Category Archives: Mercedes

HAS HAMILTON LOST HIS WAY?

By Daniel Wilson.

In the near ten years Lewis Hamilton has amazed us in Formula One, his name and the word ‘lost’ have very rarely appeared in the same sentence.

However, that seems to be the only way to describe the world champion right now after a strangely lacklustre performance in Singapore.

In many ways, Lewis was lucky to seal a spot on the podium, even if it was the bottom step, because of an aggressive strategy change from Mercedes – which of course very nearly cost the team victory.

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Nico Rosberg leads the world championship by eight points after winning in Singapore.

Nevertheless, Lewis’ lack of pace was clear as day. Managing his brakes was an issue shared with his teammate yet at times, he was slipping behind his rival by nearly a second a lap.

And in the last stint, the Red Bull of Daniel Ricciardo was able to pull away comfortably even when on the same tyre.

So, why then has Lewis seemingly lost his way?

Well, the answer isn’t staring anyone in the face. One reason that may explain the Singapore result at least is the fact that Lewis had no long run setup time because of a hydraulic problem which forced him to sit out most of second practice.

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Daniel Ricciardo was arguably one lap away from victory last weekend.

However, with Hamilton’s experience in missing occasional long runs throughout his career and the fact that Nico had completed the session, the loss of track time shouldn’t have affected the Englishman’s form the way it did.

But can ‘lost’ be left in Singapore? Well, when you look at the bigger picture – perhaps so.

Cast your minds back to the race previous. Yes, Nico won, but it was gifted to him by Lewis’ poor start – which he himself is unclear as to why it was so bad. But until the lights went out on Sunday, Hamilton was in total control at Monza – taking pole position by almost half a second.

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Lewis Hamilton fought back from sixth to second at the Italian Grand Prix.

And the week prior to that, Lewis’ determination and some luck saw him climb up from 21st place to third – a result even Nico could hardly believe.

So, maybe all those Hamilton fans shouldn’t be panicking. Yet. Remember, in the last two years, some of the upcoming tracks are circuits where Lewis has outperformed Nico – Malaysia, Japan and Austin.

But two things seem certain – momentum is firmly with Nico and Lewis needs to find an answer fast; and it also seems this title fight will be decided under the lights in Abu Dhabi – no complaints from me!

 

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IS NICO STILL THE TITLE FAVOURITE?

By Daniel Wilson.

At the end of April, we were all talking about Nico Rosberg as the man who can’t stop winning, but more recently, it seems he can. From 43 points up after his seventh consecutive race win in Russia, the Mercedes driver has been struggling and has seen his lead wiped out by teammate Lewis Hamilton – who now stands 19 points clear at the top.

In fact, Nico has only won one race in the last seven Grands Prix as his rival took the chequered flag in Monaco, Canada, Austria, Silverstone, Hungary and most recently Rosberg’s home race in Germany. So, is he still the favourite to win this year’s championship?

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Nico won the first four races of the season to open a commanding title lead.

The truth is the answer is more complex than many would think when you glance over the title standings as F1 goes into it’s mid-season summer break.

But nobody would criticise you for saying the odds have shifted in Hamilton’s favour. The defending champion said he has surprised himself by how quickly things have turned around.

It all goes back to Barcelona, and we all know what happened there. The epic first-lap collision between Hamilton and Rosberg was arguably the lowest point of Lewis’ miserable season. But it was here where the reset button was pressed, and psychologically it seems to have affected Nico.

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Nico and Lewis’ collision in Spain was ruled a ‘racing incident’.

In the next race in Monaco, Rosberg played the gentleman role by letting his teammate through to give his team the best chance of winning the race, but the then championship leader continued falling down the order because of a lack of confidence in the car in the changeable conditions.

In Canada, he suffered at the hands of his teammate when Lewis stuck his elbows out at the start, leaving Rosberg to recover once more. But, we saw a rare mistake from the German when trying to pass Max Verstappen in the closing stages – the sign of a driver under increasing pressure?

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Nico Rosberg span at the final chicane after passing Max Verstappen.

If so, that pressure was lifted in Baku as he took his fifth win of the season, but that was handed to him in qualifying when Hamilton crashed into the wall. Up to that point, it was looking close.

Then came a packed July. Four races in five weekends, and no doubt a month to forget for Nico. He’s had every opportunity to eclipse his teammate but has failed. Whether it be a brainless last lap collision in Austria or poor getaways in both Hungary and Germany, he has not carried over his pace from qualifying into the race and has been on the receiving end of stewards penalties too.

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Rosberg made a poor getaway from pole position and finished fourth.

Much of the reason Nico is in this position now is down to human error. Despite a gearbox change and a subsequent grid drop in Austria, reliability hasn’t been an issue but his race-craft has. However, despite trailing his rival by 19 points, all is not lost.

Lewis Hamilton knows he’s still facing a tough fight as a result of his problems at the start of the season. We are expecting him to take two new engines in Spa or Monza, which means he will start at the back of the grid. This will be a golden chance for Rosberg to not only claw back points but swing the momentum back in his court.

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Lewis Hamilton has faced an uphill battle since the first race in Australia.

Add to that the final races in Mexico, Brazil and Abu Dhabi that he dominated last year, the Mercedes man is still very much in the hunt for his first world championship.

 

WOULD TEAM ORDERS WORK AT MERCEDES?

By Daniel Wilson.

Yes, unfortunately, those two dreaded words have been dragged out the dirt in Formula One again. The latest collision between the two Mercedes drivers at the weekend’s Austrian Grand Prix forced team principal Toto Wolff to slam the possibility of team orders on the table.

Nico Rosberg was held responsible for crashing into Lewis Hamilton on the last lap in Spielberg as the German tried to defend his lead going into Turn 2. But his over-aggressive defence left the championship leader with egg on his face, as he lost his front wing, handing the win to his rival and losing out to the Red Bull and Ferrari of Verstappen and Raikkonen to limp home fourth.

Nico Rosberg’s mistake means his championship lead is down to 11 points.

Despite blaming Hamilton for the accident, who received a frosty reception from fans on the podium, the stewards handed Rosberg a ten second penalty for causing a collision and two points on his licence.

However, the pair’s latest coming together has forced a re-think in Brackley over Mercedes’ decision to let the two race freely.

This is the second time this season that they have clashed. In May, Hamilton and Rosberg took each other out on the first lap of the Spanish Grand Prix. And while Austria wasn’t as bad, the collision and the potential consequences could cast a real cloud over the rest of the season, but will team orders work?

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The double DNF in Barcelona was ruled a racing incident.

My guess is no. Down the years teams have tried to control their drivers for the sake of the constructors title, but they’ve not always listened, and Mercedes are no exception.

At the Hungarian Grand Prix two years ago, Hamilton was asked by the team to move over for Rosberg who was on a different strategy, but he didn’t, and that was crucial to ensure Lewis finished ahead of his teammate.

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Hands tied: Toto Wolff has to decide between the image of his team and the image of the sport.

In 2013, Nico was told not to attack Lewis at the Malaysian Grand Prix, and while the order was obeyed, there was clear frustration from the German and a desire to ignore the instruction.

That race was also memorable for Red Bull. Multi 21-gate exploded here when Sebastian Vettel ignored team orders not to attack Mark Webber in the final stint.

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“Multi 21!” Sebastian Vettel ignores team orders and overtakes Mark Webber to win in Sepang.

The problem Mercedes have, even if, god forbid, team orders are brought in, is that they have such an advantage that more often than not, it’s between their drivers as to who wins and who comes second.

And so, with  both Hamilton and Rosberg competing in their home races over the coming weeks, team orders would both be stupid, unpopular, and in Lewis’ words, would ‘rob’ us of a titanic battle for this year’s championship.

Are team orders a good idea? Let us know below:

Does F1 need Mercedes?

By Daniel Wilson.

The weekend’s Spanish Grand Prix was one of the most dramatic and exciting for a long time, and it was largely because of what happened between the two Mercedes team-mates on the first lap.

Hamilton and Rosberg’s calamitous crash at turn four meant we were set for the first Grand Prix without a Mercedes since their dominance began two years ago, and so does this raise the question as to whether the sport needs the team?

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The crash between Hamilton and Rosberg was considered a ‘racing incident’ by the stewards.

It’s no secret that Formula One has been labelled ‘boring’ lately, and much of that is down to one team dominating. Mercedes have won 36 of the last 43 races since the V6 turbo era began in 2014, and have subsequently taken back to back driver and constructor championships. Only Daniel Ricciardo and Sebastian Vettel have kept Mercedes off the top step of the podium in that time, but yesterday a new star emerged.

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The last time the two Mercedes came together was at Spa in 2014.

After the Silver Arrows beached themselves in the gravel, Red Bull were in a position they used to call home. Ricciardo led from his new teammate Max Verstappen, with home-boy Carlos Sainz in third in the sister Toro Rosso.

But the battle soon emerged between the Red Bull’s and the Ferrari’s, and two conflicting strategies meant we had four cars and no idea what order any of them would finish in.

However, unless you’ve been living under a rock in the last 24 hours, you’ll know F1 has a new star in the shape of Max Verstappen, who at 18 years old, became the youngest ever GP winner and the first Dutchman to stand on the top step of the podium in Barcelona.

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Max Verstappen replaced Sebastian Vettel as the youngest ever race winner – 18 years, 227 days.

Verstappen, who was making his debut for Red Bull in Barcelona after the demotion of Daniil Kvyat, ran a set of medium tyres for 32 laps and held off a persistent Kimi Raikkonen to claim Red Bull’s first win since Belgium two years ago.

But Sebastian Vettel and Daniel Ricciardo were left wondering why their team had given the then number two drivers a quicker two-stop strategy, leaving them third and fourth at the chequered flag.

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Daniel Ricciardo’s chances of a podium finish were ruined by a puncture on the penultimate lap.

However, it proved how good F1 can be when there is a level playing field, and unfortunately, it’s taken the unthinkable for Mercedes to silence F1’s critics.

Formula One does need Mercedes, because they are a part of the sport’s history that stretches back to the 1950’s. Sadly, they, like any other team in their position, are not going to stop striving for success, so it’s up to Ferrari and Red Bull to take on the mighty Merc’s even when they remain on track.

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The Monaco Grand Prix in two weeks should serve up a treat.

And who knows, with developments in the pipeline and tracks like Monaco coming our way, those two might be about to join the party. Well, that’s the hope!