Qatar Speed Trap: Who is the fastest of them all?

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With overtaking opportunities expected to be few and far between at the Losail International Circuit on Sunday, straight-line speed in Qatar will once again be an important factor, but perhaps not as much as balance and set-up.

However, the track's blend of medium and high-speed corners really puts the emphasis on balance, and to that end, Mercedes appears to have the best compromise and a clear edge over Red Bull.

Top velocity was the topic du jour in Brazil, with everyone absolutely mesmerized by Lewis Hamilton's straight-line speed at Interlagos.

The velocity delta across the finish line in qualifying at Sao Paulo between the Briton and championship contender Max Verstappen was 7.7 km/h.

That difference has been reduced to 3.4 km/h at Losail, with Hamilton breezing through the speed trap as the 13th fastest car while Max was 19th fastest, which suggests that Red Bull is in the vicinity of Mercedes in terms of maximum speed in Qatar.

As usual, the low downforce competitors, or those who lack downforce - namely Haas and Alfa - were quickest on the straight.

After qualifying, Red Bull team boss Christian Horner - who believes that Mercedes has been exploiting a flexing trick on the rear wing of its W12 - suggested that the FIA's new experimental rear wing load tests in Qatar have encouraged the Brackley squad to "peg back" its aero advantage.

"I think their straightline speed has come down a bit," said Horner on Saturday. "It looks very similar to our straightline speed now, which is good to see."

However, the key to Mercedes and Hamilton's edge at Losail looks to be the W12's superior balance and the way the car has been set up relative to Red Bull's RB16B.

The flexible wing saga between F1's two top teams may have reached its peak in Brazil.

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