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Vital talking points: MalGP - Mercedes error?

There is no doubt that Ferrari have closed the gap to Mercedes over the winter.

And in Malaysia Ferrari had clearly shown that in the dry and in the wet the gap was as close as it's ever been since the new era of Formula One came to pass in 2014.

In fact in all but one of the sessions on Friday and Saturday Ferrari were within half a second of Mercedes on one-lap pace.

Ahead of the Grand Prix the pre-race chatter was all about tyre strategy.

Ferrari looked like they could make both the medium and hard compound Pirelli tyres last and put themselves in a two-stop window despite the 60c on track temperatures.

Everyone else looked likely to require a three-stop strategy, whilst Red Bull Racing team principal even suggested that four-stops might be required.

In truth on the simulator there wasn't much between a two-stop and three-stop strategy, with only two seconds separating the optimum strategies over the course of the race, so many expected both Mercedes and Ferrari to run different strategies and for the Silver Arrows to once again come out on top.

But a safety car on lap four showed once again that for all of Mercedes dominance, their decisions by committee strategy came up short once again on race strategy.

Ferrari stayed out behind the safety car, taking the lead of the race and track position for Sebastian Vettel.

Mercedes pitted both Hamilton and Rosberg, stacking their drivers in order to get them off of the medium compound tyre and on to the hard.

The plan was to now switch to a two-stop strategy, for both drivers.

But with track position lost, Mercedes had handed an advantage to Ferrari and by the time Lewis Hamilton had cleared the traffic to get himself up into second place Vettel was 10 seconds clear.

Mercedes then couldn't get the hard compound tyre to last and switched back to a three-stop strategy, a strategy that could have still worked for Hamilton if he had a set of new medium tyres, which would have given him a second a lap advantage over Vettel.

Only, he didn't have a set of new medium tyres as they'd used them in qualifying a decision that Hamilton complained about over the team radio.

On the hard compound tyre Hamilton was faster than Vettel, but not by enough and that 10 seconds advantage obtained earlier in the race proved crucial as Vettel kept Hamilton at bay.

A weekend of what if's for Mercedes, if they had just stuck to a three-stop would they have beaten Ferrari? It's probably impossible to tell, but at least they wouldn't have been left questioning themselves.

'I don't know if we'd stayed out with him [during the safety car] whether they would have made a difference, They were just as good if not better on tyre degradation. It probably would have been close but after that first stop I just had too much ground to make up.

'My assumption is this weekend the heat got to us with the tyres. And I hope we pick up the pace a bit next time.'
Hamilton said post-race.

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The Journalist

Writer: Red5 Mail feedback, articles or suggestions

Date:Monday March 30 2015

Time: 11:00AM


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