Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes enjoyed a big advantage in straight line speed in the Brazilian GP over their direct competitors even though they had high downforce settings that allowed them to perform well in corners – we bring an overview of top speeds in qualifying, sprint and race.
Classic qualifying on Friday provide the best insight into the straight line speeds because there is much less pronounced use of slipstream, which regularly happens in the qualifying race and the usual race, and on the speed trap 90 meters before the first corner fastest drivers were Alfa Romeo’s Raikkonen and Giovinazzi who have much less downforce and thus air resistance than the best cars.
But Hamilton was arguably the fastest of the top drivers at 327.5 km/h, 5.5 km/h faster than Bottas, helped by a new Mercedes V6 engine that only has to last four weekends and can therefore be used more aggressively, with more power.
Red Bull drivers Verstappen and Perez achieved only 318 km/h in that place and only Gasly in AlphaTauri and Vettel in Aston Martin were slower than them.
The situation is similar at the start and finish line and at the end of the first sector (168 meters before the Turn 4), in the first DRS zone – Hamilton reached 323.9 km/h and took third place behind the two Alfa Romeo drivers.
In the sprint qualifying race, Hamilton had to break through from the back of the standings so the speeds he achieved were much higher as he spent the entire race (24 laps) chasing other drivers and thus benefited from their slipstream and could use DRS regularly.
The Briton was the fastest at the speed trap 90 meters before the Turn 1 with 339 km/h, almost 22 km/h faster than Verstappen, which had DRS only for a few laps thanks to Bottas in front of him.
Hamilton was also the fastest in the first DRS zone, 168 meters before the Turn 4, with 343.2 km/h, almost 20 km/h faster than Verstappen (326.5 km/h) while Sainz, who did not have the option to use the DRS, was at the bottom order on the first three speed measurements.
Norris reached the best top speed of the whole weekend (347.4 km/h at the start finish line) in his breakthrough to sixth place, overtaking Leclerc in Ferrari and taking significant advantage of his slipstream in the process.
In the race, the data are similar to those in the sprint qualifying race and the highest speeds were affected by the slipstream that the drivers caught from the driver in front of them. The highest speeds were achieved by drivers who caught the car in front of them at a later moment in the straight because they benefited from lower air resistance for much longer.
Sainz was the fastest in the speed trap 90 meters before the first corner (336.7 km/h), 14.7 km/h faster than in qualifying thanks to the slipstream, and whooping 31.8 km/h faster than in the sprint qualifying race in which he had neither DRS nor slipstream.
Hamilton was at the top again even though he didn’t reach the speed as in the sprint because he had caught the slipstream earlier on the straight so he didn’t benefit so much from the lower air resistance. Verstappen was again at the bottom of the standings as he very rarely had the DRS and slipstream from other cars.