Sebastian Vettel’s win in Belgium on Sunday was certainly good for both he and Ferrari and as this left Lewis Hamilton warning his team that they cannot bluff any longer, Mercedes did use their new spec 3 engine at Spa Francorchamps as did Ferrari.
For me, the most intriguing part of the balance of the 2018 season will be in the details. If, and I say if, Ferrari have surpassed Mercedes on power output as evidenced by the Belgian Grand Prix, there is no new engine upgrades for the balance of the year or at least no new spec 4 engine. If that’s the case, then we are seeing what the team shave in terms of power for the balance of the season. Lewis said:
“Everyone asks at press conferences, ‘who do you think is faster, you or Ferrari?’. They’ve had the pace, the upper hand on us, for some time.
“Those last two races, before here, we just did a better job with it even though they had better cars.
“But if you’re playing with a deck of cards, and you’re bluffing, there’s only a certain amount of time you can do that before your opponent realizes you are doing that.”
This means that power circuits such as Spa and Monza could certainly favor the Ferrari while Singapore and Abu Dhabi or Brazil may not. The championship is going to come down to details and what improvements Mercedes and Ferrari can make with their chassis design and aero to make the most of their spec 3 power units.
Can Mercedes claw back some of the power through making their car much more slippery through the air? Can Ferrari match the development pace of Mercedes should they find key aero efficiency gains that maximize their power output or drivability? Can Ferrari stop making errors in strategy such as Kimi low-fueled car in qualifying on Saturday or mishaps and bad timing as well as errant strategies?
We all discussed this back in June that the reality of this season is going to come down to the fine details and the two races Lewis won prior to the summer break were massive for the team and very damaging to Ferrari.
Mercedes, on balance, have been the better team with strategy and timing it right and it doesn’t hurt that you have Lewis at the wheel or Valtteri. Kimi has raised his game only to find a team who wasn’t quite ready for him to raise his game and it seemingly has caught them off guard with errors and issues on his side of the garage—“Steering Wheel”, “no drink”, no fuel, slower strategy.
If Ferrari have the upper hand, they’ll need and error-free run to Abu Dhabi in order to win the title. Mercedes and Lewis won’t be bluffing and they won’t roll over and play dead on this championship. Ferrari will need to dig deep to make best use of any power advantage they have as the teams are pretty much set for the rest of the season as far as power goes.
Hat Tip: Sky Sports F1