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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.

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An F1 fan since 1972, NC has spent over 25 years in the technology industry and as a CTO, he focuses on technology integration in commercial workspace design, AV systems integration, digital media strategies, technology planning, consulting, speaking, presenting, sales, content strategy, marketing and brand building.
  • jeff

    It’s all guesswork, but from a packaging standpoint, the Mercedes PU looks to have some advantages Renault/Ferrari can’t overcome this year.

    Specifically, Mercedes’ integration of the Turbo and MGU-H is mighty impressive. By mounting the turbo inlet compressor in front of the engine and the MGU-H in the V of the engine bank, many potential problems are mitigated/lessened.

    1. Separating the inlet from the exhaust compressor removes it from exhaust compressor heat. The inlet piping can be made shorter, reducing pumping losses and heat soak (Reduce dlag, denser intake charge.)

    2. Heat management; Shorter path lengths mean less wiring/tubing, segregation of certain heat-producing parts from the rear-center of the chassis means less massed heat.

    3. Because of (supposed) improved inlet compressor performance, MGU-H tuning can be further “optimized.” Whether that means less/more time or more linear progression when charging ES, increased MGU-K transfer, etc., who knows…

    Ferrari might have an advantage as well in their air-water intercooler leading to lesser cooling volume requirements, and Renault surely has some tricks up its sleeves, but from what we’ve seen, the Mercedes unit, architecturally, is bringing some major advantages to the table.

  • dude

    If you think it was impressive that Ricciardo gets 2nd place at his first race on his first time in a big team, and in a car with a power unit that isn’t working fully. Then you’ll be amaze to see what a 4 times world champion can do once the issues are solved. I predict a 5th consecutive title.

    • A bold prediction but one I’m not sure I would bet against. :)

    • jeff

      Wow, bold indeed, and meritous. The Red Bull did look balanced and composed. Ricciardo’s PU was running at full power, however, and had no answer for the Mercedes.

      Rosberg ran his fastest lap @ 14 and coasted thereafter, save for gap management. He created two 25-30sec gaps on Ricciarrdo quickly, the majority coming from the 1st 7-8 laps following safety car/pits. That looks daunting, even if Vettel is much superior to Ricciardo.

      Ricciardo’s and Button’s radio calls say it all; asking how fast their competitors are, excepting Rossberg’s Mercedes, that’s a white flag waved to the MB’s pace.

  • Tom

    I think the Mercedes might even had more than 1 second on the competition in Australia. The ease with which Rosberg pulled away after the safety car was amazing. He took out 1-1.5 seconds per lap from Ricciardo without looking to push the car.

    Having said that, if there is one team to make that up, it’s got to be Red Bull. Their car looks mightily strong as well, if only they can get their issues under control. Question is, will it be too late? I doubt that Vettel can retain his title, because it might take a couple of races until Red Bull reaches its full potential and even when it does, another domination is by no means a foregone conclusion. If everything works out in Red Bull’s favor, I could still see a repeat of the 2009 season where Brawn pulled away early on with Red Bull catching up, having the best car by the end of the season, but with the Brawn car still being competitive enough to defend the lead.

    Of course it will also be interesting to see what McLaren and Williams will be doing. Can they catch up to the Mercedes works team? They certainly have an advantage over the non-Mercedes teams at this point.

    Also, I still reckon with Ferrari as a major player, albeit their opening round was somewhat disappointing, so we’ll have to wait and see.

  • Yeah, if we ignore the fuel-flow debacle, Daniel’s car looked planted and very drivable. I can’t recall who said it but during testing someone said that Red Bull and Renault were struggling but the way that Renault has their engine working, if they get it right, they could be the fastest guys on track.

    • MIE

      The on board coverage of the two Red Bulls during qualifying was interesting. Vettel was working the wheel very hard while Ricciardo was Button like in his smoothness.

      Is Sebastian still trying to get max exhaust flow through the corner (as that was they way he needed to drive last year to get the added grip from the exhaust blown diffuser)? He certainly showed during the previous rules period to be able to adapt to the requirements of the regulations to get the most advantage from Adrian Newey’s design. With a little more mileage in the car it won’t be long before he adapts to this rules set.

      • Tom

        The team said that Vettel suffered from software problems, not just regarding his engine power, but also regarding drivability as a whole. Horner said that it was a magnificent work for Vettel to every get to 12th place. Of course that’s all team talk…

        Anyway, despite few laps behind the wheel, I’d think that Vettel (like everyone else) has already adapted to the new formula, after all, Red Bull does have one of the best simulators.

  • jeff

    Regarding Williams; like many others, I’m a Williams fan, love the livery as well, but this is the first time I’m physically willing them on. The reason, oddly; Massa. Never disliked him as a race driver, but I always felt he was all feel/no thought, a bit of a whiner (Kobayashi incident, ugh), and so on.

    I don’t know what’s changed, but I’m really pulling for the guy. Maybe the grace he should leaving Ferrari, his slinging around of that Williams during Aus free practice… Whatever the reason, Go Felipe.