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F1: Why was Lewis Hamilton’s new engine so fast in Brazil and can it last?

Much was made of Lewis Hamilton’s performance to move from 10th place at the start of the Sao Paulo Grand Prix to passing main rival for the title, Max Verstappen, in dramatic fashion for a key victory.

It wasn’t just nature in the way he did it, having had to start from the back of the grid on Saturday in the sprint initially as he progressed through the weekend, but also the importance of that. The win was crucial to keeping his hopes of a record eighth world championship in his own hands.

But as always with Formula One, it doesn’t always depend on the driver. Having a superior car comes in handy and there is no question that Hamilton had a pace advantage over everyone, making him look like he was constantly hitting speed boost platforms in Mario Kart.

Lewis Hamilton celebrates winning the Sao Paulo Grand Prix ahead of Max Verstappen

Lewis Hamilton celebrates winning the Sao Paulo Grand Prix ahead of Max Verstappen

The Briton's triumph means his hopes of a record eighth world championship are still in his hands.

The Briton's triumph means his hopes of a record eighth world championship are still in his hands.

The Briton’s triumph means his hopes of a record eighth world championship are still in his hands.

It’s no secret that Hamilton had a new engine available for the race at Interlagos, but the performance he achieved surprised many in a place where Mercedes and Red Bull were suspected to be evenly matched.

There may be some chin scratch in relation to how Hamilton’s straight-line speed came the same weekend his rear wing failed for a technical infraction, leading to him having to start from the rear of the grid in the sprint.

That is a red herring though, as even once Hamilton’s car was compliant with regulations, it was still rocket around the track.

Red Bull, while still having their suspicions about the Mercedes rear wing, which they believe it flexes too much on a straight, fully admits that they don’t have enough evidence for it yet. It was the reason why Verstappen was caught tapping Hamilton’s car in the parc fermé on Friday after the Briton took pole position for the sprint race before his disqualification.

Verstappen was fined £ 43,000 for touching Hamilton's rear wing in Parc Fermé last Friday

Verstappen was fined £ 43,000 for touching Hamilton's rear wing in Parc Fermé last Friday

Verstappen was fined £ 43,000 for touching Hamilton’s rear wing in Parc Fermé last Friday

Wing could play a factor, but that would also have benefited Valtteri Bottas, who, while not as talented as Hamilton, was a long way from his Mercedes teammate’s pace over the weekend in Brazil.

In Saturday’s sprint, Hamilton’s top speed was 339 km per hour, while Bottas posted a speed of just 303.2. That’s not a case of Hamilton just being braver to get his foot on the pedal.

If we get even more technical, it could be argued that in terms of the car’s setup, Bottas was perhaps running more wings, which in essence improves the speed a car can carry around a curve through downforce, but in straight line increases resistance. and thus slows down the car.

After all, Bottas was also slower than Verstappen in a straight line, whose top speed was 317 km per hour in his Honda-powered Red Bull, which is not as fast as the Mercedes.

Hamilton's straight-line speed (left) was no match for title rivals Red Bull at Interlagos

Hamilton's straight-line speed (left) was no match for title rivals Red Bull at Interlagos

Hamilton’s straight-line speed (left) was no match for title rivals Red Bull at Interlagos

However, Red Bull boss Christian Horner alluded to how Hamilton was executing the ‘Monaco downforce levels’, which ties in with how the grand prix around Monte-Carlo requires maximum downforce with the complete sacrifice of maximum speed.

That means it couldn’t add more wings to the car, so Bottas couldn’t have been running more downforce.

A performance advantage like that points to the engine, and Horner believes Max Verstappen will be an easy target for him, stating that Hamilton was 30km per hour faster on the lap than he overtook the Dutchman in Brazil on Sunday.

Verstappen had tried to fend off the Brit early in the race with a controversial move that knocked both drivers off the track, albeit without touching them, with his apparent desperation enough to force an official complaint from Mercedes.

Horner also estimated that drivers at Interlagos needed to be within 0.4 seconds of the start of a straight to have a chance to overtake, while Hamilton had a larger 0.9-second window for a chance to advance on the countryside.

Hamilton's advantage in the straight line could benefit on the upcoming tracks, including Qatar (above), which in MotoGP has rewarded high-speed bikes like the Ducati (right) on the long straight.

Hamilton's advantage in the straight line could benefit on the upcoming tracks, including Qatar (above), which in MotoGP has rewarded high-speed bikes like the Ducati (right) on the long straight.

Hamilton’s advantage in the straight line could benefit on the upcoming tracks, including Qatar (above), which in MotoGP has rewarded high-speed bikes like the Ducati (right) on the long straight.

It explains a lot about his cargo through the pack and it will be ominous for the likes of Red Bull at this weekend’s race in Qatar, which features a great start / finish straight.

F1 cars have never raced the Losail circuit before, but an interesting comparison could come in MotoGP, where traditional high-powered bikes like Ducati have always found a lot of favor when it comes to deploying their straight-line speed advantage in the track, especially through sliding. .

The new street circuit around Saudi Arabia will also feature long straights, while Mercedes and Hamilton have always done well in the final race in Abu Dhabi, where there are two long straights capable of getting full overtaking, especially with the performance that the driver gave. Hamilton engine. in Interlagos.

But there is a twist, of course there is, that could give Verstappen and Red Bull hope in later races.

Each driver is allowed three engines per year. Hamilton’s new power unit in Brazil was fifth (related to his five-place grid penalty on Sunday). However, their previous engines were built to last 7,000km, while their new unit is supposed to only last 2,500km, reflecting that the focus is much more on speed than reliability.

Red Bull boss Christian Horner (left) is hopeful Mercedes' power advantage won't last

Red Bull boss Christian Horner (left) is hopeful Mercedes' power advantage won't last

Red Bull boss Christian Horner (left) is hopeful Mercedes’ power advantage won’t last

So there is a trade-off with Hamilton’s speed and what will become apparent in the coming weeks is that his engine performance is expected to decline rapidly.

It was already a problem with the most reliable engines. Meanwhile, Red Bull’s Honda power units, while not as fast, hold their power for much longer.

‘One of the best things about Honda PU [power unit]”said Horner,” there is virtually no decline in power throughout his life. The difference between a new one and the end of the mileage is only 0.1 seconds. It seems to be more than that in [the Mercedes].

Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff recently stated: ‘Without going into details, all the engines are degrading and we have seen that in the last few years, over 1000 km, there is a certain amount of kilowatts that the engine is running. degrading.

The Mercedes engine (above 2019) has been degrading its performance this season

The Mercedes engine (above 2019) has been degrading its performance this season

The Mercedes engine (above 2019) has been degrading its performance this season

Toto Wolff admits that the Mercedes engine experiences a drop in pace as it gains mileage

Toto Wolff admits that the Mercedes engine experiences a drop in pace as it gains mileage

Toto Wolff admits that the Mercedes engine experiences a drop in pace as it gains mileage

“Ours is degrading much more than in recent years and that increases from weekend to weekend.”

The big question now is how much will Hamilton’s new pace-packed engine degrade in the last three races?

But given Brazil’s success, it may not matter. For example, would Mercedes risk another grid penalty for even taking a high-performance sixth engine and another storm through the peloton?

One thing for sure is that Brazil’s victory is not just about the superiority of the cars: when the final comes in Abu Dhabi, Hamilton will almost certainly continue to fight Verstappen for the world championship.

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