Mercedes’ director of digital engineering Geoff Willis played down the difference between his team and the arch rival Italian squad Ferrari, suggesting that the two squads are almost evenly matched.
Recent engine developments prompted suggestions that Ferrari might have overpowered Mercedes in terms of engine performance. Mercedes’ team chief Toto Wolff and Lewis Hamilton have indicated multiple times recently that Ferrari has the upper hand in peak engine performance according to their telemetry data.
The Italians introduced their second-specification engine for the Canadian Grand Prix and made electronics changes to the power unit in two races’ time later in Austria. Mercedes debuted its second-spec PU in the French GP following concerns about its reliability. Both teams, then, brought their third- and final power unit in Belgium.
Ferrari locked out the front row in last weekend’s Italian GP where Kimi Räikkönen’s pole position time was the fastest ever lap with a Formula One machine in terms of average speed. This prompted Lewis Hamilton to claim after the qualifying session that Ferrari’s SF71H was gaining all its advantage on the straight of the 5.793-long Monza road course.
However, Mercedes’ Geoff Willis downplayed the assessment of the team’s driver.
"Clearly with the two top runners, they are neck and neck on power. They [the engines] have got different characteristics and different deployment potential around the circuits. The cars do behave differently and there is quite a lot of noise on the [data] signal,” the 58-year-old said.
Willis, who studied engineering at the University of Cambridge and completed a PhD in aerodynamics at the University of Exeter, suggested that the tyre behaviour is what usually turn out to be the differentiator of performance between the almost evenly matched teams.
"But if you take the underlying relative performance of the two cars in terms of who has got the upper hand, it is quite tricky to say at the moment. If you look at the gaps we are seeing, a lot of them are dominated by tyre characteristics," he is quoted as saying by autosport.com.