Could Red Bull have been faster than Mercedes since Turkey?

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Alienturnedhuman
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Could Red Bull have been faster than Mercedes since Turkey?

Post by Alienturnedhuman »

Everyone was shocked when Red Bull pulled away from Mercedes in the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, a track that Mercedes has owned since the start of the hybrid era, and one that both Bottas and Hamilton are strong at.

Mercedes claimed that their power unit only cost them a 1 tenth a lap - which made it all the stranger. However, Red Bull had brought upgrades to their car around the rear wing - switching to a single pillar. However, thinking back over the last four races I started to wonder, could the Red Bull have been the fastest car for the final four races?

It may seem a little strange - given that they only took one pole, and one victory. However, when you look back at what happened over the final races of the season, the events of the races could have masked a much stronger Red Bull than it appeared.

First, there was the grand prix in Turkey with Mercedes starting behind both the Racing Points and the Red Bulls. This was put down to the track conditions, and the rain, however Red Bull screwed up the wing settings on Verstappen's car, leaving him with an unbalanced car yet he was still faster than the Racing Points, hounding Perez until his race was ruined by the spin.

While Hamilton won the race, Verstappen almost certainly would have had his wing been set correctly and he hadn't had the spin.

Then there was Bahrain. Mercedes got a front row lock out, but Max was close. And Mercedes always have a bigger margin in qualifying compared to the race, and it's race pace that is most important. At the end of the race Hamilton had said it was a very tough win and Verstappen finished only 1.2 seconds behind. Of course, Hamilton has a bit of a boy who cried wolf when he says the second place person was "really fast" - but what if this time the wolf was actually real?

We then get to Sakhir - and Verstappen is even closer to pole, under a 1/10th, on a track dominated by straights where they were expected to struggle. What got lost in the Russell hype train and Checo win is that Max was taken out of the race in turn 4, and during practice he had had the strongest race pace.

Max got pole and won by 15 seconds in Abu Dhabi, with Mercedes giving away only 6 seconds of race distance engine performance, and the gaps were reset after safety car.

Of course, Abu Dhabi could have been a one off. But there is another detail too - Mercedes stopped developing their car by the half way point in the season and focused entirely on their future cars. They started the year with 2014 level margins, and ended it being beaten fair and square. Given that the last 3 races were back to back, there was little opportunity for a quantum leap in performance gain for any team, yet Red Bull put in a dominating performance in Abu Dhabi - which does beg the question. Were they the team to beat in the last 4 races and did the strange circumstances mask the fact?

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Re: Could Red Bull have been faster than Mercedes since Turkey?

Post by Invade »

In Abu Dhabi, I doubt Verstappen showed any greater superiority over Bottas than Hamilton would have done himself had he got out ahead of Bottas with his typical race-race. Hamilton clearly wasn't his usual self in the race after his bout with the virus.

I don't even think it's clear that Red Bull were faster in Abu Dhabi.

It's been tight between Mercedes and Red Bull to close out the season, which seems to be par for the course anyway - it happened in 2019 and 2018.

So to answer your question...

Sure they could have been faster since Turkey, though if so not by much at all. And they might have been faster also in the last 4 races of 2019 and 2018 than Mercedes on balance also.

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Re: Could Red Bull have been faster than Mercedes since Turkey?

Post by BMWSauber84 »

I think the fact that Albon was able to get onto the back of Hamilton suggests that the Red Bull was the quickest car in Abu Dhabi. The Merc lads were complaining of the car being unresponsive in certain corners losing time to the typically oversteery Red Bull.

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Re: Could Red Bull have been faster than Mercedes since Turkey?

Post by Exediron »

Invade wrote:
Tue Dec 15, 2020 3:11 pm
I don't even think it's clear that Red Bull were faster in Abu Dhabi.
To me, that depends on what one thinks of Hamilton's form.

I think we can ignore Max in terms of the competitive balance of the cars. Instead, we should look at Alex Albon; how close he was to Hamilton means that either the Red Bull was quicker than the Merc, or Hamilton was really not on top form.
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Re: Could Red Bull have been faster than Mercedes since Turkey?

Post by JN23 »

Exediron wrote:
Tue Dec 15, 2020 7:42 pm
Invade wrote:
Tue Dec 15, 2020 3:11 pm
I don't even think it's clear that Red Bull were faster in Abu Dhabi.
To me, that depends on what one thinks of Hamilton's form.

I think we can ignore Max in terms of the competitive balance of the cars. Instead, we should look at Alex Albon; how close he was to Hamilton means that either the Red Bull was quicker than the Merc, or Hamilton was really not on top form.
Or a bit of both?

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Re: Could Red Bull have been faster than Mercedes since Turkey?

Post by Invade »

Exediron wrote:
Tue Dec 15, 2020 7:42 pm
Invade wrote:
Tue Dec 15, 2020 3:11 pm
I don't even think it's clear that Red Bull were faster in Abu Dhabi.
To me, that depends on what one thinks of Hamilton's form.

I think we can ignore Max in terms of the competitive balance of the cars. Instead, we should look at Alex Albon; how close he was to Hamilton means that either the Red Bull was quicker than the Merc, or Hamilton was really not on top form.
I actually first look at this more in terms of how Albon stacked up against Max. Generally he was closer in qualifying and the race, and I doubt Verstappen really dipped, so instead assume that Albon had possibly his strongest weekend for very many races, if not the for the season.

After that I tend to think to how often Hamilton crushes Bottas in race pace and imagine how that would have stacked up against the pace Max showed in the race, who outdid Bottas to a Hamilton-esque degree. An on song Hamilton is worth well into double-digit seconds on Bottas over a race distance. This is one of the few races in the season where Hamilton at times struggled to hold on to Bottas.

Those two general markers don't make it obvious to me that Red Bull were definitely quicker. I can well imagine an in-form Hamilton easily whoopin' on Bottas in Abu Dhabi if he's out in clear air.

The key here for me is trying to establish if Albon's performance disturbs his reliability as a barometer for performance (through being consistently mediocre), but given Max's metronomic pace, Albon being legitimately more competitive on this odd occasion might lead to his performance being the one which is distorting the view the most.

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Re: Could Red Bull have been faster than Mercedes since Turkey?

Post by Alienturnedhuman »

Albon's performance is not the measure of the Red Bull, Max's is. Drivers do not add performance to a car, they only reduce the performance of a car. The Red Bull is a very tricky car to drive, compared to the Mercedes, meaning that a small difference in driver performance results is a much bigger drop in package performance - but it is also far more variable. If Albon nails his set up and understanding of a car at a weekend he will be closer to Max than at ones where he doesn't. That is the fundamental difference of drivers like Hamilton, Alonso and Max - they can adapt to a car that isn't to their liking and it is very rare they are off the pace by more than a couple of tenths.

We have to compare fastest car to fastest car. Yes Bottas is often 15 seconds behind Hamilton, but sometimes he's just behind him. He's not as a adaptable, so there is more variability in his performance. Sometimes he edges Hamilton too, if he aces the weekend and Hamilton has a weekend where he can't nail his set up. For all the beating Bottas gets for making Hamilton's life 'easy' - he's not in the Mercedes by chance, he's still a very fast driver - particularly in qualifying.

If Hamilton was at 100% fitness and got pole and led out of turn 1, he would have probably have won the race with Max on his gearbox to the finish. The safety car basically ensured the running order was maintained and this is a very tough track to pass on. It's a track Hamilton has a very good record on, he lost the 2009 and 2012 wins here due to unreliability in the McLaren, and in 2009 the Red Bull was again the faster car for the circuit. But he had to follow Bottas and Rosberg home at these tracks after being second out of turn 1 in previous seasons, and I suspect the same would have been true for Max if he had been stuck behind Hamilton. Remember, Vettel and Max couldn't get past Rosberg even when Hamilton was backing Rosberg up into them in 2016.

However, if Hamilton was at 100% fitness and behind Max out of turn 1, I think Max would have won by a similar margin. Max had 15 seconds on the Mercs, but he was coasting at the end - he even asked to have his engine turned down. Meanwhile, the Mercs had Albon chasing them down, and Albon got close to having DRS on Hamilton - so it's clear they weren't coasting, although they were nursing engines. But they were delivering the maximum performance they felt they could risk.

Given this, it is very clear that the Red Bull was the fastest car by a decent - but not dominating - margin in the race, and the cars were equal on qualifying pace.

I think that in Sakhir, Bahrain and Turkey that Red Bull had faster race pace. Imola they were probably equal on race pace. I think that the last race that the Mercedes were ahead on both qualifying and race performance was Portugal, and Monza was the last race where they had a dominating advantage. Monza is also the last race I believe that they took updates too, so it would make sense that Red Bull would be closing them down since then. I think that because the Mercedes were so dominant in the first half of the season, that narrative got stuck in our minds and it was not considered this would even change - but such is the development rate in F1 now, that cars get updated more during two week breaks than they used to between seasons 30 years ago. Red Bull's development during the tail end of this season demonstrates both how impressive their speed of development is, but also just how awesome the W11 was out of the box. In many ways, the season was similar to 2009, where Milton Keynes reeled in Brackley, who weren't developing their car.

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Re: Could Red Bull have been faster than Mercedes since Turkey?

Post by Alienturnedhuman »

If we update the results, to give Max wins in the races where he had incidents (Imola, Turkey and Sakhir) then the WDC looks like this:

Hamilton: 333 (-14) / 9 wins (-2)
Verstappen: 281 (+67) / 5 wins (+3)
Bottas: 218 (-5) / 2 wins (==)
Russell: 1 (-1) / 0 wins(==)

Hamilton would have been 88 points ahead of Max after Turkey, so still would have been WDC - however I think that this scoreboard more accurately reflects the reality of the situation that a combination of bad luck (Max's tyre at Imola) , freak conditions/human error (Turkey track conditions / front wing error) and racing incident (Max's retirement at Sakhir thanks to Charles) prevented us from seeing.

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Re: Could Red Bull have been faster than Mercedes since Turkey?

Post by UnlikeUday »

When Albon had a massive shunt in practice at Turkey(?), he was given a new chassis. From there on, I did notice he was qualifying better & racing stronger. So the new chassis did make a difference.
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Re: Could Red Bull have been faster than Mercedes since Turkey?

Post by stevey »

Alienturnedhuman wrote:
Wed Dec 16, 2020 8:15 am
If we update the results, to give Max wins in the races where he had incidents (Imola, Turkey and Sakhir) then the WDC looks like this:

Hamilton: 333 (-14) / 9 wins (-2)
Verstappen: 281 (+67) / 5 wins (+3)
Bottas: 218 (-5) / 2 wins (==)
Russell: 1 (-1) / 0 wins(==)

Hamilton would have been 88 points ahead of Max after Turkey, so still would have been WDC - however I think that this scoreboard more accurately reflects the reality of the situation that a combination of bad luck (Max's tyre at Imola) , freak conditions/human error (Turkey track conditions / front wing error) and racing incident (Max's retirement at Sakhir thanks to Charles) prevented us from seeing.
wouldnt really do this as its so one sided, you haven't even taken into account other race drivers misfortunes/irregularities. A previous poster has excused Max spin at turkey as a set up issue so rather than driver error or just the conditions where that slippy (pretty much everyone span at some point).

As is usual with RedBull development they come on super strong at the end but I'd say in this instance it has only been since the last race that they had a pace advantage, though I think it was smaller than it appears. Hamilton struggling to breathe meant he was underperforming and If we're comparing drivers you would compare Hamilton at his best versus Verstappen rather than Bottas whom you would compare Albons performance to.

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Re: Could Red Bull have been faster than Mercedes since Turkey?

Post by Invade »

Mercedes had no "fastest car" to compare to Max. I simply don't think Albon being somewhat close to Mercedes on race pace (for the most part he was a little slower) is some slam dunk proof that Red Bull must have been quicker. This isn't an obvious fact to me. If Albon was his usual self he might have been miles behind the Mercs and we'd be left with the impression that the cars were roughly equal and bemoan the generally insipid form of Bottas and that Hamilton just didn't have it on the day. Bottas wasn't typically too much slower than Max, but then I think Max generally has much better race pace than Bottas and can carve out that sort of advantage given his ability and speed. But an on song Hamilton may well have demonstrated a commensurate dominance over Bottas - well, he has done on many occasions and to significantly greater degrees than Max showed at Abu Dhabi.

BTW, I'm not saying the cars were definitively equal or even that Mercedes were faster, but that it's not remotely clear beyond reasonable doubt that Red Bull were faster. Regardless, the trend of races at the end of seasons for the last 3 seasons has been quite constant. Maybe it will mean more this time for next season because there's so much carryover this time, with teams more or less introducing B-spec cars.

If Lewis was at 100% fitness as you say and lead out of turn 1, he'd probably have won with Max following closely behind, but I think there's a good chance that the reverse would have happened also. An on song Lewis doesn't tend to barely cling onto Bottas, but instead utterly destroys him.

Put simply, I don't think Max outclassing Bottas was certainly because his car was better, but because he is better. And if it's both, I'm far more inclined to give Max the mega lion's share of the credit.

Also, in qualifying, it's again difficult to judge, but there's a fair argument to suggest Mercedes were probably a bit quicker. But it's so close that one might as well call it a tie.

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Re: Could Red Bull have been faster than Mercedes since Turkey?

Post by Alienturnedhuman »

stevey wrote:
Wed Dec 16, 2020 9:22 am
Alienturnedhuman wrote:
Wed Dec 16, 2020 8:15 am
If we update the results, to give Max wins in the races where he had incidents (Imola, Turkey and Sakhir) then the WDC looks like this:

Hamilton: 333 (-14) / 9 wins (-2)
Verstappen: 281 (+67) / 5 wins (+3)
Bottas: 218 (-5) / 2 wins (==)
Russell: 1 (-1) / 0 wins(==)

Hamilton would have been 88 points ahead of Max after Turkey, so still would have been WDC - however I think that this scoreboard more accurately reflects the reality of the situation that a combination of bad luck (Max's tyre at Imola) , freak conditions/human error (Turkey track conditions / front wing error) and racing incident (Max's retirement at Sakhir thanks to Charles) prevented us from seeing.
wouldnt really do this as its so one sided, you haven't even taken into account other race drivers misfortunes/irregularities. A previous poster has excused Max spin at turkey as a set up issue so rather than driver error or just the conditions where that slippy (pretty much everyone span at some point).

As is usual with RedBull development they come on super strong at the end but I'd say in this instance it has only been since the last race that they had a pace advantage, though I think it was smaller than it appears. Hamilton struggling to breathe meant he was underperforming and If we're comparing drivers you would compare Hamilton at his best versus Verstappen rather than Bottas whom you would compare Albons performance to.
I wasn't doing a "what if" scenario - I was saying that that would have been the probably default result - without incidents. These were achievable results and I think would have been the natural pecking order if the races had been incident free. Ie, if we ran the races 1000 times, these would be the most common outcomes.

Max shoulders some of the blame for his Turkey and Sakhir incidences: his spin behind Perez was excerbated by the wing issue, but he was also trying too hard rather than being patient and waiting for the track to come to him - which is what Hamilton did - and while Leclerc was responsible for the chain of events in Sakhir, Max had his eye on Russell in the distance and he could have avoided ending up in the barrier if he had aborted sooner.

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Re: Could Red Bull have been faster than Mercedes since Turkey?

Post by pokerman »

I think you can make a case for the cars being equal over the last 4 races with the balance slowly shifting towards Red Bull being better, certainly they could have won 3 of the last 4 races.

It kind of goes in line with Mercedes having stopped development of the car months ago whilst Red Bull carried on developing the car until the end of the season.
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Re: Could Red Bull have been faster than Mercedes since Turkey?

Post by JN23 »

pokerman wrote:
Wed Dec 16, 2020 1:41 pm
I think you can make a case for the cars being equal over the last 4 races with the balance slowly shifting towards Red Bull being better, certainly they could have won 3 of the last 4 races.

It kind of goes in line with Mercedes having stopped development of the car months ago whilst Red Bull carried on developing the car until the end of the season.
A question on the subject of Red Bull keeping on developing:

What do Red Bull gain from it? As mentioned elsewhere, Red Bull have ended the last three seasons strongly against Mercedes (and Ferrari previously) compared to their performance over the rest of the season. But then they’ve started the following season on the back foot again and by the time they get close to sorting it out, they’re out of the championship battle. Surely this season they could have packed it in earlier (similar time to Merc at Spa) and give a proper go at being close to Mercedes in March 2021.

I know there’s the argument that this season’s car is similar to next season’s - 60% I think Horner said - but I’d have thought there’s still benefit to parking this year and concentrating on next.

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Re: Could Red Bull have been faster than Mercedes since Turkey?

Post by pokerman »

JN23 wrote:
Wed Dec 16, 2020 1:52 pm
pokerman wrote:
Wed Dec 16, 2020 1:41 pm
I think you can make a case for the cars being equal over the last 4 races with the balance slowly shifting towards Red Bull being better, certainly they could have won 3 of the last 4 races.

It kind of goes in line with Mercedes having stopped development of the car months ago whilst Red Bull carried on developing the car until the end of the season.
A question on the subject of Red Bull keeping on developing:

What do Red Bull gain from it? As mentioned elsewhere, Red Bull have ended the last three seasons strongly against Mercedes (and Ferrari previously) compared to their performance over the rest of the season. But then they’ve started the following season on the back foot again and by the time they get close to sorting it out, they’re out of the championship battle. Surely this season they could have packed it in earlier (similar time to Merc at Spa) and give a proper go at being close to Mercedes in March 2021.

I know there’s the argument that this season’s car is similar to next season’s - 60% I think Horner said - but I’d have thought there’s still benefit to parking this year and concentrating on next.
Red Bull have suggested that this year there is some merit to carrying on development of the car because like you say 60% of the car remains the same, apart from that I can only see the pressure of getting results more so recently because of Honda.
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