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Mercedes “looks like a car that can win championships” now

2021 F1 season

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Mercedes’ pace at the Turkish Grand Prix has reignited the team’s confidence in its championship chances, according to its trackside engineering director Andrew Shovlin.

Although Lewis Hamilton lost the lead of the drivers’ standings to rival Max Verstappen last weekend, the team were quick enough to lock out the front row of the grid, before the world champion’s engine change penalty dropped him to 11th. Hamilton recovered to finish fifth, while victory for team mate Valtteri Bottas extended Mercedes’ lead at the head of the championship.

Besides the team’s sixth win of the season, Shovlin said their overall performance was “the other positive from the weekend” in Istanbul.

“We’ve had a run of good form [in the] dry, we’ve shown good pace in the wet and it looks like a car that can win championships. And if you go back to the early parts of the year and decisions that we’re taking on development, trying to balance the two years, one of our worries was that at this end of the year, are we still going to be able to stick the car on pole, to get a front row lock-out, to control a race?”

Mercedes began the season with three wins from the first four races, then took just one win from the next 10 events. But following back-to-back victories in Russia and Turkey they lead Red Bull by 36 points in the constructors championship, while Hamilton is just six behind Verstappen in the drivers’ standings.

“It’s really reassuring that we’re now getting into the last six that we’ve shown we’ve got a package that can out-qualify them on a Saturday and out-race them on a Sunday,” said Shovlin.

Despite the team’s strong form in recent years at the Circuit of the Americas, which will hold the next round of the world championship, Shovlin says they are more alert to pitfalls than possibilities over the coming races.

“We’ve got to go to all these races looking at what’s going to catch us out, not what’s going to be great and easy for us,” he said. “We don’t really take that kind of approach. It’s just a case of looking at all the data that’s coming off the simulations, working what we need to do with the car.

“It’s a very different Tarmac there but it’s a circuit that Lewis has been very strong at and it’s a track where there’s good overtaking opportunity, there’s degradation. So that changes the dynamic of the race a little bit.

“There’s no reason to think we shouldn’t be strong in Austin. But we did good preparation coming [to Turkey] and the car’s been in the right window and that’s the thing that we need to make sure we do correctly for the next race.”

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Dieter Rencken
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36 comments on “Mercedes “looks like a car that can win championships” now”

  1. Hi
    Just correction Verstappen is 6 points ahead of Hamilton not 2

    1. Yep. I’d even go so far to say that this years car has always looked like a championship winning car it’s been the strategists and drivers that have been the weak link.

      1. This ^^

        With the cae is nothing wrong, it is and always was a class better than the rest of the field

        1. Not this year. With the exception of Spain and Turkey, Merc have never looked comprehensively faster. The Red Bull has (Bahrain, Italy, Monaco, Azerbaijan, Austria x2, Zandvoort). The red bull is the faster car this year. The last few races have been misleading for a number of reasons. One of which was that Newey was away because of an accident. But he’s supposedly back now and already found issues with the setup. Watch for them to be much more competitive in Austin. Maybe not on the straights, but everywhere else. It’ll probably be like France from here on out, with Lewis and Max separated by hundredths and execution and strategy being key.

      2. Dont forget to add pitstops; thats been more of an issue than driver for WDC.

        For WCC, it’s all about which #2 steps up and right now Bottas seems to be on a good momentum.

  2. Not just now. I’d say for a season of 8 straight in a row.

  3. It looks like the Mercedes has an advantage, especially since Lewis has one engine extra over Max because it was written off at Silverstone.

    If Bottas can beat Max you know the car must be quite a bit better.

    But the momentum have swung multiple times already so let’s see what the final races bring.

    1. @anunaki
      I’m not so sure the engine situation is that comfortable at Mercedes. According to Mercedes, engine #3 is almost unusable (ICE), they just use the other components of that PU set.
      Engine #1 is already gone and #2 has a lot of mileage on it.

      Ever since Mercedes introduced that third PU set, they had reliability issues with the combustion engine. Not just the works team, but Aston Martin and Williams as well.

    2. @anunaki

      If Bottas can beat Max you know the car must be quite a bit better.

      This.

  4. Merc throwing away the sandbags as they also see that their PR narrative of “RB is best car” was hilarious throughout the season.

    In the 2nd race they already caught up and after some back&forth in April to June, Merc has been the best car since Silverstone.

    The championship is theirs to lose. They need to deliver clean weekends though.

  5. Well that just threw the tiny bit of hope I had that this season wouldn’t go the same way as the last 7 out the window. Mercedes never, ever, ever talk themselves up…for them to say this now means they have made a breakthrough with how they understand and operate the car and they know they will walk the last 6 races.

    1. On the bright side, if hamilton manages to get a 45 points gap without more luck, the title won’t go down as won through luck, since it was a massive amount of points he gained through that early season.

      On the other hand, if verstappen manages to be in contention at the penultimate race, it’ll have been more of a challenge than ferrari brought the best years.

  6. I’ve been saying from the very start of this championship that Red Bull are only ahead because Mercedes had a rough start, and when they get on top of their car problems they’ll blow the competition away like they have for every monotonous, joyless year so far. Them doing it so late gave me a sliver of optimism that this championship might finally go to someone, anyone else, but alas, no. I just hope that Red Bull can at least make a fight of it because if not then the last few races here are going to be painfully boring.

  7. It is not now that Mercedes is a strong car.
    Mercedes has had the fastest 1 lap car at every race since Silverstone bar Zandvoort. After discounting Spa, it becomes fastest car for 5 out of the last 7 races. Of these 5, they have managed to win only 3 – 2 of them have been won in the dying laps of the grand prix, and only 1 dominant win, that too by Bottas.

    The problem is Hamilton’s and Mercedes’ pit-wall inconsistency which has taken away easy wins like Hungary, Monza and lost points at Turkey. The car has always been there.

  8. Merc had the best race pace already early on in the season. Spain was a good illustration of that: poor start Lewis, but he knew he just needed to stay within 2 sec of Max and get the undercut, or go for alternative strategy (2 stop). you can only do that if you have the racepace and tyre degradation in your favour.
    There qualifying pace got better too since Silverstone, making it the overall best package since July.

    You mentioned Spa. Merc would have ran away with it in the dry, but now freakingly Russel and Max qualified ahead of Lewis. An example of Lewis not extracting most out of the car and situation.
    Like in Monza where Lewis goofed up the start of the sprintrace. Otherwise it would have been a Grand Chelem for him on Sunday.

    The Merc team (strategists and drivers) have errored in past 7 races.
    Let’s hope they keep erroring a bit more…

    1. @trib4udi agreed, and seems like they couldn’t use their pu until recently.

  9. Perhaps pu problems hampered merc all season long anyway, the car is good. Look at catalunya and look at Silverstone, merc is quickest. Rb and max have made this championship interesting, it is to their credit and not Lewis’, and he hates it, he can throw all the underdog stuff he wants, nobody falls for it, if merc lose this it is because they were beaten on the driver and pitwall side.

    1. @peartree Yes, the Mercedes engine derating at the end of the straight before Parabolica was mystifying.

  10. Fastest car now perhaps, but let’s see the probability against the odd…
    Mercedes/Hamilton:
    Fastest Car – High
    Bad Strategy Call – High (too many occasion this season)
    Pit Stop Error – High (Bottas’s wheel nut error)
    Driver’s Stamina – Poor (Post covid-19 side effect?)
    Driver’s Error – High
    Overtaking Execution – Poor (Mercedes’s poor overtaking record behind DRS train)

    Red Bull/Verstappen:
    Fastest Car – Mid/High (50-50 against Mercedes)
    Bad Strategy Call – Low
    Pit Stop Error – Medium (Verstappen’s long stop at Monza)
    Driver’s Stamina – Good (Best fitness on grid this season?)
    Driver’s Error – Low
    Overtaking Execution – Good (Best, overtaking is like eating meal)

    1. Mercedes/Hamilton: Fastest Car – High
      +
      Red Bull/Verstappen: Fastest Car – Mid/High (50-50 against Mercedes)

      If the second is correct, then logically the first should be:
      Mercedes/Hamilton: Fastest Car – Mid/High (50-50 against Red Bull)

      Red Bull/Verstappen: Driver’s Error – Low

      Too generous. In the two collisions with Hamilton, one driver was held mostly responsible, first Hamilton, then Verstappen. He’s also had other errors that cost him poll or could have cost him points (recovering after going off track).

      Where Verstappen has been better is a consistently high level all season, while Hamilton has had a few poor weekends. If the balance of car power has shifted to the Mercedes, I’d say it’s Hamilton’s championship to lose – i.e. if he shows consistent form, which he’s capable of as we know, then he can win. But more poor weekends and Verstappen has an excellent chance, especially as some tracks should still tilt in their favour.

  11. someone or something
    17th October 2021, 13:49

    Having won just once in 10 races at mid-season

    That’s a weird way to look at the season of a team that has won 6 out of 16 races so far. Red Bull has won 8.
    How often has Mercedes had a driver on the top two steps of the podium? In 12 races out of 16.
    I mean, the very premise sounds satirical: “For ten races, this team hasn’t won any races except when it has” …

    And even if you look at that streak of “winless” races, the stat cannot hide the fact it has been pulled from the “the only statistics you can trust are the ones you have falsified yourself” archive.
    Monaco – okay, they weren’t fighting for the win, but Bottas was solidly in the top 3, which should’ve become 2nd after Leclerc’s failure to start.
    Azerbaijan – Hamilton led in the first stint and started the penultimate lap of the race looking likely to win. For further context, this is widely believed to have been Mercedes’ weakest weekend in terms of pace.
    France & the Austria double-header: Verstappen was untouchable, granted. But Hamilton had a rather soft landing, with a couple of 2nd places, and a third clearly possible.
    Silverstone – the race Hamilton won. And probably would’ve won even without the collision.
    Hungary – where Hamilton dominated all weekend, only to throw victory away with a wrong strategy call.
    Belgium – hard to say what could’ve been, but Mercedes seemed to be on the pace or not too far from it.
    Netherlands – where Verstappen was slightly too far ahead all weekend, so Mercedes could only grab a comfortable 2nd and 3rd place
    Italy – where Hamilton was setting the pace and should’ve come out victorious, if not for a botched start in the sprint, which triggered a chain of events that ended in the gravel.

    So even during this tear-jerking string of 10 races during which they only won once, they were likely winners or fighting for the win in 4 out of 9 races, and in 4 of the 5 races where they weren’t fighting for the win, they finished 2nd …
    And that was their very worst phase of the season. Give me a break.

  12. The bias in your comment is too funny. Verstappen having a faster car yet somehow Mercedes have a “comfortable” result.

    1. someone or something
      17th October 2021, 17:20

      You should consider stopping to use “funny” to mean something much worse.
      There is no contradiction in my statement, as you know too well.

  13. I would say the last 2 races were unrepresentative. Wet races where Max started from last at Sochi and then Lewis had his penalty at the last race.
    So much talk about Mercedes being the faster car and then we may very well have 3 consecutive dominant wins by Max at COTA, Mexico and Brazil.
    A normal dry race at COTA will be more representative of the current form.
    Till Zandvoort the Redbull was clearly the fastest car.

    1. @amg44 Not sure why you’ve chosen Zandvoort as the end of Red Bull advantage. In Silverstone, Hamilton would have qualified 3 tenths clear of Max if not for a mistake on his final attempt. In Hungary, both Mercedes cars were comfortably ahead of Max, probably their most dominant weekend up until Turkey. In Spa, it was raining throughout, Zandvoort was always a Red Bull track, but Monza, Sochi and Istanbul were Mercedes all the way. So Red Bull has been quicker than Mercedes in the dry in 1 weekend out of the last 7.

  14. Is there any other sport in the world where teams go so far out of their way to say how much better their competitors are? It’s hilarious if you think about it.

    1. someone or something
      17th October 2021, 20:23

      Endurance racing. Any kind of artificial adjustment of performances inevitably leads to extreme sandbagging.

    2. @cide When have you ever heard the manager of any professional sports team say “We’re much better than them, and we’ll smash them!” They all talk the opposition up.

  15. I was keeping some stats early in the season (Not overly scientific) but too me the Merc has been the better car all season, Max has been the better driver, that has been the difference so far. I believe Bottas vs Peres is the better measure of the cars.
    However it is fairly apparent that Merc have suddenly taken another step and is now not just the better car, but substantially the better car, can’t see RB keeping up for the remainder of 2021.

  16. Simply loverly news! Bring it home now Sir Lewis!

  17. come on lewis, get that WDC, no one cares if you have a worse or better car they will always find a reason to bash. I mean, who cares who has a better car, it was since the the beginning of f1 that a faster car is always brought WDC than a better driver. Lewis is past his best times, he is old now. Sure, Max is younger and faster, but would love to see lewis beat this guy to the disappointment of so many max fans AND lewis haters (probably alonso, rosberg, button fans). I hope lewis will quit racing in 2022 and I will root for GR, or leclerc if ferrari gets quicker.

    1. If, or when, Hamilton gets his 8th championship this year he’d be crazy not to go for 9 and 10. He’s still got the speed and the hunger so why not? The same as we’d love to see Tiger and Roger win more majors, it’s be great to see Lewis win more championships.

    2. I care who has a better car if it is the same team every year for 8 year in a row. Well, anyway with 6 races to go and given the gap Mercedes has, I expect it to be rather easy. The championship is theirs to lose. Let’s see if their errors keep coming then it might become a bit more exciting.

      1. Lol. Suddenly all the Verstappen fans are getting their excuses in early. Doesn’t show much faith in your driver.

  18. Good to see some Lewis fans, just about, almost, maybe, sort of admitting that the car plays a part

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