Mercedes follows in Formula 1: tough test for love – sport
This is a story about the sporting descent and the ongoing suffering of the former series winner Mercedes in the formula 1and therefore also a story about “tough love”.
second… tough love? Nobody knows. Before the fantasies sprout, the commercial translation from the Encyclopedia Britannica: “Love expressed in a strict manner, especially to get someone to behave responsibly.”
In the paddock of Jeddah, a few people looked up what tough love could mean this weekend. It’s currently the favorite phrase of Toto Wolff, the Mercedes team boss. He keeps talking about tough love when he explains the company philosophy with which he and his team want to pull the silver cart out of the dust.
Drivers who used to follow his races on the Playstation start in front of Hamilton
That won’t happen any time soon, as Saturday’s qualification proved. As Lewis Hamilton as the eight climbed out of his company car, the picture was more reminiscent of “sad love” and the end of a great love. The 38-year-old Briton has won six of his seven world championships in a Silver Arrow, and now drivers ahead of him in the timesheets are those who used to follow his races on the Playstation: Lance Stroll, the son of the racing team owner of Aston Martin, and the Frenchman Esteban Ocon in his Alpine. The talented rookie Oscar Piastri, 21, in a McLaren, almost caught him, he was only two hundredths slower. And George Russel, Hamilton’s teammate, he was almost four tenths faster and clocked at least the fourth best time. “I just don’t feel connected to the car,” Hamilton said afterwards. “And that feeling doesn’t change no matter what I do with the car. I don’t feel any confidence in it. I’m just a bit lost.”
The good news is that there will most likely be one, maybe even two big catch-ups to be seen on Sunday. Because the dazzling Max Verstappen in his incredibly superior red bullthe pole also in a hammock (Caution, additional equipment subject to a surcharge, ed.) drove out of parking bay 15 due to a technical defect in Q2.
Wolff: “This car just doesn’t have the performance we want”
At his side, Charles Leclerc should plow through the field at least for a while, who set the second best time, but will be penalized by ten places because parts on his Ferrari had to be replaced. Because two places were inherited, Verstappen’s teammate Sergio Perez will start the race on pole ahead of Fernando Alonso and George Russell. “George pulled out everything that was there. But this car just doesn’t have the performance we want,” said Wolff.
Even after the season opener in Bahrain, when Hamilton realized that he would not be sitting in a world championship-worthy car this season either, he complained that the team had not listened to him last winter. “There were things I said to them. I explained the problems with the car. I’ve driven so many cars in my life. I know what a car needs and what a car doesn’t need.”
Although Hamilton did indeed drive many cars but never designed one, from Wolff’s point of view this sentence was not know-it-all, presumption of competence or impertinence. But rather: tough love. He just expressed his love in a strict way to get Mercedes to behave responsibly. And the team, according to Wolff’s interpretation, just has to endure when someone talks trolls!
Mercedes will abandon a concept that no one else in the driver’s field is practicing
That won’t do. Wolff knows too. And that’s why, after a few tough-love speeches from the team boss, Mercedes will also give up its concept, which consisted of sticking to the super-slim sidepods on the cars, which nobody else in the field of designers had installed like that.
Formula 1 is a technical sport. As quickly as a team rises thanks to an innovation, it can fall just as quickly if it miscalculates something fundamentally. Towards the end of last season, Mercedes refused to admit that their aerodynamic concept had inherent weaknesses that could not be remedied by fine tuning. The team felt, so to speak, “romantic love” for an old idea that they didn’t want to give up. “Everything was tried to bring this concept to a breakthrough. It didn’t work,” admitted Wolff.
The double victory for Mercedes in the penultimate race in Brazil rekindled the passion in this regard. Even more crucial from Wolff’s point of view: The data also clearly indicated that the technical path taken would be successful: “They made us believe that we could start the season on a better basis than last year. But that wasn’t the case.”
According to reports, out of overcaution not to experience the treacherous hopping of the cars again last year, the car was designed in such a way that it is far from flying over the asphalt as low as the Red Bull no other competitor can. There is a lack of downforce, especially in the corners, and Hamilton reported that the speed on the straights was actually okay.
Mercedes and Hamilton will have to wait until a major conversion
Incidentally, thanks to a principle of exclusion, Mercedes can see from the Aston Martin cars, which are also surprisingly fast on the second route of the year, where their own concept is most likely to suffer: The Mercedes customer team uses the same drive train and the same rear concept – it’s because of both sometimes not.
Now we will see when and if at all the problem can be cured. The budget cap limits a team’s ability to make a radical correction. However, they assure Mercedes that there is enough money for the operations that Mercedes now has in mind. However, the first major conversion will probably not be completed until the end of May at the sixth race in Imola.
Which probably means for Lewis Hamilton that he has to be patient on the way to winning the eighth title. At least. “If we’re not able to build him a winning car in the next two years, Lewis will look elsewhere,” Wolff believes. “But that moment has not yet come.” tough love