Mercedes, Mercedes, Mercedes. The name has been tossed around F1 like a fair ball on a little league team. The only thing that hasn’t changed are the cries of foul from not only the other manufacturers, Ferrari, Honda and Renault, but their own customer teams as well. Ferrari is the only team to remotely challenge the German giant of late.
According to Fellipe Massa: “We’re pushing hard with the engine which I’m sure has some improvements that we can have and are pushing to have, because for sure the difference is too big,” he said. “So I really hope that we really have the same engine, which I really don’t see why we don’t have, he added, If we don’t have the same engine – which I cannot say 100% because it’s very difficult to say – but if we don’t have it then we want to have it because it’s not nice that we don’t have it.”
Sage words from the diminutive Brazilian.
The Mercedes team had a rattling moment two weeks ago in Malaysia when the 1st place trophy was snatched from them by 4 time World Champion, Sebastian Vettel dressed in Corsa Red. It was eventually to be blamed on miscommunication when Lewis Hamilton overheard Paddy Lowe and Toto Wolff deciding whether or not to have a two stop strategy or a three stop strategy.
Long story short, Vettel was the driver who won the grand prix, on a two stop strategy. You see there is a problem with those last few statements because whereas Mercedes and every team has two drivers, what was happening with Nico Rosberg? Is Mercedes minimizing Rosberg for the sake of another Lewis Hamilton World Championship?
Lewis Hamilton has proven to be a master at conserving tires and fuel. He has the car, the momentum and the ability to deliver the coveted manufacturers title, and with Rosberg playing the supplicant to that end, the ability to take his third World Championship. Is Mercedes forcing that scenario to culminate?
Rosberg is making it no secret that placing he and Hamilton on different strategies is a way around the contract addendum that states he is an equal, not a number 2 driver. Hamilton knows this is more than some minor irritant and that getting under the German’s skin has become somewhat of a sport unto itself.
This isn’t just an imaginary scenario. Mercedes had asked Hamilton to speed up as he was placing Rosberg into his dirty air thus causing more rapid tire degradation for the German allowing the Ferrari of Sebastian Vettel to draw closer. The Mercedes team wanted an one/two finish not a split.
Case in point: The aggressive angle Lewis showed on the starting grid at China stuck out like a middle finger to Nico not so subtly saying, “screw you this race is mine”. The angle worked but it was more a psychological move than a strategic advantage.
Later in the race, a radio call from the wall compelled Nico to ask the team to reduce communication with him as he was trying to catch up with Lewis. Another instance involved Nico asking to let off because of tire wear or push for competitiveness, the answer was short order with to let off. A few seconds later Hamilton was told to push harder and aim for a much faster lap time. It doesn’t look like an equitable situation for Nico Rosberg.
Lewis was able to take his fourth win at the Chinese Grand Prix which left me with a few questions, when will Nico respond, or be allowed to respond with a high end result? When will he taste the real champagne? The answer may lie in the European segment of the season. That will be when the two drivers allegedly have equal advantages, but with a missing German Grand Prix, where will his fan support real kick into gear?
You might say, and many others are saying the team is sabotaging Nico’s race strategies as opposed to his teammates car and I would have to agree. Nico has the skill to outperform everyone on the grid and we know that. Just look at Monaco, Germany, Austria and Brazil. This should stand out with the two time world champions “full house” weekend which has made him untouchable and unapproachable.
So this weekend during the Bahrain Grand Prix, don’t be surprised if we see another duel between Nico and Lewis. Except this time I think we could see a battle between DRS and pit stop times instead of real racing. The playing field is already falling under suspicion of unfair treatment, but what about Lewis’s “hot seat”? Seems to me the only hot seat Mercedes should be worried about right now is Nico’s ability to catch them in an out and out violation of his contract.
Fernando Alonso and McLaren a few years ago come to mind.