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Featured Australian Grand Prix Debrief: Mercedes in a Formula Of Their Own

Discussion in 'Formula 1' started by Ben Stevens, Mar 18, 2015.

  1. Ben Stevens

    Ben Stevens
    Staff

    ausgppodium.jpg From Mercedes' pace to a 14-car grid, F1 fans were left either bemused or bewildered in the aftermath of the Australian Grand Prix

    Welcome to the new season, same as the old season.

    Just in case pre-season testing left any doubt at all, the 2015 Australian Grand Prix absolutely obliterated it – Mercedes AMG Petronas are in a class of their own.

    With a 1.4 second gap to third in qualifying, and a 37-second margin in the race, the Silver Arrows of winner Lewis Hamilton and teammate Nico Rosberg aren’t really competing in Formula 1, inasmuch as they’re racing each other in Formula 1a. We had a feeling all along this might be the case, but to see it play out is no less staggering. Other teams simply can’t hope to race them – realistically, the only way Mercedes might be forced to fight for their victories is if they’re required to do a doughnut on the pit-straight with five laps to go.

    And yet, while this is certainly not the 2015 season most people wanted, Sunday’s race demonstrated that such dominance doesn’t have to come without intrigue, so let’s take a look at some of the big talking points from the Australian Grand Prix.

    P-20150203-00153_News.jpg Tempers flare at Red Bull as engine woes go from bad to worse

    Back in November 2013, Red Bull Racing were – for the fourth year running – on top of the F1 world. Possessing a knack for innovation unmatched by their rivals, they had taken 13 of the season’s 19 race victories, and 41 of the 77 over that whole span. Their engine partnership with Renault was as strong as ever, usurping the ‘works team’ title that had previously belonged to Lotus/Renault GP. New engine regulations or not, it seemed like the immediate future belonged to them.

    Oh, how the mighty have fallen.

    Looking at the team of 2010-13, the RBR of March 2015 is an impostor by comparison. A cheap knock-off of a superior product, one that looks similar and does many of the same things, but not as well, and for nowhere near as long.

    Case-in-point was Melbourne. With only four engines allowed (before penalties) for the 2015 season, both of their drivers were down to three by the end of the weekend – Daniel Ricciardo blowing one in free practice, Dany Kvyat doing likewise en route to the starting grid. A car down, the race did nothing to raise the team’s spirits, as Ricciardo couldn’t find his way past a Sauber and finished sixth.

    So when team advisor Helmut Marko suggested owner Dietrich Mateschitz could “lose his passion for F1”, and principal Christian Horner called for an “equalisation mechanism” in order to help catch-up to Mercedes, we were getting a glimpse into the mindset of a team who has failed to realise just how precipitous the drop from F1 dominance can be.

    Regardless of the credibility of their argument, the five-year arc they have created this decade is going to work against them in the eyes of many, but do they actually have a point? Well, yes and no.

    Certainly, having one team sprint off into the distance every race bodes poorly for the quality of ‘the show’, but it doesn’t always lead to boring races, and as Red Bull well knows – it’s not without precedent. And while restoring competitiveness across teams is desirable for everyone, what Horner suggests would likely drive up the costs which already threaten the survival of multiple teams on the grid.

    However, there is one question whose answer I think could assist in short-term competitiveness, and should be asked particularly in the wake of Sunday’s race: why are Williams (and to a lesser extent Lotus and Force India) so far off the pace, when they’re supposedly using the same engine? Felipe Massa jokingly mentioned this in Saturday’s press conference, but there is real cause for concern. Differences in budget would be an important factor to be sure, but shouldn’t the FIA be looking into the transparency of Mercedes’ engine development when one user is 1.4 seconds ahead of the other? That’s a shocking difference for teams supposedly playing in the same ballpark.

    Maybe this is the F1 we’re stuck with for 2015. We won’t know for sure until Barcelona when the first round of major updates are introduced, but great races only require a duel for the lead to be memorable (e.g. Bahrain 2014), so there is hope yet for the quality to increase. Long-term the answer is much simpler – adopt the regulatory practice of the World Endurance Championship, and allow manufacturers to develop engines to their own specifications, within a few general parameters. Give engine suppliers room to operate with their specific know-how, and not only will we see a competitive grid, but a more varied list of names behind it.

    150069_aus.jpg Rosberg and Vettel: The key characters of the 2015 season?

    Perhaps the most notable moment of the weekend was the two German drivers’ exchange in Sunday’s press conference. Their good-natured barbs provided the assembled media (which included us!) with more action than had occurred throughout the entirety of the race, and maybe an indicator as to the two personalities who will drive the 2015 season.

    Between the Mercedes drivers, Rosberg is the far more interesting character as we start 2015. Besides being the driver far likelier to provide an interesting soundbyte, he finds himself in a position which is quite rare for a driver of his talent – that is, he may have simply met his superior.

    While F1 has had plenty of no. 1-2 driver battles over the years, it’s usually apparent quite early-on who is the better of the two, or, they don’t last long enough together to give us a conclusive answer – yet Rosberg will get one, as after fighting Hamilton to a standstill in 2013 and losing quite convincingly in 2014, he gets one more chance to change minds in this third season together. As such he returns with everything to prove, and the only hope of making Mercedes’ dominance interesting. The early returns in Melbourne were mixed, topping the timesheets in practice but faltering in qualifying – the pace is clearly there to take it to the Brit, and for the sport’s sake, he has to.

    On the other hand, Vettel’s position doesn’t require the same sense of immediacy of Rosberg’s. It’s not about winning for the four-time champion, it’s about us learning who he is outside the cocoon of the Red Bull team he called home for seven seasons. As his quotes last weekend demonstrated, he has the chance to establish himself as a sort of senior figure in the sport, a more likeable one than the guy who irked fans with his celebrations and teammate squabbles. For Vettel 2015 is an opportunity to change perceptions of him away from the track, perhaps even more than he can on it.

    Should we be worried about 11 cars finishing the race?

    Attrition has historically, always been a part of F1. The sight of cars breaking down on the track is as old as Bernie Ecclestone (well, nothing’s that old). Nevertheless, it’s a bit concerning to see in 2015, when reliability is supposed to have progressed to all-time highs. After all, these aren’t the ‘garagistas’ of the 1970s, these a multi-million dollar companies building these machines.

    Still, it’s far too early to say whether the results of Sunday marks a trend for 2015, and dissecting the reasons why, there’s no cause for excessive concern. In fact, the reality that these are multi-million dollar companies probably has something to do with it, as they push themselves to match and better their rivals. Just compare McLaren-Honda to Ferrari – the former have been struggling for reliability throughout the preseason, but that is clearly with the intent of making up for the year-less in development they’ve got to everyone else, while the latter know exactly where they are in relation to the grid, and want to ensure some good results before Barcelona. Manor was never expected to be in the paddock, let alone racing a few weeks ago; Bottas’ injury was simply unfortunate; Lotus are using Mercedes power, so they’ll be fine; Red Bull/Toro Rosso are the only real concern, but that’s far too tight a partnership to not see some progress in improving reliability, if not pace. So no, we shouldn’t. What we should be concerned about isn’t when 14 cars make the grid, but when 14 cars is all that we can hope to see in the first place.



    Do Red Bull have a leg to stand on? What can we expect from the Germans in 2015? Should we be concerned about an 11-car finish? Sound off in the comments below.
     
    Last edited: Mar 18, 2015
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  2. #ForzaVettel
     
  3. Thomas Hinss

    Thomas Hinss
    Aussie Commentator and Writer Staff

    Having fewer cars on the grid doesn't mean the racing can't still be exciting. Hopefully Rosberg can bring the fight to Hamilton, as this is something the sport very much needs.

    In terms of the best of the rest, I hope to see a good fight here. Ferrari definitely seem to be in the best position in terms of car development (though there pit crew may need a bit more practice on tyre changes for Kimi's sake). However Williams seem quite closely matched to them so hopefully a good fight can occur there. If Red Bull can get their engine woes under control then they may have a say in that fight too, with Toro Rosso showing glimpses of potential as well.

    One of the real quiet achievers I thought from Melbourne was Hulkenberg for Force India. Their car definitely looks a bit lackluster in the pace department but he still managed 7th and had a nice clean race. If they can develop that car throughout the season challenging for points may be on the cards, but time will tell.

    I think one of the teams to definitely watch with interest is Sauber, as even with all the drama around them they still got a 5th and 8th from Melbourne, far better than I was expecting (especially the 5th). Whether they can keep up such results remains to be seen but definitely something worth keeping an eye on throughout the season.
     
  4. The Australian GP did nothing more than shine light on the sad state of Formula 1. It is a circus, run by an idiot (Bernie). Were I there for the race, I'd have been pissed to go that far to see 11 cars finish and watch Mercedes prance around the park toying with the other teams. The pinnacle of motorsports my azz. The joke of the motorsport paddock is a better definition.
     
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  5. #ForzaVettel :)
     
  6. "Having fewer cars on the grid doesn't mean the racing can't still be exciting. Hopefully Rosberg can bring the fight to Hamilton, as this is something the sport very much needs."

    Really? We "need to see two team mates duke it out". This in your opinion is what the sport needs? The sport needs a full grid (at least 20-24 cars) with V8 engines screaming like banshees around the track with close fights and major intrigue (on the tarmac).

    Swagg
     
  7. Phillip, are you a Merc fan?
     
  8. Martin Maaskant

    Martin Maaskant
    Premium Member

    Don't judge the season after just one race. In the past the first race is always a bit special. Some teams are not ready to race. All in all not a bad start. I only hope that Renault will improve. I think Ferrari did a wonderful job.
     
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  9. Luca Antinori

    Luca Antinori
    Premium Member

    The main problem in F1 now is you can't find much positive out of the beginning of the season. Mercedes and Hamilton are dominant once again, Rosberg is not confident or strong enough to be a title contender. McLaren Honda have come out with a terrible car and Renault have not changed things over during this winter, not even improved, yet. Fewer cars than usual, due to financial issues. To that you can add some important details such different strategies and different sounds due the 2014 changes in regulations.

    The positives are that Ferrari are actually better than last year specially the engines as Sauber seem to have a decent car as well, using Ferrari's powertrain, and they could improve. Both Ferrari drivers seem happy with the car and they could race each other and both fight for podiums with Williams.

    It is still F1 but not at the finest moment and although it is still an enjoyable event something is missing.
     
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  10. I thought it was widely known the Mercedes advantage was by having the engine being built directly with that ERS thingy, or some other feature, and being the only team to do so that way and successfully (when Lewis wouldn't blow up). I gotta wait for it to be brought up by Steve Matchett or one of those guys again.
     
  11. I disagree with the V8 part.
    I don't like the utter domination of MGP, but I really like those engines from a technical point of view. ;)
     
  12. The problem is that the regulations keep changing, and the factory teams are the only ones that have the budget to keep pace (pun intended).Bernie is crazy, but maybe he's right about F1 being tiered.
     
  13. Got it. Thanks for the info. :thumbsup:

    Swagg
     
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  14. Thomas Hinss

    Thomas Hinss
    Aussie Commentator and Writer Staff

    Yes, you can have close racing with a dozen cars, adding more cars increases that likelihood but doesn't necessarily guarantee it, especially with the difference in pace F1 has right now.

    Well in terms of realistically what can be done to liven things up right now, yes we need that. Look, honestly that's what I would prefer to see as well but we both know that it won't happen, not in the near future anyway.
     
  15. smasha

    smasha
    Premium Member

    Red Bull do have the best driver.
    Now to fix their machines and work hard in the garage to come up to the standard of Dan.
     
  16. Factor in attrition. A 9-10 car procession may be good for you, along with the vaunted team mate battle by the two Mercs. Not me. Remember it's the pinnacle of motor sports. Yeah, right. Perhaps it is with technology. So, I guess 9 technologically advanced cars finishing a race... perhaps 7 on the lead lap is what the sport desperately needs.
    There are way too many other race offerings to bother with the joke that unfortunately Formula 1 has become. Shame, really.:thumbsdown:

    Swagg
     
  17. smasha

    smasha
    Premium Member

    On high rotation in Danny's road car.
     
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  18. Good one.
     
  19. Thomas Hinss

    Thomas Hinss
    Aussie Commentator and Writer Staff

    I'm not saying that the current situation is ideal, just trying to see the best possibilities with how things are in F1 currently. Honestly I would love to see a larger grid and engines more akin to what we expect from F1. Unfortunately I don't see that happening in the foreseeable future, so what sort of future F1 could have I don't know.

    Yes I will agree with that, if F1 doesn't pick up it's game and bring back the excitement that made it the premier motor racing championship then things could just keep heading downhill.
     
    • Agree Agree x 1
  20. Joel

    Joel
    #NR6 Premium Member

    Well.

    I think Constructor's championship is kind of finished now.

    Driver's is still open. But unless Hamilton retires multiple times (which would start up insane controversy for over 95% of F1 viewers) this part is already finished.


    The real fight that we should appreciate is the battle for 3rd. There are 2 teams currently that can get it. Williams or Ferrari. Possibly Red Bull in the future.

    So what my point is. Is that the winning in F1 isn't as magnificent as it used to be. Hopefully this can change in the future. A year like 2012 was pretty decent. If we could have something close to that, it would be good. I just want proper entertainment at the front. Racing.