Breaking into the top three is Mercedes’ goal for 2012

2012 F1 season preview

Posted on

| Written by

The pressure is on Mercedes to raise their game in 2012.

Since Mercedes took over Brawn GP at the end of 2009 the team has finished fourth both years.

Team principal Ross Brawn stated quite plainly at the launch of the W03 that a repeat performance would not be satisfactory for Mercedes this year.

Car 7: Michael Schumacher

Michael Schumacher goes into the third season of his comeback after having made significant progress in 2011.

Michael Schumacher heads into the third year of his F1 comeback

We saw glimpses of the old Schumacher at times in 2011, notably in his wheel-to-wheel battles in Canada and Italy, and that furious scrap with his team mate on the opening lap at Abu Dhabi.

Some weaknesses are still evident in his game, particularly qualifying, and there were a few needless collisions as well.

But, backed by the support of race and performance engineers Peter Bonnington and Jock Clear, Schumacher ended the season enjoying his best form since returning to the sport.

The question now is whether he can carry that into 2012 – and if the 43-year-old wishes to extend his comeback for another year into 2013.

Car 8: Nico Rosberg

Nico Rosberg is in the uncomfortable position of being one of the top drivers in F1 without a win to his name.

Nico Rosberg is still seeking his first F1 win

But in order to score wins you need a race-winning car and Rosberg has seen little in the way of those in his 108 Grands Prix to date.

At the same time Rosberg’s race pace was found wanting on occasions in 2011, which sometimes cost him positions to his team mate. However he led in China before being forced to drop back to save fuel.

He tended to out-qualify Schumacher by a comfortable margin last year. But as the team were rarely close enough to the leading cars that time difference didn’t translate to much of an advantage on the grid.

Rosberg can expect to face stiffer competition from his team mate as they vye to score Mercedes’ tenth win in Formula 1 – the last having come with Juan Manuel Fangio at Monza in 1955.

Mercedes W03

Although Brawn called the W02 a “very bold car”, it was clear Mercedes’ 2011 competitor had some significant shortcomings. Throughout the year several new recruits joined their technical team with the aim of producing a more competitive package for 2012.

This wasn’t simply a case of throwing more engineers at the problem. The team had cut staff numbers during the transition from Honda to Brawn in 2009 and re-sized in accordance with the original Resource Restriction Agreement.

The Mercedes W03 has had less testing time than its rivals

But after the RRA was revised in late 2010, Mercedes were able to bring in three big-name additions to its technical team.

If the combined efforts of Aldo Costa, Geoff Willis and Bob Bell can be harnessed effectively, the W03 could be a very competitive proposition indeed.

The desire to spend as much time as possible getting the car right may go some way towards explaining Mercedes’ decision to delay its debut.

Sacrificing four precious days of testing with its new car (although it recovered one of them) gave Mercedes more development time. This will have been particularly useful given that the off-season was shortened by the late end to the 2011 championship.

The W03 has run reliably so far but Mercedes have just nine days to get to grips with its before flying out to Melbourne.

Mercedes are the only team with a pit crew to rival Red Bull’s for speed and consistency. If the car’s up to the job, the team is ready to make the next step and start contending for victories.

Mercedes’s championship form

Championship position44

Mercedes in 2012: your view

Do you think Mercedes will be able to challenge for wins in 2012?

Can Rosberg score his maiden win this year? And will Schumacher sign up again for 203? Have your say in the comments.

2012 F1 season preview

Browse the 2012 F1 season preview

Images © Jamey Price/F1 Fanatic, Mercedes, Jamey Price/F1 Fanatic

Author information

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...

Got a potential story, tip or enquiry? Find out more about RaceFans and contact us here.

30 comments on “Breaking into the top three is Mercedes’ goal for 2012”

  1. I do like that graph, while technically correct it does look like Mercedes has had an irreversible decline in F1 for over 50 years :3

    1. @herman Yeah it’s a bit unfortunate! Will look into changing it so it doesn’t seem so bad.

      1. Would representing the graph as before exit and after return trends help?

      2. Can you just omit the line connecting the two stints? That would be the most logical way of displaying it I think.

        1. I agree. No need for a line connecting the years since they weren’t there.

  2. lol the chart really made me lauch!!

    1. Could we have Classic Lotus-Team Lotus+LotusRenault(How overlap?)-LotusGP graph? :D

    2. I really liked the 2 wins they bagged in 1988 @Eggry :D

  3. The season will be real good fun, if Mercedes and Renault turn out as strongest teams and Schumi is going against Niko and Kimi for titel.

  4. @keithcollantine I think a graph charting Nico Rosberg’s number of wins would also be useful :)

  5. Why don’t Mercedez have a championship position in 54 and 55?

    1. The constructors championship only came into existence in 1958, the first was won by Vanwall. The rules that decided it have changed massively over the years. :D

  6. You could make it a Mercedes-gap-Matra-Tyrrell-BAR-Honda-Brawn-Mercedes graph

  7. I really like these interviews with Nico Rosberg, he seems quite good at actually saying something interesting and to the point about the technologies used.

    I hope he gets that first win under his belt soon. And Mercedes should be really fighting for regular podiums again this year.

    1. Me too. And I think it is a reasonable goal…after two years of 4th in the WCC, breaking into the top three seems the perfect way to state their purpose this year. I don’t think anyone expects they will do much more than that, but one never knows what can happen in a race. If they could at least be a strong 4th rather than a distant one, that would take them a long way by seeing them stay in touch and not finding themselves half a minute of more behind the leader by mid-race.

      Having not poured over all the testing details, but just picking up on a few remarks here and there, MS seemed to be happy with the rear grip (or at least implied there was some), so is that why they may also be struggling with tire wear?

      Will be fascinating to know the truth in a few weeks.

    2. @BasCB He did a really good video last season that was all about the buttons on the steering wheel, in fact, It was on this site as an article! He’s really good with the tech side.

  8. Last year they were hamstrung by their short tyre life, seems they are having the same issues this year unfortunately.

  9. I hope they will solve their tyre issue and fight for podium places in Melbourne.It will be really hard to fight against Mclaren or Red Bull, but it is possible i hope

  10. Ferrari are not going to be happy if yet another team starts beating them

  11. According to Webber Lotus and Mercedes are a threat and Mercedes is very fast. It will be very interesting to see 5 teams challenging for podiums, i do hope so.

  12. But in order to score wins you need a race-winning car and Rosberg has seen little in the way of those in his 108 Grands Prix to date.

    I dare to disagree. The top drivers are able to win in less than race-winning cars, with multiple examples of that in recent years. Raikkonen, Button, Vettel, Alonso all did that quite recently. Kubica and Hamilton, two drivers of the same generation and intertwining history in junior series, had better results. Hamilton of course had superior cars at hands but in dreadful 2009 he still managed to score wins and Kubica managed more podiums than Rosberg and a win in cars which in theory were nowhere near these places. I’m not saying Rosberg is a bad driver, but putting him as “one of the top drivers” is in my opinion an exaggeration. I can only repeat Mark Hughes “Deliver a winning car and he will deliver wins, but I don’t see him transcending a car”. So solid drivers are able to win in race-winning cars, but cannot go beyond average in less than stellar machinery and that’s what Rosberg is for me.

    1. Ok fair enough Cyclops_PL, but I think that on average even the best drivers in F1 don’t win regularly with sub-par cars. They may have had the odd good day and surprised us by putting a lesser car where it doesn’t really belong, but the fact remains, overwhelmingly, the winner of the WDC needed the WCC winning car to do it. I’m sure many one-off wins in sub-par cars were due not just to a special drive by a special driver but because at one certain venue on one certain day conditions suited that car, or they benefitted from the attrition of others. Yeah it is still a successful conclusion to the day, but I think it is very rare that a great driver in a lesser car has actually trounced a strong field that remained intact all day. And they have never been able to string enough together to win the WDC. At the next race they are back to showing us only the limitations of the car and nothing more. Literally the majority of the time it takes the WCC winner or at least a very very strong second place in the WCC.

      I’m not necessarily saying this because I think NR is the next Senna, but I think he is better than many give him credit for, and I think he showed some signs of that last year, and I will always side with the concept of a driver never having a race-winning car to show his stuff before I will shoot them down for not winning in a car that is sub-par. And I think that at a minimum NR is a top-10 driver on the current grid. And…he has held is own with MS as a teammate, which historically has been a monumental task.

      All that said I do feel that once NR (and all drivers having not won a race) has a race-winning car it is still up to him to prove he can hold it together mentally and not squander it when the pressure is at it’s greatest, which to me only comes from having a fighting package and duking it out for wins and for the WDC title as the season winds down. I will reserve my full judgement on NR for that day…for now I think the fact that he is where he is proves that many in F1 have faith in him for the future and see race-winning potential in him.

    2. @Cyclops_PL more or less agree with you

  13. I really REALLY want Mercedes to bag a win. Heck, I’d like them to bag at least two. It simply has to happen for Rosberg, he has it in him. I’d love Schumacher to get one too, just to justify his comeback to the wider world.

    On paper, there’s little reason why Mercedes shouldn’t be super-competitive. The oldest car manufacturer in the world with bags of money, experience and talent but it is of course a fine art to make sure that’s all working together. I never expected much in 2010 from them as they were having to adjust from a smaller Brawn GP outfit to a factory team once again. Of course they would have had to plough all their 2009 resources into the BGP-01 as well so probably didn’t have much chance to develop the W01 as much as they would have liked.

    2011 should have been better for them, but they didn’t even get on the podium, but I guess you can attribute that to an extremely competitive Red Bull.

    Third time lucky I hope.

    In an ideal world I’d like both them and Lotus to be competing for wins but it just seems too good to be true to expect two new teams to make a big impression on the podium.

    1. Yeah and it seems MS doesn’t think they will be fighting for wins, and NR just hopes to annoy the leaders, but of course they are speculating too. Many seem to think Red Bull will still be a strong force, and Mac too, with Ferrari still a question mark. Just seems hard to imagine anyone toppling Red Bull quite yet. I think the best Merc can hope for is to be a strong 4th or maybe a weak 3rd. And if they are ‘only’ that, that is progress and could see them on the podium the odd day when the stars line up.

  14. Just watched the MS video above, and had to grin hearing him ending up talking about the rule clarification regarding driver behaviour, that being the behaviour of his in pushing the spirit of the one-move rule to the point where he was reminded of his blocking on LH and has ultimately resulted in the rules clarification. I am under no illusion though that MS needed to be reminded. He knew all along what the intention of the one-move idea has been for a long time now and was only lucky that all he got was a reminder. I’ll assume that reminders will not be used this year if it comes up, but rather some sort of penalty, now that the rule has been clarified.

    1. I remember watching some drivers before or after the Monza done the same thing or the 2 move defending thing if i remember correctly one of the Toro Rosso done that last year. the main point is now the rule been clarified as for last year or years before hard to blame anybody including Schumacher of doing the 2 move defending because FIA being inconsistent. So imo wouldn’t calling him lucky he didn’t do the multiple waving driving, he didn’t break any rule so did the other drivers that done almost the similar thing.

      1. Ya ya, we’ve been down this road before.

        Firstly, others doing it doesn’t make it right…like with many things in life.

        Secondly, the one-move rule has been implied if not written for long enough now that all drivers know it through and through.

        Thirdly, just as you have argued that MS/Ferrari did nothing wrong in Austria 02 because team orders were legal, and the world and the FIA decided otherwise with their reaction, and the behaviour was so abhorant that the rule was actually changed, not to mention the team was fined and villified for their ‘legal’ action, you also now try to argue the same thing with the one-move rule when in fact if MS was so innocent as you like to claim, you cannot or will not explain then why they needed to remind him of his behaviour, and then felt the need to clarify the rule and actually put it in writing.

        Both actions by MS caused rule changes and rule clarifications, so this hiding of yours under the guise that what MS did was legal just doesn’t wash. His behaviour was at a minimum questionable, and that’s not just my opinion, it is a fact as borne out by the reaction by the FIA in both scenarios.

        Can I assume you have been hammering the FIA with email after email wanting answers as to how they could pick on a driver for doing nothing illegal? They’re the ones you should be looking for answers from…not me. I’m just pointing out the reality of it. The spilloff from the two scenarios. You need to get furious with the FIA, not me. After all, MS did nothing illegal so how could the FIA be so wrong?

        1. There you go again try to put or accused Schumacher did wrong where in fact there was no action against him i mean penalty etc it’s a reminder yes but the point was they couldn’t penalize him because they were no rule breaching just borderline and like i said other drivers did similar thing but they have to wait till michael done it to clarified the rule which they themself get confused by their rule before.

          And like as you arguing that when Alonso done it when the team order have been clear ilegal and you said you can tolerate that but when Schumacher done it in 2002 depends how you or others see it it you disguste by it etc it’s your problem but my point was clear it was done when FIA still declare it legal so couldn’t blame them did it as wasn’t breaching the rule before Schumacher/Ferrari done it it was done by Jordan and Mclaren MIka-Couldhard but why the hype wasn’t that big comparing to Schumacher-Ferrari that done it? that’s my point. You don’t like the team order fair enough just how you express it just blaming toward him that really annoying especially you can tolerate other of doing it just like you said imo much because of you dislike Schumacher

          and you havn’t really answer my question before try not avoid it where that’s clear your posts on Schumacher much one sided as other posters agree with me as well
          “At least at Hockenheim 2010 the decision made some mathematical sense due to Red Bull’s strength”
          So i ask you again breaching rule is better than not breaching the rule as 2002 legal 2010 illegal as long as not Schumacher that done it?? So the legal become illegal the illegal become legal in your mind?? Try to concentrate on the question keep the fans outrage etc aside for a moment or the rule changed in the years come.

          No i never write to FIA , lol why would i furious with you i just pointed out imo quite nonesense post ex FIA create hero on Schumacher post Senna etc.

          FIA be so wrong about what??? The reality is they couldn’t punish him as there were no rule breaking hard but on the line.

Comments are closed.