Red Bull’s supersoft start advantage against Mercedes could be worth as much as 12 metres on the run to the first corner of the Mexican Grand Prix, reckons Williams performance chief Rob Smedley.
Mercedes and Red Bull have split tyre strategies for the Mexican GP, with the world champions opting to start on the softs while its Milton Keynes-based rivals will begin the race on the supersofts.
One of the key advantages on being on the supersoft is that it should allow Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen to make a better getaway – with Smedley suggesting his team’s data shows there is an opportunity for both men to leapfrog to the front.
“It is 900 metres down to the first corner, so everything you usually see between the different compounds is exaggerated,” explained Smedley, whose own drivers are starting on the supersoft.
“So, depending on if you make a good start with a supersoft and [your rival is] at the lower end of the range with the soft – we see up to 12 metres, which is an easy pass. You are past cars before you get to the braking zone.”
Ricciardo says that one of the lessons of last weekend’s United States Grand Prix – where he got past Nico Rosberg thanks to a supersoft start advantage – is that he has to make the most of the opportunity given to him.
“The lesson is try to make it work off the start. That is where we should get the gain,” he said. “I don’t think it worked too bad in Austin. We feel that the deg is pretty similar here, like Austin.
“We don’t feel we can do 15 laps on the supersoft. We are in a similar boat. The way I see it is, if it is a two-stop, then all we are really giving us is a faster tyre to start the race, so I don’t see it being a bad thing.
“If Mercedes are able to go really long on the soft and do a comfortable one-stop, then okay, maybe their strategy works out best. But if we all fall into a two-stop strategy, I think ours doesn’t look too bad.”
Ricciardo did not believe that gaining as much as 12 metres was automatic, but he reckoned there was potential to grab at least one position.
“The estimated grip level it gains if you do a perfect start, it should give you one grid position,” he said.
“So if Mercedes do the perfect start and we do the perfect start, it should put me one spot closer – a few metres closer – and ideally that just puts me in that position to really get a good slipstream.
“Once you do say 200 metres, it is more the slipstream that takes over, as opposed to what tyre you are on. So probably that first 100-200 metres [is important] - and then it is finding a friend down the straight to help you.”