2020 Austrian Grand Prix F1 pre-race analysis

A clean sweep of the three practice sessions plus one and two in qualifying adds to a perfect start to the season so far for Mercedes.

The hopes of his rivals who will not continue on Sunday can be summed up in one word: temperature.

Cooling down was the ruin of Mercedes in this race 12 months ago. It was a particularly hot Austrian Grand Prix, and that combined with the track’s relatively high altitude and the limitations of the cooling setup that Mercedes used at the time contributed to their first loss of the season thus far.

Of course, they are unlikely to repeat the same mistake twice. Regardless, the forecast for Sunday’s race has been revised since the weekend started, and the forecast temperatures are now slightly higher, closing at 30 ° C.

And as Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff admitted Saturday, they made a change to his car that could have an unintended consequence to his performance. Changing from a silver to black livery to show your support for diversity and opposition to racism is a noble gesture. But it can also compromise the heat rejection of the car.

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“Messaging and marketing are very important,” said Wolff. “But if performance is impaired, that’s obviously not great.

Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes, Red Bull Ring, 2020
Will the W11’s cooling work so well now that the car is black?

“We have done some calculations, but tomorrow when the weather is expected to be around 30 degrees. We will see if our simulations with a silver car have been different from the results on the track with a black car. So [it’s a] fair point. It is a little unknown to us. “

It would be easy to overstate the role that Mercedes livery could play in this. But Red Bull and Ferrari are watching the expected turnaround in the weather forecast and hope it will be beneficial.

“We were blessed last year with particularly hot conditions and a Mercedes that was not equipped to operate in hot conditions, so they strayed quite a bit,” said Red Bull chief automotive engineer Paul Monaghan. “[But] I don’t think they will fall into that useful trap for us tomorrow. “

However, he said Red Bull’s decision to grade Verstappen on the C3 medium compound tire instead of the soft C4 was anticipating the change in weather.

“If you look at the longest races on Friday in cool conditions, I think the C4 tire for everyone exhibited a reasonable amount of drop or degradation,” he said. “And the yellow wall [medium] The tire seems to be a little better.

“Now, if the forecast is correct and tomorrow is even warmer than today, which again will make us think a little more so that C4 survives. So we have chosen to try to give ourselves a better tire for the first one and make our selections from there. “

Alexander Albon, who will start two places behind his teammate in fifth place, qualified on the soft tire.

“So if the C4 is in trouble tomorrow, then we are in a C3 with Max, and equally if the C4 is impressive tomorrow, we are in a C4 with Alex,” Monaghan said. “And we can attract Max at one point and put him at something else.

“So everything is for playing, really. At least we are not lining up on the same tire two points behind the pole sitter. ”

Surely things can only get better for Ferrari after a grim qualifying session in which Charles Leclerc led his cars in seventh position, while Sebastian Vettel didn’t even make it to Q3. Sports director Laurent Mekies said the team is also looking optimistically at the weather forecast.

“It is much hotter tomorrow,” he said. “And the hierarchical order will change a little. It will not be a revolution, but things will change.

“In addition to that, the field is very tight. So, I’m not talking about the Mercedes, of course, but certainly behind them the field is very narrow.

Leclerc: fastest in speed trap last year, slowest today

“It will be a great fight and we know that Charles and Seb are very good at it and therefore they try to give them the best weapon to be able to fight in these conditions.”

But how well will Leclerc and Vettel be able to fight given the blow that Ferrari’s straight-line speed has taken in the past 12 months. His two pilots have lost more speed in the official trap than all the others on the field.

In this race last year, Leclerc qualified for pole position and was the fastest driver through the speed trap, registering 325.7kph. This year it is at the opposite end of the table, 13.3 km / h slower. Vettel has lost 8.3kph.

That, along with the significant loss in lap time of the three Ferrari-powered teams, is another indication that Ferrari’s power unit is not the strength it had 12 months ago.

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To you

Can anyone prevent Mercedes from starting the year with a one-two? What can Ferrari save from its difficult start until 2020? And who will be ‘the best of the rest’?

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2020 Austrian Grand Prix

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