Mercedes raise the bar as their rivals come up short

2015 F1 season review

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Mercedes team stats 2015

Best race result (number) 1 (16)
Best grid position (number) 1 (18)
Non-classifications (mechanical/other) 2 (2/0)
Laps completed (% of total) 2,220 (103.06%)
Laps led (% of total) 936 (86.91%)
Championship position (2014) 1 (1)
Championship points (2014) 703 (701)
Pit stop performance ranking 1

Mercedes surely cannot have expected to have dominated the second year of F1’s V6 hybrid turbo regulations as emphatically as they did the first. But in terms of pure results they actually did better.

After 19 races they had amassed more points – despite 43 more points being available last year – and achieved more one-two finishes and front row lock-outs. They won the constructors’ championship one race earlier and Lewis Hamilton sealed the drivers’ title with three races to spare – where last year it had gone down to the wire.

Although Mercedes looked even further ahead at the first race weekend of the year, over the course of the season their performance margin over their closest pursuers was slightly reduced. What made the difference this year was that the team’s off-season focus on improving reliability delivered results: the W06 only failed to see the chequered flag three times due to technical problems.

Watching the same team start and finish in the top two places week-in, week-out is never going to be a recipe for exciting races, but Mercedes cannot be blamed for their rivals failing to put them under greater pressure. Had Renault made the kind of gains in the winter Ferrari had, we would have seen a very different championship. Instead they – and by extension Red Bull – drifted further away.

While Mercedes had opposed the FIA interpreting their rules in such a way which permitted in-season development, this decision went against them. Nonetheless they remained the team to beat throughout the season and debuted an upgraded engine at Monza. This gave them one of the few reliability headaches of the year, as a failure forced Nico Rosberg to go back to an old unit – suffering a failure at the end of the race – and he concluded the season with a more heavily used engine than his team mate.

Rosberg turned the tables on Hamilton – but it was too late
Mercedes also sharpened up in the pits, producing consistently the quickest complete stops of the season, although a slow one for Hamilton in Spain delayed his efforts to reclaim a place lost to Sebastian Vettel. The Ferrari driver was a regular thorn in the side of the silver cars.

In Malaysia he wielded the Ferrari to brilliant effect on a hot track, opting against mimicking Mercedes’ early pit stop under the Safety Car and making his escape while the W05s lost time in traffic. Mercedes treated him more warily from then on, and even late in the season they were always careful to avoid giving him a chance – notably in Brazil where they followed him onto a three-stop strategy.

The most embarrassing moment for the team came in Monaco where they made the mistake of pitting Hamilton under the Safety Car. This was at least partly at Hamilton’s urging, and problems with the team’s timing system contributed to the confusion. Fortunately their second car was close enough to collect the win, though of course that was no kind of comfort to Hamilton.

A mystifying performance in Singapore saw the two silver cars occupying the third row of the grid and only one of them reach the chequered flag – Rosberg’s, in fourth place. The one-off dip invited many theories – some more outlandish than others – but the combination of an unusual track where Mercedes had also been less competitive 12 months earlier plus post-Spa changes to tyre pressure and camber settings appears to have contributed.

This was also the point at which the pendulum swung from Hamilton to Rosberg in qualifying performance. It was too little, too late to help Rosberg in the championship – Hamilton wrapped it up in America. But that was the last time he saw the chequered flag first, which leaves an intriguing question mark over the balance of power at F1’s dominant outfit heading into the winter.

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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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17 comments on “Mercedes raise the bar as their rivals come up short”

  1. Impressive domination. Especially completing 103% of the total number of laps this year..

  2. The article seems to state that Mercedes consistently had the best pit stops. Just watching the race, this doesn’t seem to be true, but I don’t have hard numbers. Does anyone have the statistics on pit stops for the 2015 season? Team versus team and team mate versus team mate?

  3. I won’t be surprised if they continue this way in 2016. Their competitors didn’t really pull back any significant amout in 2015 and the gap was huge.

    Making up the better part of a second a lap when. F1 improvements are normally measures in 10ths and fractions of tents is a big ask.

  4. Best car, best reliability and best pit performance. They would have won even if Ferrari would have had a faster car.
    If the team sticks to this awesome reliability it will be very, very difficult to beat them. Hopefully if another team gets close enough (Ferrari) they will have to take more risks and mistakes will creep up; like this year in Malaysia and Hungary.

  5. Must be nice when you have a solid engine design that dominates. Then you appose in season development but are overruled. The only consequence to Merc is that they twiddle with their exhaust and intake bits a little and raise the performance bar yet again.

    I am bored out of my mind. I love tech, I love F1 and I am beginning wonder why I waste so much money and time following it. Perhaps I am a petrol head and I just need to adapt to the lithium ion age. I should just take comfort that there are flesh and blood drivers in the cars, there is something.

    Does anyone else think the racing would be better if the drivers had a mechanical lever or pedal for energy recovery? The brake pedal would be hydraulic brake only. The throttle could be by-wire. Just let the drivers benefit or fail by their own feel of what the batteries can handle when it comes to charging. I just want something to be interested in that humans/drivers do. Or maybe I just yearn for 1978 F1.

    1. I do not mean any offence with this comment, but it just seems odd to me that, for a sport that has traditionally styled itself as being at the forefront of automotive technology, its fanbase seems to have become increasingly reactionary and seem to want to actively reject new technology.

      I don’t see people demanding that Audi, Porsche or Toyota should rip out the hybrid systems or eliminate the brake by wire systems in their WEC cars – on the contrary, such systems are welcomed even when they are used as driver aids. Why is there such an obsession with wanting the sport to basically ossify itself?

    2. The dominance by Mercedes is probably a consequence of this era. If it wasn’t Mercedes then it would be another team that was dominating. Teams have stepped up their drive for reliability, and there is homologation and only 4 engines allowed without penalty, all of which make a car that is good better.

    3. it’s not real competition, it’s more of an advertisement for the motor manufacturers involved in ‘F1’. That’s what happens when the manufactures write the rules, they price the small fish out of the pond, and rig it so that the smaller teams have to accept what ever they get (hand outs). It’s the way things work in reality, yet people applaud, and clap their hands, and call it competition. It’s kind eerily dysfunctional and insidious when you think about, how it condition’s people’s notions about what is.

  6. WilliamB (@william-brierty)
    23rd December 2015, 16:56

    So often in the history of this sport does the taste of success revitalize a team, and transform it operationally, technically and conceptually.

    We saw it in the 1990s, when the Bennetton B194 and the majesty of a young Michael Schumacher proved too much for even Adrian Newey and Williams to contend with. High on confidence, the team wheeled out the B195 a year later, a car that would collect both championships and eleven wins out of seventeen races.

    We saw it with Red Bull in 2009. The RB5 consistently gained in momentum as the season progressed, and in 2010, Newey produced arguably one of the most aerodynamically advanced racing cars of all time, and the first of four consecutive championship winning chassis.

    I think we are seeing it again at Mercedes. OK, Mercedes invested too much money and time in their 2014 programme to expect to be anything other than the top of the tree. However, I think the three wins Mercedes collected in 2013 with a new star driver and new personnel was crucial for team confidence. Since then the team has been reaping the benefits of snowballing results and confidence. In every sense, they are a team in their prime, optimizing to the fullest extent their resources.

    Hopefully such infamous feats with motivate one of their rivals to be on terms with them in 2016, but bar the occasional missed victory, I can only see Mercedes winning the championship next year.

  7. They broke some records which have stood since the 1988 McLaren MP4/4, which is as good as it gets in terms of domination.

    Although their task was (and is, for next year) made a lot easier by the current regulations severely restricting nearly all development and testing.

    1. JohnS, of course, it should be pointed out that McLaren were also helped enormously by chassis homologation regulations in 1988 that meant that most of their rivals had to use a chassis from the previous year (development restrictions are not as new as some seem to think they are).

  8. We finally come to the end of the 2016 team’s ranking articles…

    And what can we say about this team. I’m not sure if ‘Domination” fits nicely here. They’ve done something more, i feel. “German Engineering” springs to mind. Indeed, since the last major rule overhaul, Mercedes have been the epitomy of perfection in the technical side of the sport, having mastered the sport’s needs the way even Legendary teams such as McLaren, Williams, or even Ferrari could not.

    For that, they deserve to be on top. I admit i am not a fan of them, but i have massive respect for their achievements, the passion they display, and the commitment they bring into their efforts.

    I simply can not see them losing to Ferrari, or any Ferrari, in 2016.

    1. they are not winning because they are the best, they are winning because they are the best with in the set of rules, that Mercedes helped put together. They are the best because there is no way anyone can compete with them given the way the rules are structured. Renault are a disaster, Ferrari are on their knees, and Honda are full of themselves, while Merc laughs at them with their strategy group holding on to the direction of the regulations.

      1. Ferrari, RedBull, Renault and Audi all helped to put the rules together, so why aren’t they winning as well? Barring Audi of course.

  9. I see only one issue they need to fix for 2016 and that is strategy. Currently they are using the concept of 1-man co-ordinating both drivers’ strategy. This isn’t going to work if Ferrari catches up. More of the Monaco style failures will occure if both drivers are pushed on-track. They need to be able to steer each driver independantly, and make any strategy work for whatever situation their drivers are in.

    1. I think that as soon as Ferrari really comes into consideration, they will not make any such mistakes, because Hamilton will not panick about Rosberg but they will have a clear target of beating the Ferrari @me4me. Its far easier from a strategy point of view to beat another team, using all the tricks they have then to balance their own two guys within the (partly artificial) limits they set themselves with regards to safely coming home.

      1. @bascb, yes indeed. But they won’t be able to combine beating Ferrari and giving equally good strategies to both drivers. Inevitably there are going to be some people left disappointed.

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