The once uber dominant champions of Formula One who won a world record eight consecutive team titles are a mere shadow of their former selves. Mercedes re-wrote the rule book on how to win between 2014 and 2021 but now have claimed just one victory in nearly two years of racing.
To understand the rot in any organisation, you have to start from the ground up. Winning a just one Grand Prix is about getting every detail nailed together with a little luck and the Brackley based F1 team have lost the plot.
Mercedes woeful stats
This season Mercedes have not recorded a single fastest pit at any race. In comparison, Red Bull have eight, and Ferrari and McLaren have five apiece, and McLaren created a new world record in Qatar with their 1.8 second remarkable tyre change for Lando Norris.
Hamilton hasn’t won a race for nearly two years and Mercedes only Grand Prix win was by their newbie George Russell at the 2022 Sao Paulo Grand Prix.
“We’ve got to have the package, not only the car but we’ve got to be operating better in our pit stops,” Hamilton said after the latest debacle in COTA.
“There’s so many areas we’ve got to be levelling up to match the champions.”
Wolff admits ‘joke’ mentality
Forget the McLaren world record, Mercedes failed to change Lewis Hamilton’s tyres in under three seconds at the US GP. His stops were recorded at 3.6s and 3.4s during the race in COTA, while Max Verstappen’s best was a mere 2.5s.
F1 History as shown that even with the best car, if the team are not motivated or capable of delivering in the detail during a race weekend, then they are doomed to failure.
Team boss Toto Wolff made a schooling admission after the COTA race stating: “Our mindset in the last 12 years, we don’t need to be world champions in pitstops. We need to avoid very slow pitstops. And it’s coming to a situation now where we realise that it has got so competitive, and we just need to ramp up our game up there.
“That’s in terms of equipment and science around it, and the way we are set up, to avoid 3 or 3.5 seconds pitstops because all of that played a part.”
Latest sloppiness from Merc
This is an astonishing admission from the Mercedes boss who is in effect claiming during their years of dominance, their car was so superior the rest of the race craft didn’t matter.
Of course this brings into question Lewis Hamilton’s record and whether he is really worthy of the status he commands. Hamilton has never won more than five races in a row, yet Max Verstappen strode to ten with ease during the 2023 season.
Clearly Mercedes need a mindset change and to focus as do Red Bull on every detail of what it takes to be a successful F1 racing team.
The most recent example of their sloppiness was at the last race in COTA where Lewis Hamilton battled for a worthy second place but was later disqualified because his car breached the legal limits of how low the current Formula One cars can be run.
“Fastest car” delusion
Of course all the teams had just one practice session to understand how to setup their cars yet Mercedes along with Ferrari failed to understand the impact this would have on their race strategy.
There’s the impression that the once most dominant force in F1 have fallen apart given their failure to optimise their race strategy, manage their drivers’ competing on track demands together with a general sense that the team has lost its way.
The general element of self delusion was epitomised by Mercedes boss Toto Wolff who claimed to Sky Germany that they had “the fastest car”.
Merc Upgrade didn’t work
”It wasn’t enough for victory, but it was enough for a duel on equal terms with Red Bull.
“You shouldn’t forget that they probably completed the development of the current car three months ago and are already looking ahead to next year. That’s right, however, we now have another one.
“We’ve brought a big upgrade. The development direction is right. We wanted to see whether the subfloor worked.”
Yet the sub-floor didn’t work because it wore down the plank down too low and had the ride height of Hamilton’s car been set at a similar level to Verstappen, the gap at the finish would have been much greater.
Red Bull way ahead
Further, by Toto claiming Mercedes has the fastest car simply lures his entire engineering team into a false sense of security.
The reality of the US GP was that Verstappen started the race in sixth place on a track where overtaking is not easy. This forced Red Bull to adopt a tyre strategy of Medium-Medium-Hard which was not optimal.
But it did provide Max the opportunity to overtake his rivals on the second stint while they ran the slower harder tyre.
The payback was Hamilton on the softer tyre at the conclusion made a race of it – but it was all to no avail given Mercedes set his car up illegally to run at a greater pace.
McLaren shops the way to go
If Mercedes are to genuinely fight Red Bull for wins and titles, they need to admit their entire operation is fundamentally flawed. Only then can they honestly address their current deficit to Red Bull and build a plan how to close the gap.
Meanwhile McLaren who run the Mercedes customer power unit have shown the way for the eight times world championship team. Having outscored the rest of the field except Red Bull since Austria, the formula of humility and hard work – over blagging and bravado – is clearly the way to go.
And in fact, did Mercedes go ‘sloppy’ – or were they never the complete F1 team ever?
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