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EXPLAINED: Are Mercedes in trouble at the Brazilian Grand Prix?

EXPLAINED: Are Mercedes in trouble at the Brazilian Grand Prix?

F1 News

EXPLAINED: Are Mercedes in trouble at the Brazilian Grand Prix?

EXPLAINED: Are Mercedes in trouble at the Brazilian Grand Prix?

The 2023 Brazilian Grand Prix sprint race was an action-packed one.

Max Verstappen took the win closely followed by the fast McLaren of Lando Norris. But what stood out was Mercedes' lack of pace in the sprint shootout, a surprise to everyone, including the team itself.

George Russell, who started the sprint in fourth place, quickly moved up to second on the opening lap, but he began to drop back down the order as his tyres degraded.

By the end of the sprint, he had fallen back to fourth, nearly 26 seconds behind race winner Verstappen. Lewis Hamilton, who started the sprint in fifth place, finished even further back in seventh, almost 35 seconds off the win.

In this article, we analyse the pace of the top teams during the sprint shootout and try to make sense of Mercedes' lack of pace.

Race Pace

Comparing the pace on the soft tyre between the drivers in Brazil

The Red Bull and McLaren of Verstappen and Norris were in a league of their own, the Dutchman holding a slight edge, with both McLaren and Red Bull having similar tyre wear and pace overall.

The Ferraris and Mercedes are similar in terms of pace, but both are slower compared to Red Bull and McLaren.

Tyre Wear

An analysis of the drivers' race pace on a lap by lap basis

The Red Bulls and McLarens are very good on their tyres, allowing their drivers to put in consistent lap times.

Verstappen had excellent tyre wear throughout the sprint as he was able to push to try and create a gap between himself and Norris.

The Ferraris also had good tyre wear, but the grip appeared to fall off rapidly in the final few laps of the race.

Now coming to Mercedes, they had the worst tyre wear. This was particulary bad for Hamilton who had the highest tyre wear in the sprint.

His tyres seemed to worsen rapidly after lap 13, leading to significantly slower laps and losing places in the process.

Why are Mercedes so slow?

Lewis Hamilton struggled during the sprint race on Saturday

The Silver Arrows were plagued by high tyre wear and lack of pace to the front runners.

This may be due to an incorrect car setup or the drivers pushing and overheating the tyres at the start of the sprint.

Mercedes have a lot of work to do for Sunday's race if they want to compete with the front runners. The team seem to overcook their tyres compared to the other front runners, with Hamilton losing time out of the slow-speed corners which points out the lack of traction and grip out of these corners – most likely caused by overcooked rear tyres.

Tyre Strategy

The predicted strategies available to the team during the Brazilian Grand Prix

The weather forecast is for a warm and sunny race. This could favour the medium tyre over the soft, as the soft is expected to suffer from higher levels of degradation in hotter conditions.

Looking at the data, the quickest strategy for the Brazilian Grand Prix is a two-stop, with drivers starting on the soft tyre and then switching to mediums for two stints.

However, if the medium tyre is not as competitive as expected, a return to the soft for the final stint is also a strong option.

Drivers could also try a one-stop strategy, either by starting on the soft tyre and extending the first stint as close to Lap 28 as possible before fitting the hard tyre, or by starting on the medium tyre and making a stop for hards between Lap 22 and 35.

The bottom half of the field could consider a reverse one-stop strategy, starting on the hard tyre and running long before switching to softs around Lap 45. However, this would require a clean start to the race and no safety car involvement.

Shubham Sangodkar is a former F1 Aerodynamicist with a Master's in Racing Car Design specialising in F1 Aerodynamics and F1 Data Analysis. He also posts aerodynamics content on his YouTube channel, which can be found here.

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