If you were to have told me 6 months ago, that Mercedes would be fighting for the win, I would have laughed and told you ‘nonsense’. I also recall a vast majority of people (including myself) criticising and almost worrying about Lewis Hamilton’s decision to leave McLaren. The born and bread McLaren racer decided to leave the team during last season, and instead moved alongside his old friend and team-mate Nico Rosberg at Mercedes (replacing Michael Schumacher). At the time, this raised a lot of eyebrows and was a big debate amongst the fans of the sport, but aren’t we all feeling a little bit embarrassed now? I know I am!
To put things into perspective on how much Mercedes have improved, last year they finished the Constructors Championship in 5th place with 142 points. Now, just mid way through the season, they sit 2nd in the championship with 208 points and are just 69 points behind the leaders – Red Bull Racing. I think Mercedes could possibly be the ones to change Red Bull’s dominance, but in order to do that Nico Rosberg needs to finish ahead of Mark Webber in most of the remaining races. It’s all if’s and but’s but had Nico not had his retirements in the first two races, the gap between Red Bull and Mercedes would be very thin (obviously) but could they be the under-dogs this year?
So far this season, only 3 men have been able to put their car on pole. Lewis and Nico are two of them, and it’s no surprise when Lewis sticks it on the front row because he has the natural talent to be able to do so. It was however a surprise to a lot of people, when Nico had a consecutive pole streak from Bahrain to Monaco. I’ve watched ‘Britney’ for a few years now, and he’s always been an unrecognised talent. The win in Britain may have been down to a bit of luck, but the win in Monaco was flawless. Nico is very analytical, much like his Dad, and at a circuit like Monaco that sort of driving style works well. You have to know where the grip is, where the apex is, where you find time, all whilst narrowly missing the barriers that lurk around the whole track – one mistake and that’s it, game over. To make matters worse, Nico always had Sebastian in his mirrors, ready to take the leap if he made even the slightest of errors.
Despite his 3 retirements, Nico is ahead on points on where he was this time last year, 84 points compared to 77 so surely that means Mercedes have made a step in the right direction? Lewis Hamilton surprisingly, is also ahead on points on where he was last year, even though he’s with a different team (124 points compared with 117). Lewis is also just 48 points behind Sebastian Vettel who is currently leading the championship, but is that too much of a gap to catch up? He’d have to finish nearly every race ahead of Sebastian to get close. (An interesting piece from Autosport compared all the teams and drivers on their performances so far this season with where they were last year, read it here – http://www.autosport.com/news/report.php/id/109254)
So where has this sudden performance come from? Ignoring the tyre debate, the pace that Lewis showed during the Hungarian Grand Prix must have been a worry to the likes of Red Bull, especially if the team can keep up the good form. With a team consisting of Ross Brawn, Niki Lauda, Toto Wolff and now Paddy Lowe it’s no wonder that the team is getting ever so closer to bigger and better things. Attaining 7 pole positions in the last 10 rounds proved they have the raw pace over one lap and if they can keep momentum with consistent race pace then they could definitely be a strong title contender.
What do you think, can they do it? Can they catch Vettel and Red Bull?