Mercedes W09, 2018

Mercedes acknowledge dominance is unhealthy for F1

2018 F1 season

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Mercedes says it recognises its dominance of Formula One could be unhealthy for the sport as it attempts to win a record-equalling fifth consecutive championship double.

The team can match Ferrari’s record of winning five consecutive drivers’ and constructors’ championship titles this year. But Mercedes executive director Toto Wolff acknowledged his team’s ongoing successes may not be healthy for the sport.

“If you look from outside us, does long term-dominance of the team damage the spectacle, yes it does,” he said when asked by RaceFans. “We see that in the successes from Ferrari in the years 2000, Red Bull’s days a couple of years ago, and then Mercedes.”

“I think the most healthy situation for Formula One is a very competitive environment where multiple teams are able to win, the championship goes down to the wire, to the final race. These are clearly the ingredients we need.”

“But it’s not the objective of this group here today. We have been trying to optimise on what we we are able to deliver and we can’t from where we sit have a holistic approach to the global spectacle.”

Mercedes has won 63 of the last 79 F1 races. But Wolff sees no indication that Mercedes’ competitive edge has been dulled.

“Certainly in the team I don’t see lack of motivation,” he said. “We put a lot of emphasis in defining our objectives and targets at the beginning of the year. So from within the team that doesn’t worry me.”

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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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37 comments on “Mercedes acknowledge dominance is unhealthy for F1”

  1. yeah, if they take the double this year i’m out till they rewrite the formula…

    1. I really did stop watching during Ferrari and Schumi’s dominant era – and I was a huge Schumi fan! But it was just so boring.

    2. Why? The longer the same formula is in place, the more convergence between teams. New regulations = 1 team getting it more right than the others.

      1. That was when the engines were very equal. Every team had a chance to build a championship winning car. Now the engines are unequal so the only way you can fight for the championship is you are the engine manufacturer. Nobody can build a car that is faster than the merc with an engine that is 2s per lap off the pace. Only team that can challenge mercedes is ferrari because they are an engine manufacturer team.

        Renault may be able to do it eventually but they are at least 2 years away from podiums. They are still building up their team. Red bull can occasionally challenge for the wins when the big 2 have troubles just because renault can not afford to tune down their customer engines just yet. But once renault gets closer to red bull the 2nd rate engines is only thing that red bull can hope to get.

        If you are not engine factory team you get worse engines. None of the non-factory teams for example get any of the special qualifying modes. Sure it has always been like this but now the engines are almost completely electronically controlled so the factory teams can adjust the speed of the other teams as precisely as they want. Add in all the oil burning and extra oil tanks and fuel additives and you can be sure no one else except ferrari and mercedes have those.

        In the past teams could build a better car even if they had slightly worse engines (red bull). But nowadays the engine deficit is too big. The engine you get defines your speed and there is nothing you can do about it. Absolutely nothing. Mercedes will will everything until 2021 or whenever something changes.

  2. “But it’s not the objective of this group here today. We have been trying to optimise on what we we are able to deliver and we can’t from where we sit have a holistic approach to the global spectacle.”

    I wonder is there a team that looks holistically? It is a business and winning by a large margin is bad for business…

    1. No, especially in the last handful of years with the top 4 teams having the weight they do, they’ve been looking out for themselves, but that is exactly what Brawn and his team are there for…to take the holistic, big-picture view and make changes for the overall good for which no one team would reasonably be expected to fall on it’s own sword and give something up to the competition until it is mandated in the regs and the same for everyone.

      1. @robbie I get your point, from what we’ve seen so far there doesn’t appear to be any sign of teams keeping their dominance in check, also, winning equals money better merchandise sales higher sponsorship charges etc.

        ..But only to a point.. If I was a stakeholder on the Merc board I want to ensure that I get paid and if there’s a chance that viewing figures and proportionately profits would fall due to their dominance then I would be asking if there is an internal team charged with “improving the show”. I don’t think I would be trusting my millions with Ross Brawn who I have no control over..

        I’m not saying this is the case but I can see it being very possible if a team sees a dramatic drop in profits due to their success.

        1. @twentyseven I think for now agreements and contracts are in place such that Brawn can’t do much until 2021, nor does he want to throw the smaller teams a headache by making knee-jerk decisions that only the big 4 can adapt to quickly and affordably.

          I think overall a healthy F1 would be better for all the teams, presumably because a healthier F1 would mean a larger audience, but I’m not sure one team dominating would lose that team any profits…ie. it might hurt F1 somewhat and therefore any one team a little, but overall I don’t think Mercedes in this case themselves would be seeing a ‘dramatic’ drop in profits from too much success in F1.

          1. @robbie I do think Merc would see a dramatic drop in profits due to their dominance. Consider these two scenarios 1. Merc display the dominance shown over the last four years from the outset and win both championships again by a huge margin 2. There’s a 4 way tussle throughout the championship which draws media attention from around the globe making standard news headlines.

            Which scenario do think is more profitable?

          2. @twentyseven I get your scenarios and the point you are making but I wouldn’t know how to quantify the effects of each to Mercedes, and I just can’t wrap my head around concepts like ‘dramatic drop in profits.’ I just don’t buy that. I don’t have any sense that Mercedes does anything but try to dominate each season, nor have I observed them sandbagging just to ensure a season goes down to the last race, just for the extra attention, because that would somehow be more profitable.

  3. Thing is, it’s not Mercedes’ problem to fix. The rules are the same for all the teams and while there is an inequitable revenue structure, there are other teams with similar resources to Mercedes. Ferrari and Red Bull Racing have everything they need except excuses. There’s no unfair advantage here, just a few teams underperforming and needing to do a better job. I’m not going to imply that Mercedes have simply won by default – they’ve done an exceptional job and set new standards for how far a team can push itself – but if Mercedes can hit a performance point, it’s possible to any team to hit that performance point. If Mercedes are dominating, it’s up to the other teams to do better and beat them.

    1. I do agree but I think many might harken back to the ‘locked in’ advantage Mercedes had with the token system limiting other teams from catching up. To be clear it was not something I was too fussed about, as my understanding was that in reality only a small number of components in the PU or ICE were affected, but boy oh boy around here it had many saying they’d have an advantage for years. That said yes every team had the same opportunity as Mercedes to nail their package with the current gen pu’s and regs, and they didn’t, and are still playing catch-up.

      The other reason I wasn’t so fussed about it was that there was a great rivalry going on at Mercedes, so we had the opposite of MS/Ferrari and so I will always honour TW for taking the high road and ensuring LH and NR settled things on the track.

      1. Yeah I remember the bad old days of Ferrari, where their car had special ‘magic’ tyres that nobody else could access, where they’d finish races over a minute up the road from anyone else and Rubens would still have to pull over to let Michael through, wrapping up both championships before the end of Summer. By contrast I don’t feel like Mercedes has ever had that kind of advantage, and you can see how hard the team is having to work to preserve the edge it has.

        The point about the tokens is a valid one for maybe 14 and 15, but since 16 it hasn’t really been an issue at all. And let’s face it, it’s not like anyone was empowered to roll out a completely new concept once the tokens were ditched. Honda, Renault, and Ferrari didn’t have anything extra on the drawing board that was being held back thanks to tokens.

        Mercedes have just done a brilliant job, as has Hamilton who I would say at this point has to be considered one of the greatest GP drivers of all time. When Shumacher retired I think we all felt like he was closing the book on a legacy which would never be bettered – that in the ultra-competitive environment of modern F1, such a string of success could never be possible. Hamilton and Mercedes are challenging that idea, and I geuinely think that they have it within their grasp to smash all of the records set by Schumacher and Ferrari. And while I’m probably the least nationalistic person you could come across, seeing this British driver winning everything with this British team* really does make my chest swell with pride.

        *Yes I know they hang a German flag over the door but they’re based in the UK, the car and the power units are designed and built here. They’re as British as eel pie and I’ll hear nothing to the contrary…

        1. @mazdachris Not to argue but just for conversation’s sake, I suggest that the Mercedes domination has been just as strong as the MS/Ferrari one, but it may only appear less so because we have been in an era of over-conservation of too much all at once, such that whereas LH or NR would have to be prudent and crank things down and thus not gain a one minute lead out of necessity with the whole season in mind, MS had nothing preventing him from doing that wrt to fuel, tires, or mechanical components, including no grid spot penalties for too many components used.

          In terms of the current era of tires from Pirelli that have held drivers back from pushing themselves or their cars to any limits, I have struggled to consider any of the recent WDC’s as having performed great feats. When even the drivers (let alone millions of fans) say they want F1 to be harder, which has been granted starting in 2017, I do feel like they’ve been moreso passengers in scientific experiments, than racers racing racers. Yes of course there’s racing, but for me it’s racing-lite when the drivers are so limited. Here’s hoping this year’s tires will start to change that, although I haven’t heard anything amongst the ‘softer’ ‘more aggressive’ talk that mentions whether or not they’ll still be finicky to get into the right temp operating window. Half the art these days has just been getting tires to work, and that has been very disappointing for me. I had hoped they would get away from that last year like they said they would, as in, tread wear deg vs thermal deg, but they never did. They claim they had to go conservative and I get that, so I am fascinated to see/hear what this year’s tires will bring.

        2. @robbie Probably going to get completely off track here but what the heck, I enjoy a good argum… conversation..

          I think Mercedes’ advantage is about as large as it’s possible to be in the current era of F1. Perhaps if the tyres were more durable we’d have seen them scamper off, but playing Devil’s advocate here, we can’t say that for sure. The Mercedes strength was getting the best out of the tyres’ limited operating range, and in that respect they were already getting closer to the optimum. This was a hindrence more for other teams than for Mercedes – if the tyre was more durable then possibly other teams who had struggled more with the tyres (such as Ferrari) would have been closer in performance terms. But who knows, it’s all academic now.

          Regarding your point about getting a tyre into its operating window, don’t fall into the trap of believing there is such a thing as a tyre with an unlimited amount of grip no matter how hard you push. Part of the art of being a racing driver has always been about knowing how hard you can push the tyres before they overheat and lose grip. The issue with the older Pirellis was not that they would overheat when pushed, but rather once they had overheated they were wrecked and would never come back. A good racing tyre loses grip when pushed too hard, but can be nursed back down to its optimum temperature and give good grip once again. This delicate art of taking the tyre close to its limit of temperature has always been one of the most important aspects of a decent racing driver.

          There are people out there who talk about some kind of mythical tyre which can just be pushed harder and harder and will never overheat. It doesn’t exist, has never existed, and while they’re still made from rubber, will never exist. And racing is better for it. Otherwise the skill of a driver would simply be about who is brave enough to barrell into a corner as fast as humanly possible. Such magical tyres would make racing less skillful, not moreso.

          1. @mazdachris Great commentary and I don’t consider it off topic at all. Dominance as large as possible in this current era is, I think, very well put. I think another thing to consider with the tires as they have been is that they (the fronts) have done very poorly in someone’s dirty air, so when you have one team taking the lion’s share of the first two grid spots ala Mercedes (less so last year of course) then they are less subject to having their front tires ruined from following. Of course, kudos then to Mercedes and it’s drivers for putting the car on the front end of the pack. The scampering off (or often lack thereof) isn’t just about tires though, and is also about ultra conserving of everything, which MS didn’t have to deal with.

            I completely take your point in your second paragraph, and never have nor will expect tires of unlimited grip no matter how hard you push. You’re absolutely right about tires that should be able to be brought back into the correct operating temp after it has been taken out of it, but I don’t think we had that last year, did we? And certainly not the years before. They need to get back to what you are suggesting is a reasonable tire to expect. I’d like to see tires that have a wider operating window that is easier to achieve, (doesn’t have to be completely easy peasy though) and one that can be brought back into when taken out of, such that we get to see more of the art of racing for more of a stint, than the art of tire management with racing taking a back seat for fear of ultimately losing lap time after only a few laps of trying to follow someone. Or having no choice but to hang back 2 seconds and bide one’s time.

            Ultimately, we have seen better tires than we have been getting, and we have seen worse tires than last year, namely the recent years preceding last year, and yet processions still prevail. The common denominator still remains too much dependency on clean air, for if the tires where something magical, the leading car would be on them too, not just the trailing car. It still comes down to the degree that cars are negatively affected in their handling when in someone’s dirty air. …’who is brave enough to barrel into a corner as fast as humanly possible’ sounds like it would be a refreshing change from what we have had, lol, but yes I agree there has to be a balance and always will be.

      2. I think many might harken back to the ‘locked in’ advantage Mercedes had with the token system limiting other teams from catching up.

        As I think about the Token System, even if it hadn’t been implimented then there’s still no reason to believe Mercedes wouldn’t have won the World Constructors Championships they did. They finished first three seasons of the hybrid era with an advantage of 296 points in 2014, 275 points in 2015, 297 points in 2016. The places further down the WCC would probably have changed around, but the dominance of Mercedes was such one can’t really believe the outcome for them would have changed.

      3. Thing is, rosberg, while not exactly as good as hamilton, was certainly good enough to challenge him, he wouldn’t have won 2016 with even reliability, neither if hamilton had as few problems as him, nor if he had as many problems as hamilton, but was close enough to win with far better luck like it happened.

        Barrichello wasn’t close enough to schumacher to even challenge on a title, even if schumacher had more issues, and I think their reliability was pretty much even.

        Look at 2001, ferrari should be considered dominant that year, but barrichello wasn’t even able to beat a number 2 driver at mclaren who should be around his skill, coulthard!

        I know there were a couple of team orders in those years, but you can’t really claim barrichello would’ve challenged schumacher without those, the only real title he could’ve won was 1999 had he come to ferrari a year earlier, since he was a little better than irvine and with wet weather flair (france, nurburgring, see what he did with stewart and irvine with ferrari), but only cause of schumacher’s injury and hakkinen’s error prone season.

        As for the domination of ferarri vs mercedes, if I recall, the performance advantage mercedes had in most of their dominant years was more than ferrari’s in their dominant years.

        1. @esploratore RB was contracted to be subservient to MS. So there is no comparing what RB was not allowed or encouraged to do vs MS to what NR was allowed to do vs LH. I would even suggest no team before or since has spent so much money on designing a car for one driver than Ferrari did for MS. Sure RB drove the same car, minus upgrades of course that would go to MS first, and that same car RB drove, was MS’s car…by design ;)

          1. @Robbie Now obviously ferrari designed the car around their best driver, so this would impact the number 2 driver negatively, but what would barrichello have done with equal treatment to schumacher?

            We’re talking about a driver who wasn’t able to beat button in 2009 on the same car, ofc button was a world champion, but barrichello could have had he been at ferrari in 1999, I don’t rate button a top tier driver.

            Perhaps barrichello could’ve been closer to schumacher, but look at these scores:
            2000: 108 vs 62
            2001: 123 vs 56
            2002: 144 vs 77
            2003: 93 vs 65
            2004: 148 vs 114
            2005: 62 vs 38

            Are you really saying you see barrichello winning any of the first 4 titles with same treatment?

          2. Ops, meant 5 titles.

      1. Agreed here, they are thrashing it. And will continue to for as long as something does not change. Regulations/Funding/LH44 one of these.
        Maybe all we need is LH in Ferrari.

  4. The dominance of Mercedes came to an end at the end of 2016 already. Yes, they won both titles again last season, but not in a dominant manner like the three preceding ones.

    1. I put some of that down to losing NR and inevitably having someone new on the team have to learn the car and the team and the team learn about him. And it was someone who had never had the equipment nor had won a race. Had NR not retired I think we would have seen something more akin to the previous Mercedes dominated seasons, with NR filling higher spots on average whenever LH couldn’t, thus shutting out Ferrari and RBR moreso than happened. I do though think that Ferrari and RBR would still have been in the mix, closer than in 2016, but I think it would not only have been a WDC and WCC for Mercedes, but also a 1-2 in the standings for it’s drivers.

      1. I think bottas was as good as rosberg when the season started, then couldn’t adapt to the changes of the car mid season, that’s when rosberg would’ve done better than him. So yes, most likely 1-2 in the driver standings.

  5. Mercedes says it recognises its dominance of Formula One could be unhealthy for the sport as it attempts to win a record-equalling fifth consecutive championship double.

    Yeah, right.

  6. In case anyone’s interested, here’s the question I asked which prompted this answer:

    “You’ve won the last four drivers’ and constructors’ championship on the trot. If you make it a fifth in a row this you’ll equal Ferrari’s record. Zak Brown was saying a few days ago that he expects you to win the next three in a row. Is there a concern that with all these successes the public will take it for granted, think you’re having it a bit too easy, and is the marketing value of being in F1 therefore diminished by that?”

    1. @keithcollantine Thank you Keith, that is very interesting. So he doesn’t really answer the question then, no? Or does he? He says it would be better for F1 if there were multiple potential winners…that’s what ‘we need’…yet at the same time is saying don’t look to Mercedes to hang back and try to affect a situation such that there are more competitors vying for the title and bringing it down to the last race. They’ll still be going for it. For domination if that is the result of their hard work, including this season.

      So I suppose he doesn’t think there is a marketing risk to dominating, or he’s willing to take the risk of less marketing value from the public taking their success for granted. Perhaps less marketing value is still a big value and well worth it. Seems so. Perhaps the risk is to F1’s marketing value itself when one team keeps dominating but not so much Mercedes’ value, but my takeaway from this is that Liberty/Brawn will have to mandate conditions of closer racing and teams closer to each other, because the likes of TW are only invested in dominating. I think perhaps that is better for us, even if it means a period of domination by one team, for now until Brawn might alter that. We do need the teams trying their level best at all times. I hope I’m reading into TW’s general philosophy, that if VB cannot be a bigger challenger in that amazing car not just to LH but to the other drivers in the other cars, he’ll put someone there that can put them back to 1-2’s on the grid. He himself has said numerous times that the viewing audience deserves to see the very best drivers they can get, as a top team. TW certainly does get the bigger picture, not just the Mercedes picture.

      1. petebaldwin (@)
        23rd February 2018, 4:17

        Perhaps there is a marketing risk but what about Ferrari, Honda, Renault and McLaren who are all car manufacturers that are being dominated by Mercedes!? Surely it’s worse for them?

        Mercedes are having it wat too easy because the others cant make a comparible engine but that’s not their fault. I don’t like Mercedes but I can’t blame them for the others (excluding the Merc powered cars) not being quick enough.

  7. Hi @keithcollantine, just be aware that in this article you used “Race Fans” whereas in most others you are using “RaceFans”. It’s important to be consistent with the new name to build up the brand! :@)

    1. @shimks: Build up the RaceFans brand, sure, but not to a dominant state – don’t want Ross coming in here with a watered-down commenting formula.

      1. @jimmi-cynic Ross Brawn? I love listening to that man talk!

        1. @shimks: None other. But when he’s talking to you…telling you to ‘hold station’ in the RF comment zone, even if you have more word pace than me – may not sound as good. Uh-oh…the RaceFans® not RF comment zone…I’m hurting the brand already. ;-)

    2. @shimks Ha, thanks! Changed it. I’m just glad I remembered to say ‘RaceFans’ instead of ‘F1 Fanatic’ when I asked the question…

  8. So should they start throwing races to give the other pathetic ¨competitors¨ a chance to get a win?

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