Formula 1 Racing

How realistic is Hamilton’s claim Red Bull are 1.5 seconds faster than Mercedes? · RaceFans

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Bahrain International Circuit, 2023

Lewis Hamilton gave a grim assessment of how far Mercedes are lagging behind rivals Red Bull ahead of the second round of the world championship this weekend.

The team is no closer to the front than it was 12 months ago, said Hamilton, and reigning world champions Red Bull have pulled further ahead. While Mercedes has cut its deficit in terms of straight-line speed, they are losing too much time in the corners.

“Last year we were very draggy,” Hamilton explained. “We were struggling, not only on the straights, we had to take a much bigger wing. But we were equalling, or if not, losing in the corners as well.

“This year. It’s mostly through the corners. I think down the straights we’re quick. But on exits, these guys have a lot of rear end through the majority of the corners.”

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Bahrain International Circuit, 2023
Mercedes were left well behind in Bahrain

Hamilton finished fifth in the season-opening race while Red Bull swept to a one-two, with an Aston Martin and a Ferrari separating Mercedes from the dominant winners.

“I think in the race they weren’t pushing,” Hamilton admitted. “So I think they’re a lot quicker than they even seemed. But we have it as them being a second and a half faster in the race per lap, something like that.”

Could Mercedes really be that far behind Red Bull? Hamilton and George Russell qualified six-tenths of a second off pole-winner Verstappen, so a one-and-a-half second deficit in the race would be almost twice as much.

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Red Bull’s victory in Bahrain was all the more emphatic because the RB19s were able to run two stints on the soft tyres and one on hards. They therefore spent longer on the quickest rubber than Mercedes, Ferrari and Aston Martin, all of which had to use the hards for two stints.

Hamilton was only one the same rubber as Verstappen for the first dozen laps, where both were on softs, and the final 21, when they were on hards. During the latter stint, Hamilton’s hard tyres were already six laps old when Verstappen put his on. This was also the point in the race where Verstappen had least incentive to drive flat-out, as he had a 10-second cushion over team mate Sergio Perez in second place.

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On the soft rubber, Hamilton initially lost over a second per lap to Verstappen. When the degradation started to bite, this crept up to almost two seconds until he pitted. Mercedes simply could not make the C3 soft compound last on the rough…

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