In the latest video by leading German automobile magazine Auto motor und sport after the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, Michael Schmidt reports on Scuderia Ferrari’s struggles from Barcelona and explains why it will be difficult for the Maranello team to catch Mercedes in the 2019 Formula 1 season:
Michael Schmidt: Barcelona has clearly illustrated the weaknesses of Red Bull and Ferrari. In the past races those weaknesses were seen a little and now in Barcelona both Red Bull and Ferrari realized what went wrong. Now people will say: Barcelona is just like in winter testing, there were only 8 weeks between them, the weather was not much different compared to testing either. Looking back, now we must say that even back then Mercedes had the better concept but was not able to fully exploit it and now step by step they are leaving the others behind because their basic concept was the better one and now with them putting more and more updates on the car, it also gets better and better.
The reason why Mercedes went for the right solution was because their concept is downforce at all costs. Also at the expense of aerodynamic drag. That’s also the reason why Mercedes is so bad on the straights. The Mercedes engine did not suddenly turn bad. Quite the contrary. Maybe the engine is a bit less powerful than the Ferrari but not by much. Also Red Bull wins on the straights against them. Mercedes wins their time in the corners. Not only because they have more downforce but also because they get the tyres in the ideal working window. That was the case at the critical circuits like Azerbaijan (because of the asphalt and slow corners it’s difficult) or in Barcelona where everyone finds the window but Mercedes keeps the tyres in that window constantly and does not shot over the top. You clearly have seen that. Ferrari wins half a second on the straights, loses in the medium fast corners half a second and loses in the slow corners even more. This concludes in a Mercedes advantage of 0.8s.
Can you give hope to the fans? How easy will it be for Ferrari and Red Bull to copy the concept or modify their own concept to get to the Mercedes level?
Michael Schmidt: We have asked Mattia Binotto where the problem actually is. He said it can be the downforce, the balance or the concept. And I fear that it is the concept and that is the worst that could have happened. Because it is difficult to react to that. Ferrari built just like in the past two years (which back then perfectly worked out) a very efficient car, up to a certain downforce the car is very good. And that will continue to be the case in some certain circuits e.g. like in Bahrain which suits their car’s working window. But when it is a bit over it or below it because e.g. the asphalt is too smooth or the temperatures are not ideal then Ferrari completely falls out of the window. That was extremely the case in Barcelona. They have one problem: of course they could build a big rear wing like Mercedes and then everything works and they would just not bother with the aerodynamic drag anymore. The problem is that with their front wing philosophy, Ferrari cannot respond like that. Because they have to balance it out. It does not help if you have so much downforce in the back and then at the front have understeer. Understeer was one of the problems that Vettel mentioned in Barcelona. Red Bull traditionally builds a very efficient car when it comes to their front wing. They also had a high rake concept but they had to do that because they said they have weak engines. Now they have a stronger engine and they need to swap over to the other concept.
Red Bull has a similar problem like Ferrari. At least in Red Bull’s case they have a similar type of front wing like Mercedes and can generate more downforce compared to Ferrari, thus have more options to put downforce in the back without having the balance issues that Ferrari would have.
What’s your guess? It’s not like Mercedes will stop with the development of their car. When the others caught up, Mercedes is on a different level again. Some fear that Mercedes will win all the races this year. Is that possible?
Michael Schmidt: The fear is justified especially looking at how bulletproof the Mercedes is and now that they are so dominant they don’t even have to show everything. Mercedes engineers even told us that Hamilton did not even drive at full power. Bottas was only slower because he didn’t want to destroy his tyres behind Hamilton. What is even more frightening is that according to the Mercedes engineers, Mercedes was the only team that could have managed a one-stop strategy in a normal race scenario in Barcelona. All the others were doomed for a 2-stop strategy. Charles Leclerc tried it with the hard tyres but that was the wrong choice. And even then it probably wouldn’t have worked out.
Comparing Haas and Ferrari
Michael Schmidt: The interesting thing is that Haas is faster than Ferrari in the corners. Let us look at the speed on the straights. Same engine, same suspension like Ferrari but Haas massively lose out on the straights. That shows that Ferrari is more efficient there than Haas but don’t have much downforce. And downforce is the key this year with those critical tyres.
Can someone challenge Mercedes before the big regulation changes or do we have to wait for the new rules?
Michael Schmidt: The worst thing is that for next year the rules stay the same so we pratically drive with the cars of this year. Internally Ferrari and Red Bull probably know what they did wrong this year and won’t do the same mistake for next year. So there is still a bit of hope for next year.
Can someone else other than Mercedes win in Monaco?
Michael Schmidt: If we look at the Sector 3 in Barcelona, which is a bit like Monaco, Mercedes won against Ferrari 0.7s and against Red Bull 0.4/0.5s. If we take that as the benchmark, there is no hope for Ferrari/Red Bull. But of course Monaco is a bit different, new wings, more downforce, different setup, softest tyre compound and that could make a difference. But I believe in Monaco it should be relatively easy for Mercedes.