Mercedes to make a comeback? What the data predicts for China 2024

Pablo Hidalgo
Mercedes' W15

It may have been five years since the last race but there is still some data to chew over.

China returns for the first time in five years and with it, teams are stepping into the relative unknown but there are some patterns we can spot going into the race.

China 2019 was not one that lived long in the memory and almost every parameter has changed since then but we have still picked out some insights.

Mercedes at the peak of their powers for F1’s 1,000th race

Additional reporting by Sam Cooper

The 2019 edition of this race happened to be the 1,000th grand prix in F1 history but aside from that, there was little else noteworthy.

Mercedes’ dominance was so overwhelming and the only positive side for the race was a great Alex Albon comeback starting from the pit lane to reach the points positions by stretching a long first stint with the soft and going for a one stop.

And from a positive point of view as things stand in 2024, the gap to the fastest team has reduced by 0.725s which means we are heading in the right direction. Comparing the ideal lap times in China 2019 with the last calculated for the Japanese 2024, we see a very close mid pack but still, a single-team monopoly in classification with Max Verstappen looking for five consecutive poles this year.

We have slower cars than in 2019 but a major show for the fans all around the world, so perhaps this is the way forward…

Two stops should be the norm but one stop can have big gains

A look at the data from 2019 shows that while the majority of drivers opted for a two-stop strategy, those that were bold and went for a one-stop were rewarded.

As we can see comparing the boxplot and the strategy graph, the one-stopper was very much successful allowing Daniel Ricciardo, Sergio Perez, Kimi Raikkonen and Albon to secure the ‘best of the rest’ places against the two-stoppers with a slightly better race pace overall.

Teams heading into the unknown after 2022 changes

Speaking of tyres, they are just one major change since the 2019 race as 2022 saw bigger cars, a rethink of ground effect and simplified bargeboard cars with 18 inch wheels.

What this means is that teams can run all the simulations they want but until they get out there, they will not know for sure how the car will react to the track.

The Shanghai circuit has also been recently resurfaced making it even more difficult for the teams and a threat of rain could spoil the sole hour of practice they get.

Pirelli meanwhile are bringing the same range of tyre compounds as 2019 with the C2 as the hard, C3 as the medium and C4 as the soft tyre.

The tyre manufacturers say that the Shanghai circuit falls into the “medium category” of tyre wear with the left hand side of the car weighing the most.

Provided by Pirelli

Mercedes could shine in circuit more favourable to their car

If Mercedes could draw up a circuit that would work to the W15’s benefits, it would not look too dissimilar from China.

The Silver Arrows are unlikely to bother Red Bull or even Ferrari this weekend but they could move ahead of McLaren who are predicting a poor weekend.

The W15 loves slow corners and while they are not the quickest in the straight, they should make up good ground in the corners.

Whether they can outpace McLaren for the whole race remains to be seen but quali should be interesting.

Read next: Five big questions ahead of the return of the Chinese Grand Prix