How Honda lost six tenths per lap to Mercedes in Russia


During the Russian Grand Prix, when Max Verstappen was on his way to second place behind Valtteri Bottas, the Red Bull fans heard a disturbing message on the on-board radio. Gianpiero Lambiase, the Dutchman’s race engineer, told his driver that he lost more than six tenths of a second on the straights to his Mercedes rivals.

A staggeringly large gap, which seems to confirm that the Mercedes power unit is still by far the best in motorsport’s premier class. Honda’s backlog seems huge, but Red Bull team boss Christian Horner explains why the Japanese engine supplier’s backlog in Russia distorted.

“We knew it was going to be difficult here,” the Briton explains RacingNews365. “However, what had a big effect on the difference between Honda and Mercedes here in Sochi is that we suffered from clipping.”

What is that, clipping? The English term is used to describe what happens when a car no longer has access to the extra energy that is generated with the help of heat (via the MGU-H) and kinetic energy (via the MGU-K), because these are simply is on.

In Russia, Red Bull had to deal with this because of the two long straights. That does not necessarily have to be a problem, but because of the many fast and angled turns, which hardly require braking, less energy can be generated during a lap on the Sochi Autodrom than on many other circuits. The Mercedes engine apparently copes better with this.

At the end of the straights, Verstappen was therefore about 160 hp short. According to Horner, the characteristics of the circuit thus distorted the real gap between Honda and Mercedes.

“I think the proportions were a bit skewed due to the difference in energy recovery. But we already knew that before we came here. That is why it would always be a challenging race for Red Bull,” said the team principal of Verstappen and Albon.

With the cooperation of Dieter Rencken.

Verstappen, the ideal sportsman, got everything out of his car in Russia. Everything about his weekend, the do-not-penalty for Lewis Hamilton and the ‘winning’ Bottas discuss Tom Coronel, Ruud Dimmers and host Thomas van Groningen in the latest episode of the RacingNews365 F1 podcast, which can be heard below.

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