Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel got off to a strong start at the 2016 Australian Grand Prix, jumping both Mercedes-Benz’s Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg and taking the lead before Turn 1. Kimi Raikonnen was also able to get a good start and capitalized on a mistake from both Mercedes drives in Turn 1 to take second, so what’s the secret to their performance when the lights go out?
According to Motorsport, the secret could lie with Ferrari’s new steering wheel. The team changed its clutch paddle configuration for this year, using just one ‘rocker’ clutch paddle instead of double paddles like every other team on the grid. The reasons for the change are unclear, but it’s reasonable to assume they would not make such a dramatic design revision if it didn’t offer a performance advantage.
One assumption is the single clutch paddle gives the driver a better feel for the clutch bite point. Ferrari is also known for having good race start engine mapping, so factor in these two technological advantages and you’re left with two Ferraris pulling away at the race start despite starting from the second row of the grid.
Mercedes will likely be studying why Ferrari was able to jump them on the start and will be working to ensure it doesn’t happen at next month’s Bahrain Grand Prix. Mercedes’ executive director Paddy Lowe said their poor start in Australian cannot be narrowed down to one factor, but was instead the result of a number of different elements.
“There’s not some single disaster that went on that we need to go analyse,” Lowe told Motorsport.
“I think it was probably a number of things combining to create some fairly poor starts. You have to say the objective of the regulation change, or reinterpretation in fact, is to make the starts more variable.”