Mercedes may “unleash” Hamilton and Rosberg to enliven F1

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In the round-up: Mercedes executive director Toto Wolff admits his team’s domination of Formula One is hurting the sport and says they could relax the restrictions on their drivers strategies to make their battles more exciting.

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Comment of the day

Honda’s swiftest route to competitiveness may be to adopt the same approach as their rivals:

Ferrari caught up precisely by copying Mercedes with a bigger turbo and using their ERS subcontractor. It’s not ‘makeshift’ or ‘copycat’ but convergence.

As for Honda knowing, well they had all 2014 to see what Merc did, how they used car bodywork as part of the dyno, then when Honda launched they hadn’t done that and the car couldn’t cool the engine they’d built.

The MGU-H was obviously – as in, obvious to everybody else – woefully under-powered.

So I hope they’ve become more practical and less inward-looking, and we get to see the Macs racing hard in the midfield.

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On this day in F1

Philippe Etancelin, one of 21 drivers who was on the grid for the first ever round of the world championship, was born on this day in 1896. Etancelin survived his period in motor racing and lived to be 84, passing away in 1981.

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78 comments on “Mercedes may “unleash” Hamilton and Rosberg to enliven F1”

  1. I saw the article by Yohan Blake about Jules earlier, a lovely piece, highly recommend reading it.

    1. It is a lovely and heartfelt piece. I never knew that those two were friends actually. It shows another side of Jules other than his racing. Life can be cruel, taken far too soon.

  2. The next time RBR are in the title fight neither Ricciardo nor Kyvat will be in the team.

    The only thing Merc should unleash is a gag for Toto.

    And as others have said, the Bianchi piece by Yohan Blake is well worth a read. And it doesn’t have a single quote by or reference to his father with is most welcome.

    1. Ugh can we ever get an “Edit” function?

      That should be “which” not ‘with’, obv. Sigh.

      1. There is no comment editing facility on the main site at present, here’s why:

    2. So, you want the team principal to stop answering direct questions from the press?

      1. No, I want him to think before he speaks. You could try it too.

        Don’t suppose you saw him whinging about Haryanto buying a seat at Manor when Wehrlein is so obviously going to be there on merit alone and nothing to do with Merc engines.

        1. See, what I’m thinking is that Daily Mail article is about what Mercedes should do in 2016, and what you’re doing is confusing that with what’s been going on in 2015. Which is a different season.

          And from what I’ve read, Wehrlein has at least shown some promise, unlike Haryanto.

          1. @raceprouk, the point that Apex Assassin is making is that Mercedes could still use their financial muscle to place a driver at Manor, just as Ferrari intervened on Bianchi’s behalf when the team was Marussia and used Ferrari’s engines.

            When it comes down to it, is there that much of a difference between using the backing of a manufacturer, given they tend to offer services in lieu of cash (say, increased technical support which would otherwise have to be paid for) to get a seat at a team and using cash up front? Whilst some manufacturer backed drivers have been good, others have been considered to be relatively underwhelming (such as Nakajima or, going back a few years, Alliot).

          2. Yes, as said manufacturer will most likely have said driver in their racing programme already, and will therefore have more confidence that the driver will do well. Of course, it’s no guarantee, but the difference is not insignificant.

  3. It won’t work. I would like it to, but with hundreds of millions invested in these teams a team like Mercedes will always do what is in its best interests. We saw plenty of that this season between Hamilton and Rosberg, especially after Texas .
    Anyone could see that the team, quite rightly, we’re doing everything in their power to secure second place in the championship for Nico. Do you really think that Mercedes would have allowed Vettel and Ferrari beat them just to help the sports ratings? Utter nonsense!
    As it was when Ferrari dominated in the Schumacher era, it is up to the others to adapt and catch Mercedes up. This won’t be achieved by gimmicks but by hard graft and determination.

    1. Agreed. Merc are, albeit a bit ahead of their competition, not in a position where they could spice up the strategy game by themselves without weakening their position relative to the competition.
      That said, I´d very much welcome a change that gets rid of strategists and strategy-teams and puts it all back to the driver. This would be a rule-change restricting pit-to-car radio, and possibly telemetry, and it would furthermore be one of the very few possible things that would actually reduce costs, as there is no way to get a strategy-advantage (provided by a team of strategists and a powerful computer-system now) back by spending money as soon as it is simply put in the drivers hand.

      1. @crammond, would it necessarily decrease costs, or would it simply shift the emphasis more onto the simulation work done in advance of a race weekend?

    2. I reckon part of it is to deal with the friction between Hamilton and Rosberg, not just for the show. With one team strategist calling all the stops it’s too close to the team deciding who wins, when cars can’t follow.

      So the McLaren method has a lot going for it. It is perfectly workable, as we’ve seen there. The team can still have overall control, after all – for example Paddy can forbid a risky early stop if he thinks that might mean running out of tyre at the end, when Seb is lurking. Though Merc need Ferrari to win a race or two, really, to keep Bernie sane.

      And Toto is dead right anyway: Lewis and Nico being able to undercut/outlast/non-stop each other could make a huge difference to some races.

      I’m guessing it means Toto thinks Merc is still going to have an edge next year.

  4. Re the COTD, I too was surprised about how many problems the Honda engine had at the start of this year’s season because I thought a lot of those problems could have been found during simulation testing. When you add the “size zero” concept, which only made things harder for Honda, it wasn’t surprising they got so few points.

  5. I think unleashing Hamilton and Rosberg will last until Australia where Hamilton’s in the lead and Rosberg gets the alternate strategy and wins the race… I can see Hamilton leading and questioning why the team is “helping” Rosberg beat him and he melts down :)

    1. Perhaps (hopefully), Ferrari makes the step we all want to see, and Vettel’s out front and Merc will need to split Hamilton’s and Rosberg’s strategies to try and win the race (better P1 & 3, then P2 & 3).

    2. I’m hoping Ferrari will force them to use split strategies to cover them off at the very least. A bit like Red Bull in Japan 2013 – where they had to split Vettel and Webber’s strategies to guarantee the win ahead of Grosjean.

    3. and ham’s strategist would be watching some xxx shows while ros doing different things…

  6. Nice thought Toto but given that when Hamilton was on form, Rosberg could get nowhere near him, all the strategies in the world won’t make a difference.
    There’s no way that they’ll let them fight properly and risk their manufacturers title because to have them fight properly, there’s likely to be contact, and the last time there was contact, there was all sorts of hell to pay.
    They’ll do the same as last year, try to wrap up the constructors as quickly as possible and THEN they’ll let them race.
    Our only hope for next year will be if another team can actually get close enough in a race to make Mercedes work for their title and the gap is so large, I’m not at all confident that can happen in 2016.

  7. Wow…. this guy Toto Wolff sure does change his mind often regarding the running of his team and the handling of his drivers. Wondering what will be his next pronouncement.

    1. I can see how saying the same thing repeatedly for the last year is evidence of someone continually changing their mind.

        1. April 2015: Toto comments on plans for the 2015 season.
          December 2015: Toto comments on plans for the 2016 season.

          See that different number there? See how that changes the context of the comment? And see how that has absolutely no effect on my previous point?

      1. @raceprouk I don’t know where you’ve been this past year, but Toto Wolff has DEFINITELY NOT been ‘saying the same thing repeatedly for the last year’. Please check your facts.

        1. I await the list of conflicting statements you’ll be unable to collate.

    2. He’s a complete hypocrite. By definition.

      1. For saying the plans for 2016 are different to the plans for 2015?

  8. Mercedes has too big advantage of course they worked hard for it. But we can easily decrease differences if we introduce plus weight/point system. For example plus 20dkg/point. It is a fast cheap effective solution to decrease differences but we dont need unification or freeze development.

    1. You mean a ballast handicap system?

      I can’t speak for everyone but I don’t want to watch that. I want to see winners win because they were the best. I’ll watch days of thunder if I want some contrived showbiz fake dramatic racing.

      1. @philipgb I agree, I stopped watching touring car racing when success ballast really started to become a thing in series like the btcc & dtm in the late 90s/early 00s.

        without checking i also recall that in the recent fan survey something like 80% of fans who took part said they didn’t want such a system & its always been something which has got very negative reactions from fans online if its ever been suggested.

      2. Yes but in this system finally win the best. If mercedes has the best car they win first. After that mercedes will be 10 kg hevier than ferrari maybe ferrari can win. Then the differences decrease among the 2 teams in points and weights mercedes could win again and finally they won championship. But racing will be more close balanced impredictable and more teams and drivers could win some races.

        1. petebaldwin (@)
          28th December 2015, 13:26

          I understand what you’re saying and you’re right but it’s not for me. Punishing drivers for winning races to artificially make F1 more enjoyable is just another form of DRS/Pirelli/Double Points….

          1. Ok. But now i can see how mercedes win almost every races. This is not competition and isnt exciting.
            What should we do?
            Only waiting and everything will be alright?

          2. It quite literally is competition. In that competition Mercedes have outperformed everyone else. Adding a penalty to a higher achieving competitor so that the others can be given parity without doing the required work to match them isn’t competition, it’s contrived and meaningless. I’ll stop watching if they ever introduce victory based handicapping.

            Waiting is exactly what we should do as the best part about fair competition is that if one team can achieve a level of performance, every team potentially can. Next year if Ferrari, and maybe even Red Bull can compete with Mercedes then we will all know we are watching real competition not the actual best team being throttled back to have some kind of inclusive trophy giving event put on each weekend.

            Leaving the rules as is will be exactly how we get parity. After 2009 we got 2010. But they tinkered with the rules again banning double diffusers, introducing DRS and Pirelli tyres for 2011. Then after that we got 2012 but they tinkered with the tyres again for 2013 rather than keeping a working formula.

            Now granted we didn’t see much equalisation in 2015 following on from 2014, but those rule changes were huge so it’s to be expected. The problem is those rules are now not long for this world, so how are teams going to justify putting the work in the catch Mercedes if the slate is wiped clean again for 2017? The fact is they won’t, they’ll switch their focus to the next roll of the rule dice and leave Mercedes to dominate for a third year on the trot. People have been surprised that Mercedes are in favour of ditching the MGU-H given it is currently one of their biggest advantages but it makes sense because if they can create some uncertainty over those rules no other team will heavily invest in that tech which leaves Mercedes with the advantage and also means they don’t have to fight chasing diminishing gains from it’s performance.

          3. Everything You said, plus Mercedes would need a trailer to carry all of the ballast. This would obviously be a “moving aerodynamic device”.

          4. Ok, I’m trying further.
            Let’s see the advantages and disadvantages of +weight/point system. (+20dkg/point, less or more)
            Advantages: 1. Less differences between cars in total and close racing. 2. Fast, cheap, effective solution. 3. We don’t need unification or freeze development 4. Finally the best team wins (5. Head to head racing if there would be less turbulent air and better tyres)
            Disadvantages: 1. Unfair? I don’t think (or partly) because finally win the best and if you have the best team and car you have to work harder to remain the best.

          5. I fully agree Philip that we need slight changes in technical regulations year by year (and differences will naturally decrease).
            But now Mercedes has too big advantage and Renault and Honda have no chance to catch Mercedes and Ferrari has a little chance to beat Mercedes next year. They need more time or more freedom in development (without token system) until regulations allow.

        2. The problem with the ballast for winning idea is the best don’t win consistently. F1 is the premier open wheel racing series, and every team has an equal opportunity to win. Mercedes happened to do it better than everyone else did, but that isn’t Mercedes fault, it is everyone else’s fault because they should have made the right design choices.
          The 2015 season is over, and the 2016 season is on its way, and Mercedes have a problem, which is the only way to keep their advantage is leaping into the unknown: they have to make their engine more efficient than their competitors’ engines, but that requires developing new technology. Efficiency is the key because F1 is a fuel flow restricted format, and if, as McLaen-Honda have shown, you don’t get it right then you suffer. Why should Mercedes have ballast added to their car because McLaren-Honda made poor choices?
          It is easier for competitors to catch Mercedes than for Mercedes to stay ahead. If the engine rules remained the same for a long time, then eventually all the engines used in F1 would have more or less identical performances, meaning there wouldn’t be any need for ballast.

          1. Ok. Your only one argument which I wrote unfair. But I wrote more advantages and they are important. So I think it has more advantages than disadvantages in total not only quantity but quality. I want to see close racing and worlds fastest cars. For these goals we can reach effectively with this plus weight/point system. If you are the best you have to work harder to remain the best. And in this system finally win the best!

          2. The only advantage of your idea is it justifies poor decisions! Why aim to be the best when you just get ballast dumped on you? When the cars turn up in Australia each one has the same chance of winning as when they turn up at Abu Dhabi. Each car competes under the same rules. A handicap system simply means that by the end of the year each car has a different set of rules that they have to comply with. Would you prefer a racing series where the winner won because they rigged the result better than every other team?

    2. @patent I don’t like success ballast in touring cars and I don’t want it anywhere near F1 or any other forms of motor racing that don’t already have it.

      1. But if I know well, there are any motorsport where use +weight/POINT system. I dont agree the system that used in wtcc where use +60kg only for citroen. I think +weight/POINT system would be much better and I wrote the advantages of it.
        Of course it would be much better if differences decrease naturally but it is a long time period. Until we get it we can use this system.

        1. Fans will call a race boring if there is no overtaking. But they also don’t like DRS because it’s not just a car going past another car that’s entertaining, it’s seeing the drivers skill and daring in making a move that we know should take immense skill. DRS achieves the same goal with far greater frequency but we are robbed of seeing real racing because of the distinct advantage it hands the car behind.

          Fans also call a season boring without varied results. But are against ballast for the same reasons because it wouldn’t be us witnessing true victories like Malaysia or Hungary this year where Ferrari on merit gave us spectacular races by overcoming the might of Mercedes.

          F1 needs to move away from artificial elements not introduce more.

          1. Ok. 2014 and 2015 seasons were absolutely boring because of the (Mercedes) dominant. I just want to see more exciting races among the best drivers in fastest cars as soon as possible. So we need less differences in total and less turbulent air but fast cars. How can we solve it? This is, decision makers and engineers should work for.
            I think +weight/point system would be a good opportunity but you dont agree with me.
            I think the new rules want to be introduced in 2017 that is absolutely wrong direction because of the increased turbulent air. And more effective DRS will result more effective ‘easy overtakes’ so its not a solution for problems.

          2. Most fans see F1 via TV, and the TV people are paid to make it entertaining. In the last few races the cars in the midfield got most of the TV coverage because that is where all the action was.

  9. Wolff doesn’t want unecessary conflict in the team and have therefore enforced strict strategy equality, and also thinks drivers will get strategy wrong most of the time, yet now he wants to let them do what they want? How bizarre.

    With the delaying of Rosberg’s contract extension to see how the ‘season pans out’ and now this which will guarantee controversy, it’s like he wants Rosberg out. But then this is maybe not so strange when he is the manager of Bottas and Wehrlein.

    1. I read it more that he’s thinking about having two strategists, one for each driver.

    2. Gelf, I think you might be reading a little too much into the situation – to be honest, that comment about seeing how the “season pans out” sounds more like Mercedes making sure that Rosberg keeps his ambitions in check when negotiating a new salary.

      Besides, why do Mercedes need to rush into a deal? Rosberg is unlikely to want to leave the team unless things go drastically wrong, so Mercedes have a reasonably strong negotiating position – why not take advantage of that? Rosberg extracted a fairly hefty pay rise out of Mercedes last time around (in 2015, Rosberg was briefly being paid more than Hamilton was before Hamilton signed his new contract), but I suspect Mercedes might take a slightly harder line this time around.

    3. Actually having driver’s make their own strategy calls would be brilliant – in the same way they banned coaching. Drivers would be allowed to ask questions about where other drivers are, what kind of tire wear or lap times they are doing etc., but the driver would need to create the mental map themselves of where everyone’s at and when to make the call.

      That would bring back some real racing.

  10. Realistically speaking, there is only so much Mercedes can do. If there is someone breathing down their necks (like Vettel often did this year), then they will have to think about beating that someone first. If the simulator clearly shows that there is just one right strategy and if none of both drivers is Sergio Perez, then there is not much strategists can do to spice up the race. Letting drivers make their own strategy choices sounds exciting but we know what happened when the team listened to Hamilton at Monaco and more of that would only increase animosity and tension within the team.

    I believe that Mercedes will do their best to make things a little more exciting but we should not get our hopes up. In fact, they have already done a lot. They could have hired a much weaker “second” driver than Rosberg or simply declare that “you shall not pass” your team mate after the first corner. It is not Mercedes’ job to split their team into two parts, it is the others’ job to catch them.

  11. Are we allowed to post links?

    Well long long time ago…. Mercedes was believe it or not behind McLaren…
    but then this happend:
    And Lewis decided maybe he should go to M’cSedes…

    In any case back to the topic at hand. Oh yes dual strategist for Nico and Lewis… Absolutley. If they are again 0.5 seconds infront of Ferrari, then for sake of F1 they need dual strategists, so atleast they try to beat eachother on strategy.

    While at first glance there is just 1 optimum strategy, there are many sub optimal strategies that can gain you track position and disrupt track position. Most famous – undercut. This way say Nico historicaly just behind Lewis would pit 1 lap earlier from optimum to try to gain track position and then on second pitstop Lewis might try the same. Worst case scenario it mixes things up a bit. We cannot expect 2016 to be any diffrent for following a car closely and we saw this year, pretty much what ever Mercedes got out of first corner first… won the race. That is all due to their leader gets optimum strategy and follower gets to pit a bit later internal arrangement. That kind of setup guarantees no driver can win on strategy and assures boring results.

    So I applaud their efforts! Good job Mercedes!

    1. @jureo, that doesn’t fit with any of the public statements from any of those involved, all of whom have indicated that Hamilton didn’t decide to move to Mercedes until the Singapore GP in September, two and a half months later (and, incidentally, that was the only time that season where Schumacher was able to pass Hamilton, so I don’t think that he’d have jumped to any conclusions based off that one single race).

    2. @jureo

      Are we allowed to post links?

      I don’t know why people keep asking this. If you weren’t it would say so here, the link for which is besides every comment form.

    3. @jureo I’m not sure the video means anything. Both cars had the same Mercedes engine, and IIRC that was a DRS zone, so the pass wasn’t due to engine power or chassis design.

      1. It was just after Bernie/Charlie had ruled McLaren’s legal floor lllegal for, er, using tolerances that were there in the rules. It took Mac a little while to recover, but they did.

    4. Looking at that closing speed, I’d say that’s a DRS pass. And @tromoly is right: the Wellington Straight is a DRS zone.

      1. I was trying to illustrate how McLaren used to be infront of Mercedes… Also how V8 cars were pretty fast, and created aura of drama about them.

        I was watching some onboard videos on Youtube, 2004, 2007, 20012, 2015… few things are obvious… Revs go down, camera quality is improving, cars are less twitchy, to be honest 2007 cars looked quite ugly, but boy where they fast to the eye.

        Also few years ago Kimi was on fire… now looks like his driver seat is on fire.

  12. TheF1Engineer (@)
    28th December 2015, 17:59

    There’s a rule which reads, “drivers must drive the car alone and unaided,” or “driver aids are banned and prohibited.” Words to that effect.

    A thorough enforcement of that rule abolishes Toto’s usual nonsense suggestion, and fixes quite a few other issues while it’s at it.

    I’m OK with Engineers communicating directly with the car throughout practice and throughout warm-up, but during qualifying and during the race, the only pit>car communication should be for safety reasons.

    These cars have digital displays on them. It it entirely possible to have all the “fixable” parameters on that display and it’s up to the driver to fix or drive around the issue.

    1. Given the difference (in terms of information available) between the driver reading a small LCD screen at 170mph and an engineer reading a 1080p display in the pit garage, I don’t mind the engineer advising on selected aspects; they have a lot more info far more readily available, and they don’t have the distraction of vibration, heat, high G-forces, and other cars running as close as six inches. That’s not to say the driver should make no decisions; that would be ridiculous. But equally, there are some decisions where the engineer has a more complete picture, and can make a more informed call.

      1. That’s one hell of a driver aid… making correct strategic decisions at correct time.

        1. Well, not really, as it doesn’t actually have an effect on the actual driving of the car, except maybe influencing when the driver pushes harder. Besides, when the regs talk about ‘driver aids’, they mean TCS, ABS, stability management, stuff like that.

  13. Rosberg is not gonna like that, it’ll make Lewis harder to beat. you already heard he thinks both cars should have same setup and strategy…only way he thinks he can beat LH.

    1. didn’t hear about Rosberg wanting the same set up. I seriously doubt that.

      If you noticed, the only time Hamilton wanted different strategies was when HE was behind. As for Rosberg, he’s basically saying, “hey, if it was good enough for when Lewis was leading, it’s good enough for when I’m leading.”

      I didn’t hear a lot of moaning from Rosberg or the press when he’s having to follow right behind Lewis Australia or Canada. The press was always like “Rosberg needs to up his game.” Then when Hamilton was following right behind the press started quipping “they need to allow the drivers to race, they need to allow Hamilton a different strategy.” Not “Lewis needs to up his game…”

      1. That’s because Lewis is a three time World Champion, he has upped his game.

      2. he said its better to have same strategy when Lewis started whining, but that is because Rosberg now has found a setup to be more on level with Hamilton.

  14. Regarding the 2017 rule changes, does anyone else feel that Williams F1 team may steel a march on the other entrants who’s chief technical officer’s are not so ‘involved’ in the writing of the new aero regulations?

    They will still have that great Mercedes engine and they are #1 customer with regards Mercedes sharing their engine magic and with some serious decisions made correctly as to when is the right time to change focus from ’16 to ’17 is, Williams could really be in the hot seat come Melbourne 2017!

    If they do start winning (more than Mercedes AMG) how long before they become ‘less preferential’ customers?

    1. @thebullwhipper, realistically, I think it is unlikely – Williams’s resources are still fairly limited compared to the manufacturer teams, as evidenced by the fact that, this year, they seem to have fallen backwards slightly rather than moved forwards.

      In terms of chassis development, Williams have not really shone in that department for years – there was talk that there were some serious flaws in the design of their 2015 chassis, and it has been a while since anybody has noted anything really revolutionary on one of Williams’s cars in the past few years.
      The only recent innovation that comes to mind was their lowline gearbox in 2013 (and that proved to be a disastrous decision) – otherwise, their designs have tended to be a bit on the conservative side. Even if they switched early and threw most of their resources at their 2017 car, I’m not sure I would expect a revolutionary design from a team that has tended to err more on the cautious side in recent years.

  15. The best way to enliven F1 is to get rid of the terrible KERS power plants.
    F1 needs engines, not “power plants”!
    1.5 L turbo or 3-3.5 L normally aspirated.
    As many cylinders as they wish.
    12 engines and transmissions per year.
    No fuel restrictions.
    More testing.
    Less aero.

    1. In other words, you want F1 from the 1980s

  16. Mercedes are forced to split strategies to cover Ferrari . The talk to let them race each other(Ham and Ros) is nonsense. Mercedes feels the threat from Ferrari and they need to do something about it. Mercedes will still have a slight advantage but they are not underestimating Ferrari. All this is better for us , the fans, as will give us some good races.

    1. As I posted above, I think it’s not so much letting them race each other, more having one strategist per driver. Then again, the latter will result in the former almost by definition.

  17. They will not allow this.

    1. They won’t allow Williams to harness F1 tech for fridges?

      (Context is important)

  18. I am thinking what would make racing more fun at the front, rather than Success balast…

    That is more Mercedes cars… lets say 4.. so they get 4 top drivers, all strategist of their own…. and unleash them.

    This way there is many potential winners. Under current regulations only thing Mercedes can do is provide both drivers with individual strategist, and close off parts of the team so they function like two teams under one roof. That will provide competition for #1 spot and make the races where they dominate more “fun”, atleast for the lead.

    Overall we have to admit in all sports sportsmen and sportswomen dominate. Any sport that has 0 performance equalisation tends to gravitate to one or a few dominant teams. In Football its Messi and Ronaldo. In Tenis its Djokovic and maybe Fedderer… Are we suprised in F1 its Lewis & Nico? They seemingly have done the best job, to be in the best team of the era and do good enough job to stay in dominant position for now two seasons.

    We act as if F1 is rigged in ways other sports are not… but in reality all sports are rigged to favor the champions. Is financing rigged in F1? Yeah it is, Ferrari get more money than Mercedes, but say in Tenis Federer has similar ammount of sponsorship to Djokovic who is generally better for last few years.

    The question then is, why do we F1 fans care about it so much, when cars are not equal, when sponsorships are not equal, where engines are not equal, reliability is not flawless… where some drivers are picked on budget not merit… why do we seemingly care more about these than fan of other sports?

    1. Murray will out perform Federer in 2016 and will get closer to Djokovic.

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