Bahrain FP2 Analysis: Mercedes higher engine mode than rivals

Jaden Diaz
29 Feb, 2024

The first day of free practice in Bahrain ended with a Mercedes one-two, .The in-form W15, especially on the flying lap. However, they also showed strong race pace, especially with Lewis Hamilton. His teammate, George Russell, had to work more on the setup to find the feeling with his car.

Red Bull seemed fastest again, especially in long runs. However, we also saw a competitive McLaren capable of maintaining a constant pace, something that Aston Martin struggled with.

Ferrari confirmed the positive. sensations from the tests. They still have potential in their pocket, especially regarding their engine mode.

Ferrari and Red Bull are still keeping their Power Units at rest and are not revealing their cards

Those who kept something more in their pocket are undoubtedly the Maranello and Milton Keynes teams. The RB20 confirmed itself as a balanced car across the various sections of the track.

The car designed by Adrian Newey and Pierre Waché showed its usual efficient load with an improvement in the slow corners and the usual speed on the straight, even if it suffered more than it should have from the wind present today in Bahrain.

Max Verstappen showed a high level of consistency in his race pace, which puts him at the top of the list of favourites for Saturday’s Grand Prix.

The advantage would amount to around three-tenths per lap over the closest rivals: Ferrari and Mercedes.

Mercedes’ W15 has taken an important step forward since testing, showing that it could challenge Ferrari in the role of second force.

The SF-24, on the other hand, confirmed its good driveability and consistency in long runs, with some limitations in the flying lap.

In fact, the new platform still suffers a little in tight radius curves and still struggles a bit in slow curves.

However, there is still a lot of potential to be extracted from the SF-24, especially at the Power Unit level, which has never been raised at any time of the day.

Another important factor is the difference in mapping (power) compared to the long runs covered during the tests, where the drive unit was used in a much more aggressive manner and closer to what we will see next Saturday.

There was no need today after the data was collected, considering that the current power unit will have to last many more kilometres than the one used last week.

Similar to testing, Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc are using a slightly different set-up, with the Monegasque having a slightly lower level of downforce than the Spaniard. In the long run, Red Bull recorded the best simulations, while Ferrari confirmed its consistency and positive tyre management in the long run.

Mercedes one step ahead of the tests, McLaren and Aston Martin – in their own way – confirm themselves

Three of the four Mercedes-powered cars showed good pace, albeit with different strengths.

The Mercedes unit – compared to Ferrari and Red Bull – has shown its potential a little more. It ran slightly more advanced mappings, both with the parent company and at Aston Martin.

The W15 was able to do a double in the second free practice by taking advantage of a small horsepower advantage, remembering that 10 HP in Bahrain is worth three-tenths.

However, Hamilton and Russell showed encouraging signs, hitting the operating window on high-fuel runs.

George Russell started the afternoon with a set-up that was far too low. This initially caused bottoming problems.

As the day progressed, he managed to close the gap slightly to his teammate.

The W15 showed good speed in slow corners. They are at a similar level to Red Bull level and better than Ferrari. Admittedly, they lose some time in the high-speed corners.

McLaren’s MCL38 appears to share many of the same characteristics as last season’s car. It excels on the high-speed sections but struggles in the straights and low-speed corners.

However, the tyre management of the MCL38 seemed very good, with positive long runs for Lando Norris and Oscar Piastri. The papaya duo showed good pace and consistency, with times not too far off those of Ferrari and Mercedes.

For now, Aston Martin is proving to be a fast car over a single lap. This was also helped by a more advanced mapping compared to Red Bull and Ferrari.

Still, the AMR24 seems to suffer slightly more with tyre degradation.

Authors: Paolo D’Alessandro , Piergiuseppe Donadoni & Giuliano Duchessa

Translation: Jaden Diaz-Ndisang