The CLAT 2017 was too difficult

Sudden pursuer: why is Mercedes behind Ferrari in 2017?

( - After the third race of the 2017 Formula 1 season, Mercedes is in a role that the Silver Arrows have not known for years: the role of the pursuer. Sebastian Vettel leads the drivers 'world championship ahead of Lewis Hamilton after two victories, while Ferrari is three points ahead of Mercedes in the constructors' championship. "You were the team to beat from the start. So nothing will change for us," said Hamilton calmly. But what are the causes of the Mercedes mini crisis?

Admittedly, after one victory, three pole positions and a total of five podium places in three races, it seems a bit unfair at first glance to speak of a crisis. But in 2014 and 2016 the Silver Arrows won the first three races of the season, and in 2015 it was enough to win two. 99 points from the first three races also mean the worst start since 2013.

This is all criticism at a very high level, but the fact that Mercedes has been beaten by Ferrari for the second time this season is incontrovertible. Noticeable: In qualifying, Mercedes will remain the measure of all things in 2017. "If you look at the results, it looks like we have a small lead on one lap," said Toto Wolff.

Qualifying works, races don't ...

On Sunday, however, it seems to be much tighter this year. "It's pretty even in the race," said Wolff, referring to the balance of power between Mercedes and Ferrari. Looking back after the race in Bahrain, Hamilton also said: "I had very good pace, especially in the second and final stint." But neither could he win the race, nor did pole-setter and team-mate Valtteri Bottas.

The fact is that there was never a real duel between Vettel and Hamilton on the track on Sunday. In the first stint both almost stretched behind Bottas, later they would be on different strategies. In addition, there was the five-second penalty against Hamilton, which made life even more difficult for the runner-up. So there is no final answer to whether Ferrari was really faster or just benefited from the external circumstances.

Because at the end of the race, Hamilton was by far the fastest man in the field - also faster than Vettel. Maybe Hamilton could have won the race without the penalty and with a different strategy. But it is precisely these little things that make the difference this year. Last year Mercedes was still able to win most of the races without a perfect performance.

Ferrari takes advantage of any negligence

That doesn't seem to be possible anymore this year. Ferrari is too close for that. Toto Wolff also explains that in Bahrain "many little things" meant that Mercedes missed the victory. Among other things, there was the tire pressure problem at Bottas at the start, the safety car and the resulting penalty against Hamilton and a problem with the pit stops. "Loss of power on the impact wrench," reports Wolff.

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"I don't think we lacked racing pace," the Austrian clarifies. "Ferrari did a better job," admits Bottas. The Finn was celebrated for his pole position on Saturday, but had no chance in the race against Vettel and Hamilton, whom he had to pass in the end. "To be honest, I don't know why the pace was so bad. I know that the gap that was there (at the end; editor's note) doesn't just come from driving," says Bottas.

At the finish line, Hamilton was 13.7 seconds short of Hamilton - although he received the said penalty and was long behind Bottas. It's hard to imagine that the Finn was actually so much slower than Hamilton in the closing stages. One more thing that should pose a mystery to Mercedes. "On Tuesday everything will be worked up in the factory and consequences will be drawn," announced Niki Lauda on 'RTL'.

Decisive disadvantage with the tires?

One of the topics is definitely the tires. Ferrari seems to handle these better than the Silver Arrows this year. "Yes, absolutely," Hamilton also confirms this theory and explains: "The car is obviously good. It's all about how we use our tires in the race - especially when it's a little warmer." In Bahrain, the super-soft tires on the W08 didn't work - and not for the first time.

"I don't remember exactly what the problem was in Melbourne. I think it was more the front tires - but certainly also the rear tires. Here it was a little more at the rear, but I would say that it was similar", Hamilton draws a comparison to the season opener. Here, too, the softest mixture (at that time the Ultrasofts) went to its knees earlier than at Ferrari - which forced Hamilton to stop earlier and ultimately decided the race.

It wasn't quite that extreme in Bahrain, but it should not be a coincidence that Hamilton was the only driver in the whole field besides Felipe Massa who bet on the soft tires twice. All other pilots on a two-stop strategy only chose Soft once and Super Soft twice. In the end, Hamilton also set by far the fastest race lap on the soft tires. However, that didn't help anymore.

Mercedes actually faster than Ferrari?

By the way, Hamilton himself is very cool and explains: "It's not a setback." He thinks it's a lot more "exciting" to finally have a close fight with another team again. "The speed of Ferrari and Mercedes was the same in the race," explains Niki Lauda. "Now it's 2: 1 for Ferrari", he adds up the race victories and adds: "Now it is incredibly important for Mercedes to get that back to 2: 2, but it won't be that easy."

Because in two weeks in Russia the teams expect completely different conditions than in the desert. "Russia will be a completely different story because of the asphalt, the temperatures and the layout," explains Bottas. Although Mercedes has always won the race in Sochi since the first edition in 2014, the first races of the season show that past successes are no longer worth much this year.

The most exciting thing about the current situation is that nobody really sees the W08 in the Mercedes warehouse behind the Ferrari SF70H - on the contrary. The unanimous opinion was that they were still slightly ahead in qualifying. Nevertheless, the Italians currently lead both World Cup rankings. For the Silver Arrows, it will now be a matter of minimizing errors and getting the most out of their strong package.