Over the next few weeks we will be reviewing the performance of each team over the course of the 2019 Formula 1 season, and in this article we are looking at Mercedes.
It is hard to believe that Mercedes could get any better, since they have dominated the hybrid era for so long, but this season has to be one of their strongest years for a number of reasons.
Firstly, Mercedes have won the constructor’s championship for a record equalling sixth time, matching Ferrari’s dominance between 1999 and 2004, but more importantly, it is the first time Mercedes have won the championship when they haven’t had the all-round fastest car.
This season, Ferrari have had a much better engine than the Mercedes and at times, have been 0.6 seconds faster down the straights compared to the Silver Arrows, but Mercedes have made up for this shortfall by having a much more aerodynamically efficient car.
It was a surprise that Ferrari rocked up with the fastest engine, and there were concerns that it could pose the end of the Mercedes dominance, but the team management have done an excellent job to stay cool, and operate at another level to ensure that they ended the year with their sixth consecutive title.
Furthermore, Lewis Hamilton did an outstanding job to maximise the performance of his W10, to out-fox Ferrari and Red Bull, and secured the driver’s title at the United States Grand Prix.
If that wasn’t enough, Mercedes also had to deal with the death of Niki Lauda, who was instrumental in the team returning to dominance, forming a great working partnership with Team Principal, Toto Wolff.
The death of Lauda hit the team incredibly hard, and where some may have faltered, Mercedes fought on even harder, which will no doubt make the victory in both championships more prominent for the team.
But, although Mercedes have remained strong to win yet again, it was abundantly clear that Ferrari and Red Bull are closing the gap, and that next season, Hamilton could face a title challenge from a rival team.
Although the Brackley based team are holding their nerve, they are no longer as dominant as they once were and it will take another incredible car to clinch a record breaking seventh straight constructor’s title. But, if anyone can do it, it is Mercedes.
Once again, just like his team, Hamilton has been in tremendous form over the course of the season, and although he appeared to be locked in a tight fight with his team-mate Valtteri Bottas, Hamilton’s consistency wore Bottas down and meant the 34-year-old would finish the year just one title behind Michael Schumacher’s record.
But, for all of the incredible race-craft Hamilton displayed this year, he was not at his best in qualifying.
He only took five pole positions this year, mainly due to Ferrari having the faster car over a single lap, but it was a stark contrast to the 11 poles he took in 2018.
It shows that the field is closing up, which is a good thing for Formula 1, but it also highlights how well Hamilton has done in the races, making up deficits and passing others, with better strategies to secure the title.
Hamilton has already said that it is one of his greatest title wins, and it’s hard to argue against it when looking at the stats.
Bottas was hoping to put up a real challenge for the championship this season and started off in style, winning the opening race in Melbourne, 20 seconds ahead of Hamilton.
And he kept the form going up until the Spanish Grand Prix, where with both Mercedes drivers tied on points, Bottas’ form started to dip.
As a result, Bottas found himself falling away from Hamilton in the title race, and never managed to regain any consistency to propel himself back into a realistic championship challenge.
With consistency proving to be Bottas’ biggest weakness, it remains hard to imagine him being able to fight for the title over the course of a season in 2020, unless major changes and improvements are made during the winter, and with driver contracts up for the 2021 season, it could be the Finn’s most important year yet.