone, 2020
Hulkenberg is looking for points on his return
“It is a circuit that you can overtake on. It’s a circuit where managing the tyres is going to be key. It’s a circuit where we get a lot of incidents. There’s cars going off into the gravel and reaching the barriers and things. It’s rare that you get a processional race here and if our two are get together then neither will be assuming that it’s done and dusted until they get to the chequered flag.

“It makes our life more difficult on the pit wall because we do need to let them race and we do need to let them create some entertainment. They’re both closely matched on pace, they’re closely matched in the championship. And it’s that sort of period of the year where there is some tension there because they both know that there’s an awful lot to play for.”

Those hoping for an eventful fight for the lead will be wishing that comes true. The weather forecast is for a Mercedes-friendly 20C day with little chance of rain. The contest behind the two black cars is therefore where we’re likely to see the best action.

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Max Verstappen may have an uneventful run to third place ahead of him, the Red Bull being too slow to catch the Mercedes and too quick for those behind to be a realistic threat. But his team mate Alexander Albon, who failed to make the cut for Q3, will again have to demonstrate his overtaking skill to recover the solid top five finish Red Bull surely expect.

Charles Leclerc and Lando Norris was the stars of qualifying, the former especially, whose “radical” Ferrari set-up appears to have delivered in terms of one-lap performance. He is very concerned about his race pace, and relieved to have got into Q3 using the medium compound tyre. Starting on that harder rubber should give him the advantage he needs to lead Norris home. Sebastian Vettel, meanwhile, has had a horrible weekend, with endless problems in practice contributing to a poor qualifying result.

The performance of the Racing Points in qualifying was something of a puzzle. Nico Hulkenberg was always going to find it hard going to get into Q3 on his short-notice return. But Lance Stroll, who did make the cut, was mystified at his lack of pace in the final stage of qualifying.

Will the pink cars be able to cut through the midfield as effectively as they did at the Red Bull Ring a few weeks ago? They’re likely to have a more eventful race than the two similar-looking black cars ahead of them.

Sector times

DriverSector 1Sector 2Sector 3
Lewis Hamilton27.227 (1)33.896 (2)23.071 (1)
Valtteri Bottas34.175 (20)23.211 (1)
Max Verstappen27.321 (2)34.404 (3)23.600 (9)
Charles Leclerc27.410 (3)34.441 (4)23.576 (7)
Lando Norris27.569 (5)34.675 (6)23.538 (3)
Lance Stroll27.623 (7)34.575 (5)23.498 (2)
Carlos Sainz Jnr27.663 (9)34.683 (7)23.564 (5)
Daniel Ricciardo27.597 (6)34.865 (13)23.547 (4)
Esteban Ocon27.644 (8)34.824 (11)23.659 (10)
Sebastian Vettel27.474 (4)34.696 (8)23.809 (13)
Pierre Gasly27.900 (12)34.853 (12)23.590 (8)
Alexander Albon27.718 (10)34.781 (10)23.829 (14)
Nico Hulkenberg27.794 (11)34.761 (9)23.564 (5)
Kevin Magnussen28.030 (17)35.117 (17)23.956 (17)
Antonio Giovinazzi27.979 (15)35.144 (18)23.908 (15)
Kimi Raikkonen28.172 (19)35.006 (15)24.127 (19)
Romain Grosjean28.003 (16)35.152 (19)23.919 (16)
Nicholas Latifi28.146 (18)35.238 (20)24.097 (18)
Daniil Kvyat27.942 (14)34.941 (14)23.692 (11)
George Russell27.901 (13)35.065 (16)23.730 (12)

Speed trap

PosDriverCarEngineSpeed (kph/mph)Gap
1Lewis HamiltonMercedesMercedes319.8 (198.7)
2Daniel RicciardoRenaultRenault319.1 (198.3)-0.7
3Esteban OconRenaultRenault319.1 (198.3)-0.7
4Nico HulkenbergRacing PointMercedes318.4 (197.8)-1.4
5Daniil KvyatToro RossoHonda318.3 (197.8)-1.5
6Valtteri BottasMercedesMercedes318.3 (197.8)-1.5
7Lance StrollRacing PointMercedes317.8 (197.5)-2.0
8Charles LeclercFerrariFerrari317.5 (197.3)-2.3
9Pierre GaslyToro RossoHonda317.4 (197.2)-2.4
10George RussellWilliamsMercedes317.0 (197.0)-2.8
11Max VerstappenRed BullHonda316.9 (196.9)-2.9
12Sebastian VettelFerrariFerrari316.7 (196.8)-3.1
13Romain GrosjeanHaasFerrari316.3 (196.5)-3.5
14Lando NorrisMcLarenRenault315.5 (196.0)-4.3
15Carlos Sainz JnrMcLarenRenault315.4 (196.0)-4.4
16Kevin MagnussenHaasFerrari313.9 (195.0)-5.9
17Alexander AlbonRed BullHonda313.4 (194.7)-6.4
18Antonio GiovinazziAlfa RomeoFerrari313.2 (194.6)-6.6
19Nicholas LatifiWilliamsMercedes313.0 (194.5)-6.8
20Kimi RaikkonenAlfa RomeoFerrari312.9 (194.4)-6.9

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Over to you

Is today’s race going to be an all-Mercedes battle – or do you see a big surprise coming? And what’s caught your eye among the midfielders?

Share your views on the British Grand Prix in the comments.

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2020 British 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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33 comments on “With little threat from outside, Mercedes have to manage “tensions” inside”

  1. Do you guys remember when the FIA were always trying to clip Redbull’s wings when they were dominating the sport, is there anything being done to do the same to Mercedes?
    No offence to Bottas but this will be Hamilton’s 7th title this year and 8th the next, if you are a betting man, easy money to be made, it’s unfotunate for the sport…

    1. Then go bet 20K.

    2. @t3x. There was a big chassis and aero regulation change in 2017 and the front wing change last year. On both occasions, a lot people thought another team would emerge with a better package; Ferrari came close and in fact in the first halves of 2017 and 2018, Ferrari had better and faster cars!
      Also, the Mercs had the FRIC suspension system, which was banned!

      And why do you say LH winning the WDCs this year and/or next is an unfortunate? If you are referring to competition, then well, it’s not the Mercs fault that both RBR and Ferrari have actually built 2020 cars that are slower than their 2019 cars!!!
      Go figure…

    3. changin or limiting aero is simple but engines not possible (locked in contracts)

    4. @t3x

      But the thing is Red Bull always went above (and sometimes beyond) the limit- flexi wings, double diffusers, rake angles etc. Merc haven’t gone as far as Red Bull has apart from DAS imo- which coincidentally has now been banned. People even thought the oil burning saga would impact Merc more than the others- it hasn’t and if anything Ferrari fell back. And the rule changes from 2017 onwards were meant to even the field by trying to focus more on aero and taking the advantage away from the engine- which it did somewhat- but even then Merc still has the best chassis. Red Bull have even dropped their “best chassis” propaganda while blaming the engine. So to say the FIA haven’t tried to clip Merc’s wings isn’t accurate. The reality is Merc’s car is legal and they have simply done the best job in this hybrid era.

  2. I find it rather unlikely for Bottas to beat Hamilton, as the latter is simply slightly faster. As Mercedes do not allow the second driver to pit first, that most likely means that Bottas might run long; allowing Hamilton to increase his lead with fresh tyres, if he pits first. And thus, a gap of, say, 4 seconds in the first stint, can be up to 10 seconds or so. And claiming that back and keeping enough life in the tyres to launch an attack on your teammate will be impossible, if you are slightly slower anyway.

    Something really weird needs to happen for Hamilton to lose this race. Even if Bottas manages to get ahead at the start or if there is a well-timed safety car, I think Lewis still has enough speed to overtake his teammate.

  3. The weather forecast is for a Mercedes-friendly 20C

    Look, this year they don’t suffer from the temperature.
    FP1-FP2 – they didn’t need to setup the car for a hot race, it was already in “cool-race” pre-setup.

    If next race is Silverstone, as forecasted, is much warmer, don’t expect their superiority to evaporate.

  4. Internal tension.. struggling to not laugh….

    1. It’s hard not to laugh. I mean, tension? What tension? Hamilton will be 1st. Bottas second.

      1. And knowing that before the race is the “tension”.

        1. Bottas usually rolls over to get his tummy tickled as he’s lining up on the starting grid

          1. abananasplitz
            2nd August 2020, 12:44

            battery voltas confirmed beta-male.

  5. What tension?
    Bottas is nowhere.

    1. abananasplitz
      2nd August 2020, 12:43

      +1

  6. Is today’s race going to be an all-Mercedes battle – or do you see a big surprise coming? – Yes to the first part.
    And what’s caught your eye among the midfielders? – Nothing.

  7. Mercs dont have to worry about race start either since cars on row 3 are on softs and they are going to be a headache for cars on row 2 at start which means both mercs can open up gap behind them.

    1. Yeah this’ll be a walk in the park today for Mercedes – Hamilton first and Bottas dithering about 30 seconds behind in second.

      I did enjoy qualifying but I think I’ll give the race a miss.

      1. with the help of DAS Mercs won’t have issues warming up medium tyres while 2 cars behind on mediums are a non issue unfortunately. Else atleast the start of the race would have been fun. Also next weekend can be written off as yesterday Bottas on mediums(next weekend’s hard) had a gap in hand in Q2 that Mercs can use have another boring weekend on hand.

  8. Of all the things I have witnessed in 18 years watching Formula 1, this is the most unimaginable and unparalleled struggle. Hats off to Mercedes for managing their drivers while having to fend off another 18 cars which are, year by year, still closer and closer and only by the virtue and incompetence, Mercedes can bring the cars home in top 2.

    1. *by the virtue of their incompetence

  9. Still stunned that previous decade’s ridiculous dominance would be surpassed unchecked.

    It’s bizarre that all the effort and talk about making F1 exciting, and then we have this.

    1. Manufacturers were given too much power and the F1 has become a field for their technical exhibition. It won’t be competitive again until they get royally smacked out of the sport.

  10. This will put a renewed focus on how Mercedes operate their cars’ strategies. How far may their drivers go to get a tactical advantage over the other guy?

    Well Mercedes have one chief strategist- James Vowles- and his objective is to secure the 1-2 in whatever order. Typically the guy in front gets an advantage so there won’t be any jostling for strategic position.

    1. “The guy in front”, only if his name is Lewis.

  11. I hope Bottas won’t draw the short straw in the strategic battle as obvious as last year, when he was on a 2-stop strategy, while in reality Hamilton’s 1-stop strategy was far superior.
    This year however, if Hamilton maintains the lead, he will probably manage the tires a lot initially, then gradually pull away from Bottas and wait for Bottas to change tires before he pits too. That would be a boring lights-to-flag victory.

  12. Horrible feeling this race is going to be unimaginably dull. The two Mercedes will skip off and be about 10 seconds ahead of third place after 10 laps and then go into cruise control. The midfield might be a little more exciting but I’d be stunned if the top three weren’t exactly as they qualified.

    1. abananasplitz
      2nd August 2020, 12:39

      watch the race director focus on the 2 mercedes and ignore the midfield action as usual…

      1. abananasplitz
        2nd August 2020, 12:41

        maybe lando can pull some magic out of his behind again in order to atleast make a few minutes of the end entertining. (if the race director has smarts enough to show it this time.)

  13. “Valtteri, its James,”
    And all will be well

  14. If you only watchEd sport because of the winner then there double be a billion upset fans every day of the year

    F1 has never been so competitive – that is, if you take Merc out of the mix. But then it’s nearly always been a sport dominated by 1, mostly like every other sport I can think of

    Despite Merc likely winning there will be great action and great battles all the way up and down the grid which will provide plenty of action – just like in football where only Liverpool really one this year, despite the 100s of other teams taking part, many with no chance at all of clinching the premier league title because they’re not even in it

  15. I don’t understand the general hatred Mercedes gets in the comments section. Calls for Mercedes to be banned to make racing more exciting is laughable.

    Comparisons to periods of dominance from Ferrari and Red Bull are not fair. Ferrari had a huge budget and they had unlimited testing and bespoke tyres, and no other team had this privilege. And ferrari did have brief moments of challenge, but they still prevailed and it isn’t ferrari’s fault. Similarly Redbull had a few aerodynamic tricks to make their cars faster and they were often in the grey areas of the technical regulations.

    Mercedes started later than any other big team. They existed as a team only in 2010. 2014 was an opportunity for everyone and Mercedes just did a better job than the others. If one claims that these rules were specifically tailored to suit Mercedes, then clearly facts aren’t part of the conversation!

    2014 and 2016 were championships that went to the last race. It was full of drama. I don’t know why a championship fought by teammates is less exciting than a championship fought by two drivers from different teams. One could argue that 2017, 2018 and 2019 would have been closer if there was a different driver in the ferrari. Again, not Mercedes’ fault. Mercedes just did a good job from the beginning, and the others are playing catch up.

    If you are a fan of sport, then watching Lewis break records, should be entertaining. If you don’t like Lewis and can’t stand him winning races, then you should not hide behind the “sport is boring” curtain.

    Wanting the FIA to stop Mercedes when Mercedes has not done anything wrong, how can anyone justify it? I simply don’t understand the logic.

    1. The heck are you talking about? Everyone had unlimited testing back in the day, not jus Ferrari and Michelin built specific tyres for every top team they were running. At least check your facts before spreading bs…

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