As Mercedes pointed out several times during 2013, to appreciate how much of a step forward they made this year it’s important to keep in mind how far behind they were at the end of 2012.
Although they ended the previous season fifth in the championship, over the final six races they were out-scored by the four teams who finished behind them: Sauber, Force India, Williams and Toro Rosso.
But the team more than doubled its points haul in 2013 and finished runner-up to Red Bull in the championship, which team principal Ross Brawn described as a “substantial improvement”.
Naturally the team had played down expectations following the hiring of Lewis Hamilton from McLaren at the end of last year. From an early stage the team seems to have concentrated more of its energies on preparing for the 2014 rules change, which should offer opportunities to teams such as this one, which build both their chassis and engine in-house.
|Best race result (number)||1 (3)|
|Best grid position (number)||1 (8)|
|Non-finishes (mechanical/other)||3 (3/0)|
|Laps completed (% of total)||2,142 (94.36%)|
|Laps led (% of total)||170 (14.98%)|
|Championship position (2012)||2 (5)|
|Championship points (2012)||360 (142)|
|Pit stop performance ranking||3|
Nonetheless Mercedes began 2013 in strong shape with a car which was often the fastest over a single lap. In the nine races from China to Belgium they were on pole position eight times.
Yet these were converted into just three race wins: although Mercedes could extract performance from the tyres, durability eluded them at first. That seemed to change after the most notorious episode of 2013 – their secret (or, in Mercedes parlance, ‘private’) tyre test for Pirelli undertaken with a 2013-specification car.
At Monaco, the next race after the test, Mercedes took their first win of the year. Was this thanks to some breakthrough during testing? It’s more likely this was a case of winning at Monaco being a question of putting the car on pole position then driving as slowly as possible.
However the team were clearly on an upswing in form which continued as Rosberg won in Silverstone after his team mate’s early tyre failure. Hamilton finally took his first win for the team in Hungary, and afterwards said the car felt so good he believed he could win all the remaining races.
He didn’t – Sebastian Vettel did – as Mercedes fared less well in the second half of the season. For Hamilton, Hungary seemed to be a fleeting moment of satisfaction with a car he never really got comfortable with – something he will be hoping changes with next year’s car, which he will have more input into.
Hamilton’s struggles were exacerbated by damage to his chassis which went unnoticed for two races. He also had his hands full with team mate Rosberg, whose star continued to rise as he all-but matched Hamilton over the course of the season.
Mercedes’ driver line-up was one of its key strengths – it was the only team to score victories with both its drivers. This proved decisive in its season-long battle with Ferrari for second in the constructors’ championship, and its telling their rivals have finally chosen to strengthen their driver pairing for next year.
But the team’s overriding preoccupation has been not to miss any opportunities next year. “From a development perspective most, or all, of our efforts are in the 2014 programme,” Brawn admitted at the Indian Grand Prix weekend.
Brawn judged the preparation for a new set of regulations brilliantly in 2008 with Honda, although the team didn’t stick around to enjoy the fruits of his labours in 2009. But if he’s managed to engineer a repeat for Mercedes next year, this time it’s Brawn who won’t be there.
The upheaval in Mercedes’ management team began in September last year with Niki Lauda’s arrival. This was followed by the departure of vice president Norbert Haug.
When Toto Wolff and Paddy Lowe joined Mercedes as executive directors in the first half of 2013 Mercedes’ top-heavy management structure raised questions about Brawn’s future. Sure enough once the season was over Brawn confirmed he was moving on.
The question now is whether the structure he has put in place to succeed him will be able to continue the upward trend.
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27 comments on “Mercedes make strides amid management upheaval”
Lucas Wilson (@full-throttle-f1)
19th December 2013, 11:51
I really think that Mercedes are going to be real challengers for the championship.
19th December 2013, 12:04
If the rumours about Mercedes engine are true then they are definitely the team to beat
Jimbo Hull (@kartingjimbo)
19th December 2013, 12:30
I totally agree.
– They work better as a package: both drivers are equally matched and brought in some strong results last year. Both sides of the garage also seem to function better together, there doesn’t seem to be any intense rivalry and they seemed focus on getting points for the team rather than one upcoming their own team mates. In comparison you have last years Vettel/Webber combo. Vettel brought in all the points. Vettel got all the results. Vettel was number 1. Based on that RBR are very fragile because Webber as good as he was/is didn’t get the support he wanted. BUT it was enough for RBR to stomp over anyone. That however could fall through pretty easily if next year the car isn’t to sebs liking. The Ham/Rosberg combo is much stronger when it comes to consistency & equal opportunity between both so in theory should work better for the team if it all goes to pot for RBR.
– The work they’ve been doing this year for 2014: All the new staff, the new management, the new procedures seem to be taking hold already. They’ve always said ‘we’re pushing for next year, whatever we do this year will be a added bonus’ and look they came 2nd in the Constructors, besting their 4th in 2011. So in theory next year they should be bringing it home!
If anyone is going to challenge it’s going to be these guys. Ferrari and Mclaren will always been in the mix but with the steps Merc have made this year it’s only a matter of time if they keep that trend going next season!
19th December 2013, 16:49
But, two words: Nicky Lauda.
19th December 2013, 16:53
@kartingjimbo – There’s not an intense rivalry at the moment but neither ever looked like being in a position to win the Championship. If Mercedes have the fastest car this year, I can guarantee you their friendship will be stretched. There will be a huge rivalry as they are so matched for pace and both believe that they are the better driver.
None of the drivers care about coming 2nd or 3rd in the WDC so they were driving for points for the team for most of the season.
Jimbo Hull (@kartingjimbo)
22nd December 2013, 10:32
I do sense that will be the case when it comes to it but I do not fear it will interrupt their stability. Maybe Hamilton will throw his dummy out of the pram (as he usually does) but Rosberg I feel can keep his cool and persevere on with the job at hand.
But including the loss of Brawn alongside that possible scenario creates a greater chance of it becoming sour. Neale I don’t feel has the ability to negotiate that kind of rift in a team. Still though their all round driver package will be the strongest in the field, while again RBR will be focusing on just Vettel with no friction from Ricardo, well nothing like what Webber generated anyway. The boy will no doubt want to keep the team sweet for the first year so won’t speak up to much. So if all falls through at RBR Merc have the strongest chance of challenging as the experienced duo at Ferrari (esp Alosno) will no doubt run into some even bigger driver problems than Merc if it all goes sour internally.
V. Chris (@vasschu)
19th December 2013, 12:50
lol, just, lol :D
Completely forgot about Hamilton saying that… yeah, i think he was wrong.
19th December 2013, 16:19
In 2008 I thought Lewis Hamilton was going to be… well, I thought he’d be doing what Vettel is doing right now. It was a fair assumption at the time, but my, do fortunes change swiftly.
19th December 2013, 16:23
After Hungary a lot of people on this site were convinced Hamilton was going to storm back and put up a challenge.
A few choice comments from this article:
“I stand by my claim that Hamilton will win the WDC this season. Iâ€™m willing to bet BIG money on it!”
“Itâ€™s all to play for folks. HAM can still do this as I strongly suspect with the qualifying advantage that Merc have, he can really be a thorn in VETâ€™s challenge in Spa, Monza and pretty much everywhere in the Asian leg of the season.”
“It is now between Vettel and Hamilton. I was quite doubtful, but now am willing to agree with you that Hamilton will win.”
20th December 2013, 2:41
To be fair, Hamilton also said later that it was unbelievable how much progress Red Bull had made in the second half of the season. The question is how much of that knowledge from the last half is applicable to the 2014 car? If Newey spent all his time working on tweaks that won’t apply to the RB10, then Mercedes has a chance.
If, on the other hand, it was a discovery they made while developing the RB10, it’s going to be a boring year.
V. Chris (@vasschu)
20th December 2013, 8:59
Now i know. Hamilton is to blame for the Red Bull dominance!!!
After the Hungary win the entire Mercedes looked very confident and competitive. Post season, Newey admitted in interview, that RB were pretty worried about the Mercedes pace and they pushed as hard as they could to make sure they won’t fall back in the second half. But what they did, was to destroy the field.
Better watch your words next time, Lewis :)
19th December 2013, 12:54
I just read that Rosberg had a tire blowout in Bahrain: “Just spun at full speed 320km/h on Bahrain straight cause my tyre blew up without warning. Thanks to that need to get some toilet paper nowâ€¦”
Seems like his tweet was deleted later for some reason…
19th December 2013, 13:30
Pirelli at it again and the season ain’t even started yet.
19th December 2013, 14:01
More worrying is that they are still using 2013 cars which have less torque. Imagine the 2014 cars on those tyres…
Max Jacobson (@vettel1)
19th December 2013, 16:05
I don’t imagine that torque will be the problem – that is thermal degradation mainly and I think the failures were caused by excessive loading this season, so it is logical to presume the same holds true.
That is of course due to the downforce the current cars generate, which should be cut next season.
However, that one event has validated the entire test!
19th December 2013, 19:06
19th December 2013, 16:55
I suppose that’s what testing is for but even so, a blowout at those speeds is hugely dangerous and shouldn’t happen.
I thought Pirelli were going to go ultra conservative!?
Max Jacobson (@vettel1)
19th December 2013, 18:28
So did I @petebaldwin, and it’d be a shame if they didn’t. I want to see a year of proper racing with the new cars to see if we actually need the tyres to be degradable anymore.
19th December 2013, 13:09
The Mercedes driver pairing of Hamilton and Rosberg and the Ferrari driver pairing of Alonso and Raikkonen makes for a perfect championship match-up. The young Mercedes drivers would edge out saturdays with superior one-lap performance. The more experienced Ferrari drivers would make ground on sundays.
Hamilton and Rosberg deciding who takes the flag on sundays based on saturdays performance would not be super exciting.
Max Jacobson (@vettel1)
19th December 2013, 16:03
I was pleasantly surprised by Mercedes this season: considering their obvious deficit the previous year I thought they had a really good season, and now only need to capitalise on this rule change to really bring the fight to Red Bull.
19th December 2013, 16:27
I am glad they never emerged as a real contender because any success they might have enjoyed would have been overshadowed by the secret tire test and it would have been a dirty win. That story pretty much disappeared after it became clear Mercedes weren’t seriously going to challenge Red Bull.
19th December 2013, 17:53
Mate, that’s enough of that. It’s already over, I hate talking about that cause it’s just nonsense. What if I say that “RB won the season because they have Traction Control in” *Just saying, I am like those other inaccurate fans who keep on claiming RB have traction control, Mercedes were unfair, Grosjean doesn’t know how to drive, Vettel is cheating… etc, etc* That’s enough already, and you shouldn’t be here cause that is so stupid.
Max Jacobson (@vettel1)
19th December 2013, 18:27
I’m tempted to agree as that was a clear violation of the sporting rules (and it was a violation, otherwise they wouldn’t have been sanctioned) and absual of the sporting rules just isn’t the same as the technical ones. The sporting rules are there to allow for fair competition and should simply be heeded IMO, but do as you please with TC systems or FRIC or DDRS/DRD.
19th December 2013, 19:56
Mercedes broke the rules.
Mercedes gained an advantage by breaking the rules.
Mercedes were punished for breaking the rules.
If Mercedes won the championship they would have done so in a year in which they clearly broke the rules, gained an advantage, and were punished for it, and thus their victory would have been tainted whether or not people want to admit it
19th December 2013, 16:11
I too was impressed by the progress of MB this year. However I truly believe they shot themselves in the foot hiring Tot Wolff and Paddy Lowe thereby forcing out Ross Brawn, the architect of their success, not to mention what he did at Ferrari and Benetton. I just don’t see things going well moving forward. Lauda was at the top when Jaguar took a nosedive. He may have been a great driver but I think he is lacking in F1 Team Management.
19th December 2013, 18:47
I dont think the tyre test really helped them as the tyres being tested were of 2014 spec and that they were the fastest in quali for the best part of the first half of this season. It was only a matter of time before they traded off some speed for tyre longevity.
20th December 2013, 0:51
You’re probably right, however, Pirelli altered their decision on which tyres to use after the whole Testing fiasco blew up, so there is one thing to factor into your thoughts.
Comments are closed.