I’m certainly in no position to guess as to what advantage Mercedes AMG Petronas has over the rest of the field but if you listen to other Formula 1 teams, it could be around one second per lap and that’s huge in F1 terms.
Ferrari know they need to claw back performance via better car drivability for Kimi Raikkonen—especially under braking—and for Alonso on the straights but Red Bull also have issues that team boss Christian Horner says is 90% software related and the rest down to drivability. Horner told AUTOSPORT’s Mr. Noble:
“I would say on average it is about one second per lap, so that is about what we have to find,” Horner said.
“They controlled the race. I am sure they didn’t fully extend themselves and it seems they have at least one second in the pocket at the moment.
“You can see Williams looks very quick too, and I think if they had had a clean race they would have been right there.”
Ultimately Horner suggests that the ERS software issues are a challenge between Renault Sport F1 and Red Bull to get on top of and my hunch is they will but how long will it take and if they do get the software working properly, is it worth a second per lap?
That’s anyone’s guess but certainly Ferrari seem to be in a similar pace deficit as well and they are working diligently to find this elusive “drivability” that all of the teams have put in our 014 Formula 1 lexicon.
As for Williams, as well as other Mercedes-powered teams, it is a case of aerodynamic downforce and how their car is working. A Mercedes power unit doesn’t guarantee success but it certainly gives one a leg up. Can Williams capitalize on the aero, weight, balance and more to make the best use of their new power unit and give the top teams a run for their money?
Force India is a Mercedes-powered team as well and they, like Williams, will find their biggest challenges in 2014 in the in-season development war that usually represents a huge expense—do either team have the resources to keep up with the challenge? If not, I still think their Mercedes advantage will keep them in the hunt and it will be interesting to see how they do in Malaysia.