Mercedes building for the future in year two

2011 F1 season review

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Rosberg led in China

It was clear early in the season the Mercedes W02 was not going to trouble the front runners any more than its predecessor had.

Indeed, unlike last year, Mercedes never made it as far as the podium.

But while there was little to celebrate on the track, the team made several major signings as it prepares for the years ahead.

It has bolstered its technical department with several major signings including Bob Bell (from Renault) Aldo Costa (from Ferrari) and Geoff Willis, who was with the team in its Honda guise five years ago, before they took the disastrous decision of putting Shuhei Nakamoto in charge of design.

While the 2011 car was often the quickest in a straight line, the chassis had a propensity for devouring its tyres early in the season – this was a particularly conspicuous problem at Monaco.

On occasions the team was able to mix it with the likes of McLaren and Ferrari. Nico Rosberg was in superb form in Turkey, qualifying a season-best third on the grid, on his way to finishing fifth after passing Jenson Button.

Mercedes team stats 2011

Best race result (number) 4th (1)
Best grid position (number) 3rd (1)
Non-finishes (mechanical/other) 7 (2/5)
Laps completed (% of total) 1,963 (86.63%)
Laps led (% of total) 20 (1.77%)
Championship position (2010) 4th (4th)
Championship points (2010) 165 (214)
Pit stop performance ranking 2nd

Schumacher, meanwhile, had the first of several run-ins with Vitaly Petrov, clipping the Renault as it came past him. The pair collided again in Valencia – and again it was Schumacher’s fault.

While Schumacher’s race pace was often impressive, errors such as these proved costly. And they didn’t end with Petrov – he hit Kamui Kobayashi in Silverstone and spun at the Nurburgring.

But on his day there were more convincing signs of the Schumacher of old than there had been last year. Particular at Monza, where he defended his position from Lewis Hamilton to the limit of the rules for lap after lap.

He ran in the top three in Canada until his DRS-equipped rivals came past him on the straights, and climbed from last on the grid to fifth at Spa.

The last driver he passed on that day was his team mate who had been told, not for the first time in 2011, to slow down and save fuel. He had a similar instruction in China, where he had led early on, and ended up falling out of the podium places.

For much of the season Mercedes lacked a credible threat from rival teams behind them, nor a serious chance of beating those ahead of them. So it mattered less if their drivers raced other with increasing ferocity.

Schumacher was quick but error-prone

Rosberg was particularly unimpressed at spending the Spanish Grand Prix stuck behind his team mate, unable to make progress as Schumacher benefitted from the ‘undercut’ during each of their visits to the pits.

In India a slow pit stop cost Rosberg a place to his team mate at a time when Schumacher was drawing in on his team mate in the points standings. This was uncharacteristic for a team that made the quickest pit stop in seven races this year – more than any other team bar Red Bull.

Rosberg retaliated against the growing threat from his team mate on the first lap in Abi Dhabi. The pair battled furiously as Rosberg reclaimed the place from his team mate he’d lost at the first corner. It was a superb display of hard yet restrained racing between team mates.

But after two consecutive years of finishing fourth, Mercedes will be expecting greater results in 2012. So will Schumacher, as he weighs up whether to extend his comeback beyond the three years he originally signed up with them for.

2011 F1 season review

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Images © Daimler

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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53 comments on “Mercedes building for the future in year two”

  1. With Ross Brawn at the helm, an ever growing list of marquee names in the design team and with MSC and Rosberg in the car, it would be silly to write off Mercedes’ chances in 2012. I’m expecting them to take a serious step forward next year and to start giving RBR, Ferrari and McLaren serious headaches.

    1. With Ross Brawn at the helm, an ever growing list of marquee names in the design team and with MSC and Rosberg in the car, it would be silly to write off Mercedes’ chances in 2012.

      It would be silly to write them off for 2012, but signing a host of “star name” designers is not an automatic guarantee of success either.

      Bob Bell has been at Mercedes for a few months but Costa and Willis have only just joined and probably won’t be able to make a significant impact on the W03. There’s also the potential problem of how to get that many senior people working closely enough together and all pulling in the same direction. Too many cooks, etc.

      That said, I’d agree that Mercedes should be able to get closer to the top three teams in 2012. If anyone can overcome the problems of coordinating lots of senior engineers then it’s Ross Brawn.

      1. True, these things do take time to come together, and work on the W03 would have started before the arrival of Costa and Willis. That said, a step forward in 2012 and a significant improvement in 2013 should be the very least a team of this status is targeting.

    2. I really hope so – A surprise Rosberg win next year would be amazing

      1. Geoff Willis will hit the ground running, he’s one of the best aero guys in the business.

        He hasn’t had a stable role for years but last time he did he was the only designer to take the fight to Ferrari. The BAR006 of 2004 was easily the 2nd quickest car behind the ultra dominant Ferrari and was significantly better than the Adrian Newey designed Mclaren of that year.

        Since the Shuhei Nakamoto debacle at Honda, Willis hasn’t been at a team for long enough to make an impact although he was chief aerodynamacyst on the RB5 which was also rather handy as I recall. If the WO3 is poor at the start of the season it will improve significantly during the season.

        1. Seriously ? Do you really believe that ? I can’t speak for the BAR/Honda years but he didn’t really impress anyone at Red Bull, and I know some people didn’t get a very good opinion of him at HRT. I certainly know quite a few people from Red Bull who don’t understand how he managed to get hired back in Brackley….

      2. @hxcas Hopefully, they will be in a position where they don’t surprise us and we can expect it of them with some regularity.

    3. With Mercedes deciding to miss the first test, I think already have something big. I don’t expect just “headaches”, I think they’ll be serious contenders for the championship.

      1. They must have something big because to miss the first test its clearly a mistake, they did the same thing this season and they struggled to solve all the problems the car had.

        1. Redbull missed the first test, with their 2011 car, last year didn’t they? I wouldn’t be so quick to write a top team off if they miss the first test.

          1. @paganbasque Correct, zibit. That’s just what I was thinking. Conversely, I believe McLaren missed and look at their car. Really under performed.

    4. even if they have long list of good name, I think still they need time to enable it. Just look how many years needed to make Ferrari so dominant.

      1. Thats true, I believe that Aldo and Geof will have a key rolesin the design of the 2013 car, but Mercedes cant wait another year, if not a dominant car they need at least a car which can reaches the podium.

  2. Hmmm, I dont think bringing-in a bunch of losers(?) from other teams will help their course. They should have concentrated more on the McLaren project instead of trying to buy them out.

    1. I don’t believe that a “loser” is a proper term for Willis, Bell and Costa.

    2. I don’t think they’re losers. I don’t believe that, for instance, Costa was fired because he had suddenly become a bad specialist / manager. The team just needed a change, some fresh air, maybe there were different opinions on the future of the team. It’s just like in football, the fact that a team has lost 10 games in a row and the trainer has been sacked, doesn’t mean that the trainer is useless and won’t soon be hired by another top team. It simply means that both sides, that is, the trainer and the team, need changes.

    3. You are being prettty harsh there I think!

      Costa is hardly a loser, he played a significant role in the Ferrari dominance of the early 2000’s. Bob Bell, well he’s go massive experience having been at McLaren, Benetton, Jordan, Renault and Toyota while all of them had stints winning/running near the front of the field. And Geoff Willis is no lightweight either! It’s a pretty handy team if you ask me.

  3. On paper, things looking bloody good for Mercedes next year.
    On paper.

    1. That’s the problem.

      I think though, with the team and resources they have, Mercedes will win. Whether this is done before the Mercedes board follow the shallow likes of Toyota and Ford however, is another matter.

      1. @mike mercedes have been in f1 since the early 90’s and have 3 different teams using their engines, i can’t see them just leaving, ford left because they were nearly bankrupt and same with toyota. And both ford and toyota were in relative isolation when they left, they didn’t need to worry about engine supply with other teams.

        1. Toyota weren’t anywhere close to bankrupt, they could probably have purchased every team on the grid from cash reserves.

          I think that BMW and Honda, along with Toyota, shows a more worrying possibility – unlike Ford which simply sold the team on, these manufacturers just upped and walked away from the sport without looking back. Luckily Ross Brawn and Peter Sauber were able to save two of those teams – would Brawn be willing and able to do it for a second time?

          Hopefully Mercedes will continue to stick with it for a long time to come, but I also wonder why they bet so much on the old Honda team when they were achieving so much with Mclaren.

          Hopefully Mercedes will demonstrate how wise their move has been in the next year or two with some wins for the Silver Arrows.

  4. When Honda signed Ross Brawn at the end of 2007, people, including myself thought that the team’s prospects would improve for 2008, but this was not the case, as it was too late for him to make any real changes.

    So, even though they might do some good for the WO3, I have a feeling that Mercedes won’t make a proper challenge until 2013, or maybe 2014 considering the rule changes.

    1. Slightly different in that when Honda finally managed to persuade Ross Brawn to get off his fishing boat and draw some cars it was December already and the cars for 2008 were being assembled.

      The new guys have been at Honda for a few months and between them they’ve designed enough good cars to be able to throw some good pointers in to the design before the whole concept was signed off.

      I quite confident about Mercedes for 2012.

      1. That’s fair enough. The situation is quite different, but I still think that the Mercedes team will continue to improve year on year, until they’re at the front, rather than taking a big leap from 2011 to 2012.

  5. Please be competitive next year Mercedes. Please make a car that goes as fast as it looks good. I’m hoping this year really has been a year of experiments and as has been mentioned above, it’s looking good next year on paper.

  6. For 2012 it’s now or never for Schumacher.

    1. Not really. The only reason it would be is if a) Schumacher himself decided to retire again (and I don’t believe he’ll want to); or b) is performance is so awful that he effectively gets sacked (and this would seem unlikely, given he was close in points to Rosberg this year)

      1. If Mercedes give him a better car and his performance is(at least) slightly better than in 2011 he will continue. Both aspects are essential to see Michael in 2013, which would be great for F1 and all the fans.

  7. No offense but to me it’s an article about nothing.

    I came from twitter post which said “Mercedes building for the future in year two”. I thought there would be some information about the next year’s car, some insider info about their plans but instead it’s just a recap of how many times Schumacher crashed and yet another theory on how team is working for Schumacher by asking 16 or so people to intentionally slow down Rosberg’s pitstops just to let the Meister by.

    Please don’t post such misleading twitter messages next time. At least word them so that it’s clear what people are coming to. Just saying as it’s not the first time when it seems that you are trying to generate page views by wording your twitter messages vaguely. :)

    1. @morpheus Seems a rather long-winded way of trying to blame me for the fact you didn’t read the words “2011 F1 season review” at the top of the page. Or notice that there have been corresponding articles for every other team so far.

      1. @morpheus

        “Mercedes building for the future in year two”

        in year two

        Doesn’t that say something? Year 2 for Mercedes was 2011, this year just gone, it’s an aptly named article, if it mentioned ‘year three’ but had the same content, then I’d be on your side, but it doesn’t, so I’m not.

        Nice article Keith, I’ve been waiting for the top teams articles for a while (Yes, I consider Merc to be a top team) Just hope the team can close the gap to the big 3 in 2012..

    2. @morpheus I think there should be no misunderstandings – if F1F publishes breaking news, the headline is always straightforward. Headline like this one usually means that the article contains some analysis.

      This is just a good analysis, which you cannot make without reviewing and listing drivers’ results, mistakes, gaps and the most striking examples of their performances. And there are definitely no conspiracy theories in the article, just plain facts.

  8. I still want to know what people would be saying if Schumacher didn’t have his legacy behind him and this were his second year after a rookie outing. Frankly, I think so many mistakes would earn him the label of being wreckless and careless and dare I say not good enough for the likes of Formula 1. Though he has some great moments from time to time, I just don’t feel like it’s enough to justify him sticking around longer and hogging a seat.

    1. They’d probably criticise his qualifying and silly crashes, but praise his excellent racecraft and good pace, his consistently superb starts and his aggressive driving. In other words: ‘if he cuts out the unforced errors, this looks like a really special driver’.

      He’s obviously not as good as he was, but to suggest he’s ‘hogging a seat’ is probably a bit too much. I mean it’s not like the guy was lapping 3 seconds behind the field, living in the past and just taking the paycheck. I used to dislike Schumacher, mainly for his ‘win at all costs’ sense of entitlement. But I like him more since the comeback, as he has adapted psychologically to running in the midfield, conducting himself with dignity, good grace and a sense of humour. There are plenty on the grid who were less impressive, both as drivers and in terms of attitude.

    2. He’d probably get the same sort of reviews as Sutil used to get, that is “Quick, but too prone to making mistakes.”

    3. @ Joey-Poey, I think that this is a very good quetion.

      I was a big fan of Schumacher from his first full year in F1 right through to his retirement and for me I’d love to see him in F1 as long as he isn’t doing an awful job.

      But I know that this is largely because of his first career, if this was a driver in his second full year I don’t think I’d be speaking up for him holding onto his seat any longer (especially as I think that Nico Rosberg is over-rated).

      Still looking forward to having him in the company of 5 other WDCs next year though.

      1. jsw11984 (@jarred-walmsley)
        20th December 2011, 10:03

        Interestingly Schumacher personally has as many titles as the rest of the WDC’s put together, with 14 titles between them with Schumi holding 7 of them.

  9. Most of the experts expect a very competitive Mercedes next season, Bob Bell has been working very hard in the factory to solve most of the problems in the design of the car. Only solving the problems that the WO2 has suffered this season(rear wing and tyres,DRS problems,etc) the new car will be a huge step in the right direction. Moreover, they have spent a lot of time(and they are spending) reinforcing the aerodynamic development of the car, which was clearly a weakness in this team.

    Anyway I dont expect a car to win the championship but to get some podiums and victories, anything less than this would be terrible. Dont forget that Geof and Aldo has joined too recently Mercedes to play a key role in the design of the new car, but I am sure that the development through all the season will be much better, and I expect a dominant Mercedes for 2013.

  10. I think this article by Keith is an excellent summation of Mercs year and of where they stand today and for the future. I too believe they could be much stronger next year, but I also believe that is relative, and I have every bit as much belief that Red Bull, Mac, and Ferrari may up their games as well with Mac and Ferrari closer to the front. So Merc still has a huge hill to climb to improve not just outright, but relative to the rest of the field. I have been highly impressed with NR over the last two years, unimpressed with MS, and between the two of them they will need a very very strong car to make any inroads on the top 3. Let’s hope there are 4 teams very close to each other such that any one of 8 drivers could potentially win a race on any given weekend. I just think that Merc will have to pull a proverbial rabbit out of their hat though to win races and/or podium based on the strength of the top 3. The top 3 from 2011 only need to progress to be competitive…Merc needs more than just progression, they need some magic. Or they wait for 2013 to get closer.

  11. I wasn’t impressed by Mercedes this year, on the performance basis. I never really thought they’d improve their 2010 form, but I wished so.
    On the other hand, I think their new technical signings have been a great step towards the right direction, and shows the commitment Mercedes have regarding F1. They have a long-term plan and the small things they have done this year will have huge effects in some years, when I hope they can finally challenge for wins, preferably with Schumacher that has sometimes amazed this year.

  12. Rosberg retaliated against the growing threat from his team mate on the first lap in Abi Dhabi.

    I think you mean Abby Dabby @keithcollantine

  13. I deeply believe that Merc will pull out of F1 if they wont achieve anything. Pumping billions of dollars into the team, they just cant afford to do that without some success. It will ruin their image, Merc midfield team.
    So all at all, that was their last season as midfield runners oneway or another.
    Its worthy to notice that MSC is best lap1 overtaker :-)

  14. Merrychristmas and all the best for 2012, hope mercedes breaks through to the top four.

  15. Mercedes have had a weird couple of years. Podiums last year, when in their old Brawn guise they didn’t really have the money to put together a podium contender. Now, in 2011, no podium with having a full development cycle behind you. I guess that’s just the way the cookie crumbles!

    Anyway, I think their drivers have gone from strength to strength, particularly Schumacher. I say that only as I believe he had the most to improve on. I very much agreed with @Keithcollantine ‘s high rating of Rosberg’s season. Schumacher had made some blinding starts and his overall demeanour in Canada and Italy stand out for me. Watching the gap contract and expand in Monza with my own eyes was pretty exciting!

    It is a shame the W02 didn’t really threaten at least Ferrari but I’m confident the W03 will be more competitive. There is really very little excuse to be honest. The oldest car manufacturer in the world, the right people in the right places, a top pit-stop crew and the best engine in Formula 1.

    Looking forward to 2012.

    Hopefully that £20 Mercedes GP hat I bought will stick a nice fancy aero widget somewhere useful!

    1. I very much agreed with @Keithcollantine ‘s high rating of Rosberg’s season.

      I agree also. I think Rosberg is mostly underrated. Add in that Schum is his teammate took a little bit away too. He doesn’t push the car further than it will go like Alonso does, but he does drive it for what it has, and he stays out of trouble.

      1. @riffa I imagine he doesn’t have the pressure that Alonso does. They’re still very much a new team I guess and when you push, you risk points.

        1. Yeah I can believe that Andrew. Ferrari is definitely pressure, and points are very valuable. I remember someone labeling Roseburg as Heidfeld. To me he’s a lot like Button, who was really underrated for a long time.

  16. i think the main reason why they will miss the first test is that their car is not ready that’s very simple :
    all the top teams including Ferrari, Mclaren, Red Bull(the most innovative team Adrian Newey said that the RB8 will be a surprise !!!!!!!!) will run their cars in the first test.Testing is very important especially when you are experimenting something innovative for the first time.
    if they are really running something big & they don’t want other teams to copy it then they have just to run their car in the first practice of the Australian gp because a team like Mclaren last year managed to copy the exhaust blown diffuser from red bull in 1 week

  17. Just hoping Merc could challenge for podium next year and if so i believe we will see more spectacular Schumacher drive mixing in front as we have seen some this year especially his racecraft. The real Schumi will return

  18. Mercedes needs to survive until 2015 when Vettel, having won three or four WCs, might do a “Schumacher” and try to transform them into a winning team.

    I am not too hopeful though. It’s never good when F1 decisions are taken in corporate boardrooms.

  19. They disappointed me quite a lot. I guessed they would have been much closer than it actually happened. a sign of the next year is also not good. They’re a only big team launch their car in the second testing.

  20. Rosberg is some kind of a blend between Hiedfeld and Button . Let’s call him Buttfeld.

  21. The team has all that it needs to win now. Just a car,that would be fast enough to compete for the podiums.
    Personaly I’m a big fan of Merc team,and for the last two years I’m watching every race with hope,that suddenley they will be competitve and beat the front runners. But yeah,all the bits an pieces can’t come together ,to make it happen.
    I do hope this year is different and lucky unlike the first two.
    And besides,who wouldn’t like to see SCHU on the podium again,or Nico for the first time.

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