This side-by-side comparison video of two pole laps from Melbourne shows that things haven’t really come very far in 12 years… or have they?
The video popped up on Reddit recently, and gives a good illustration of how closely matched the two cars are (in qualifying trim at least).
On the left, Hamilton’s pole lap from the 2016 Australian GP in the Mercedes W07. On the right, Schumacher’s pole lap from the 2004 Australian GP in the Ferrari F2004. The modern car is quicker, but only just – Schumacher’s time would have put him third on the grid in 2016.
In a sport that prides itself on being the fastest and at the forefront of technical innovation, going just a few tenths quicker over the space of 12 years (and remember, they had to qualify with race fuel in 2004) isn’t very impressive, is it?
Actually, it is. The Ferrari was much lighter, and it enjoyed the benefits of unlimited testing and Bridgestone tyres tailor-made for the car. The Mercedes engine – sorry, ‘power unit’ – develops a similar amount of horsepower, but thanks to the hybrid element uses a lot less fuel in the process. It has more torque, but drivers don’t have the benefit of traction control. The various engine and gearbox components have to last for five or six weekends; in the Ferrari they barely had to last a session.
That’s definitely impressive – and remember in 2017 the cars will be much, much faster – but is it more exciting? That’s still somewhat undecided. One thing is for sure though – those V10s were loud!