Cold Fussion wrote:Perhaps, but you have to consider that how much power you have translates into how much down force you can run before you turn into a sitting duck on the straights. Red Bull have been running very low amounts of wing for most of the year in order to cope with their power deficit. I agree that the Red Bull chassis is over hyped and it's hard to believe that even with Mercedes power levels they would be much better like some claim.
IMO this is the crucial point. how much power translates into how much down force you can run
Downforce costs power. The more downforce you run, the more friction your car generates. Friction (downforce) is good (to a degree) because it lets you go quicker through corners, but the side effect is, it'll hurt you on the straights. There's a fine line in how much downforce you want to run vs. the top speed/acceleration you can achieve. An extreme example; A car with minimum downfoce will murder the same car with maximum downforce settings on the long straights, but in the corners, the opposite will be true. Essentially, every track is different; Some tracks have more, longer straights relative to high and low downforce corners and some tracks are the other way around. Optimally, every track requires a different 'optimal setting'. A track like Monza with long straights would mandate lower downforce setting for the optimal lap time, where as at a track like Barcelona more downforce at a cost of top-speed and acceleration is better. This is all assuming a single car with fixed performance with a.) maximum and b.) minimum downforce configuration.
If we extend the above example to two cars with similar aero, one with N
% more power (it's just an example to highlight the hypothesis), obviously the car with more power will be at a clear advantage. Why? Because the car with more power can run more downforce and still be as quick as the other car on the straights and be faster in the corners because it is effectively running in a higher downforce configuration. And on the straights, it's as quick because the N
% power advantage is traded-off for more downforce. So even if it's running more downforce, the added friction it causes is equalized by the more power it has.
RedBull in the last 4 years (prior to 2014) has been in a very good position. The V8 engines were all more or less equalized (similar power, give or take), but RedBull had distinct advantages which allowed them to run more downforce. They were never the quickest car on the straights, but clearly very fast in the corners, especially medium to high downforce corners where the car showed its key strength. Because they were effectively the fastest car, running in front enabled them to play that key strength and drive off into the distance. Vettel, who mostly qualified on pole, did this time and time again. Webber, who, coppled with notoric bad starts, ended up in traffic which is where the key characteristics of his car (fast in the corners, slower on the straights) proved trouble-some. It's also IMO why Webber always seemed more 'ordinary' compared to his team-mate who just disappeared into the distance.
Now, 2014 - we have the situation that the engines have become huge differentiating factors. The Mercedes PU is by far the strongest package. We can only speculate over the power disadvantage both the Ferrari and the Renault engines have. If this is anything but remotely accurate, then even a RedBull with the strongest chassis will have to run their car with a compromised setup
. Actually, *any* car not at the front is running a slightly compromised setup. They all do. Because only the front running car(s) can set themselves up to achieve the perfect trade-off between compromised top-speed vs. optimal downforce levels, because they rarely run in traffic and don't have to overtake. So, even if you have the best chassis on the grid, if you are at a disadvantage powerwise, you need to compromise. Being in traffic, means you need good enough topspeed on the straights to either overtake or defend and that comes at a cost; meaning you are going to go with less downforce overal which will hurt you in the corners. There's no point in seting up your car for the 'quickest laptime your car can achieve on a given track' if you are going to be stuck behind a 'slower car (per lap)' but is quicker on the crucial straights where it's easiest to overtake.
I believe the Mercedes car this year is very very good, not only on the undisputed PU front, but also chassis. But being able to have a more powerful PU has its advantages and IMO is slightly distorting the picture on how good the chassis actually is, especially relative to the RedBull who I think is clear have been running a compromised set-up all year. What is clear is that Mercedes certainly have the best chassis among the Mercedes powered cars. But compared to the RedBull? There's no way to effectively compare them fairly. As explained above; downforce costs power. And if you are lacking power, it limits your options in regards to what kind of a downforce coniguration you'll be running relative to the cars with a stronger PU. Having a stronger PU has lots of advantages; in the specific example of the Mercedes, you can run more downforce while still holding a reasonable power advantage on the straights. The results is, your car will likely be stronger in all areas of the track; the straights and especially medium to high downforce corners. And downforce is important, especially in regards to the tyres.
The larger the power differential is between these engines, the bigger the need to compromise your set-up in order to remain competitive over the entire length of a track, especially when you are running in traffic and need to tackle not getting eaten for breakfast on the straights but not compromise it too far in a way that it'll make you too vulnerable in the medium to high downforce corners of the track.
RedBull has performed reasonably well at the high downforce tracks this year; and especially those where mechanical grip is important. But again; a car with a distinct PU advantage can run a higher downforce mode at all times, especially also the high downforce tracks. Which is IMO precisely why the Mercedes has been practically unbeatable at every single track this year.
Williams with the Mercedes PU has also had a good year, but it's pretty clear that their car isn't as aero sophisticated as the Mercedes, running less downforce. The result; they've been often quicker on the straights (speed traps), but slower in the corners and crucially, worse in tyre wear. In regards to RedBull, I'm convinced their chassis is very very good - to the point, I wouldn't be surprised if they actually still have the strongest one on the grid - they just haven't been able to show it (relative to the Mercedes). If the PU gap narrows, I expect them to be very competitive next year. That PU gap will be very crucial IMO and to me proves that there currently is/was a rather large existing difference in power between them this season.