Mercedes have secured two 1-2 victories in the first two races of new 2019 F1 season, but like other Ferrari competitors they have left Bahrain very worried about their gap on the straights – the Ferrari engine had power advantage which wasn’t present in the first race or in pre-season testing.
Charles Leclerc and Sebasitan Vettel were four tenths quicker than Mercedes drivers on the Bahrain straights in qualifying, after Toto Wolff said it would be very difficult to keep up with them on the fast tracks.
Ferrari’s F1 team chief Mattia Binotto believes Mercedes has used more downforce, but Toto Wolff disagrees and believes that only a part of the speed difference can be justified with less downforce, as well as chief engineer Andrew Shovlin – “We are losing on the straights with and without DRS, so it does not have much to do with the downforce levels. ”
The German publication Auto Motor und Sport has GPS data from the qualifying and Ferrari is the fastest, which is also visible on all speed measurements published by FIA. The second is McLaren although they have less downforce than Ferrari, but they lose about three tenths compared to Ferrari.
“Ferrari suddenly has a leap in power like last year,” Red Bull Adrian Newey complains.
“Last year they were pulling away from us in the acceleration phase, at the top speed we were similiar, and now they are faster from the beginning to the end of the straights and our speed curve flattens as the MGU-K no longer delivers power, Ferrari MHU-K continues to work. they have some advantage with their V6 engine and electrical systems,” said the unnamed Mercedes engineer.
Ferrari has 40 HP advantage?
Auto Motor und Sport claims, based on their sources, that Ferrari currently has the advantage of up to 40 HP which would mean that they have more than 1000 HP in qualifying, a power figure teams were close last year.
Interestingly, Ferrari was the fastest on straights even when they didn’t use the maxiumum power – on free practice sessions, which means they are also stronger in conservative engine modes.
Also, their customers are not nearly as fast as Ferrari’s factory cars, probably due to the more downforce they need to use to achieve satisfactory car behaviour and braking behavior.
Red Bull F1 team principal Christian Horner even noticed the strange smell of Shell’s fuel that smells like ‘grapefruit juice’.
Ferrari showed their hand in Bahrain GP
At testing in Barcelona, Ferrari did not want to demonstrate the full power of the engine (or perhaps couldn’t because of the reliability problems) and in the first race in Australia they apparently had some problems preventing them from releasing the full potential of the engine.
Vettel and Leclerc in Australia could push their engines only in the laps before and after entering the pits, and in other moments they had around 40 HP less than their rivals. Leclerc clocked only 297 km/h in the race, while Verstappen easily passed Vettel on the straight.
But in Bahrain their advantage was obvious as the problem with the Leclerc’s engine shows that reliability is still not perfect.