On qualifying alone, Red Bull seemed to have the better of Mercedes ahead of the Bahrain Grand Prix but there are many factors in that equation. On Sunday during the race, Red Bull and Mercedes had very little between them and it does bring to mind the occasional narrative from certain journalists who attended the pre-season testing. They mentioned that Red Bull looked quicker but on long-run simulations, Mercedes may still have a slight advantage.
Is that what we saw in Bahrain on Sunday? Was Mercedes quick enough on long runs to use the early stop strategy and put Red Bull on their back foot in chase mode? Again, there are a lot of factors in that equation.
As for Honda, the are looking at just how aggressive they can be with this year’s power unit. While you have to race on the engine mode you qualify on, there may be a chance to run the entire weekend more aggressive or find better ways to deploy stored energy.
Honda’s F1 technical director Toyoharu Tanabe says they are looking at many options.
“We will review and consider this data,” said Tanabe.
“We need to see how much the power unit has been exhausted in this race, and we will then use it according to the characteristics of each circuit in the future.
“We plan to verify whether this usage was optimal. Basically, I think that it can be used without problems, but I plan to think about what I should do to use it properly in the future.”
In may ways, the true pace of both teams may not really be revealed until we have. Handful of varying tracks under our belt. Now Honda and Red Bull have the data on those tracks and they may already have a good idea of how they will perform but all of us at home don’t and it will take a few races to expose strengths and weaknesses.
If at Bahrain both teams were on par with each other, will that remain the same at Spa Francorchamps, Monza, Imola, Hungaroring, Austria or Silverstone? Time will tell but it will be interesting what Honda chooses to do based on the forensics they uncover with the first engine used at Bahrain.
Can they run more aggressive, will that have an impact on reliability or longevity of the engine (which runs the risk of grid penalty if they use more than three power units) and if they do, will they be markedly quicker than Mercedes who are most likely going through the same exercise?