It’s not that this number wrangling is unheard of but the thing I like about AUTOSPORT is their straightforward approach to just calling it out when it may not be the desired revelation some folks would like running around social media.
When Mercedes acquired Brawn GP, they inherited a terrific race program and leadership from one of the sport’s most iconic players in Ross Brawn. Brawn was instrumental in dislodging the Mercedes relationship from McLaren as well as their star driver and soon-to-be 3-time champion, Lewis Hamilton.
Brawn was also very involved in the technical working group (later replaced by the F1 Strategy Group) and heavily influenced the sports progress toward a V6 hybrid turbo format.
The results were clear from the first qualifying session of the season in 2014…Mercedes had loaded the deck and were now being credited as simply doing a better job than the others in making their car and engine.
Fair enough but as the season got underway back in 2014, there was an immediate concern from my perspective as the drivers were well over a second per lap faster than the nearest competitors and after 30 or 40 laps, they would be nearly 40 seconds ahead of the others.
This wasn’t simply doing a better job, this was sheer domination in the world of F1 where it is measured by the thousandth of a second.
As the season went on, Mercedes nearly won every race and if it were not for some attrition and oddities that handed Red Bull a few bones, they would have pummeled previous series-dominating performances from McLaren.
At the time, I was alarmed by the pace and clear lack of anything closely resembling parity or even a chance to achieve parity with the new regulations regarding the engine development freeze. Scorn was heaped on me a few times for claiming that these regulations would kill F1 because the performance advantage was baked in thanks to the regs and we would see Mercedes domination like no other time in F1. I was accused of being a complete idiot. Fair enough, I didn’t put up too strong a rebuttal because I felt time would eventually prove the case leaving me in the position of not having to.
Today AUTOSPORT did the numbers and you can play with a lot of things, and in politics they do, but on the base of it, numbers should have no bias. In AUTOSPORT’s case, they don’t.
So where does Mercedes domination fit in the history of F1 domination? Off the charts my friends. Much greater than any of the teams including all those much-loathed Ferrari domination years. Yes, you heard that right…you thought the Schumacher era was out of control? Guess again:
MERCEDES IN 2014/15 (so far):
Wins: 28 from 34 – 82%
Poles: 32 from 34 – 94%
Laps led: 1668 of 2030 – 82%
Wins: 25 from 32 – 78%
Poles: 30 from 32 – 94%
Laps led: 1748 from 2070 – 84%
McLaren stats for full 1988-91 period:
Wins: 39 from 64 – 61%
Poles: 52 from 64 – 81%
Laps led: 2878 from 4102 – 70%
Wins: 20 from 32 – 62.5%
Poles: 30 from 32 – 94%
Laps led: 1540 from 2081 – 74%
Wins: 57 from 75 – 76%
Poles: 51 from 75 – 68%
Laps led: 1168 from 2140 – 55%
Not even Red Bull Racing’s recent 4-year title trot was as dominant as Mercedes is today. The fact is, AUTOSPORT has shown very clearly the reality of what Mercedes has accomplished and while many commend them for their efforts, I will argue that they will continue this domination until a change is made to the regulations.
Ferrari catching up? James Allison says they have made a big step in 2015 but will have to repeat it is 2016 to get anywhere close to Merc’s performance. That means they are only half way there.
The current regulations are set to change in 2020 so if they series doesn’t do anything, Mercedes will have a long run of titles and that may be good for Lewis Hamilton but it isn’t for other teams. There is a precedent for regulatory body, the FIA, and commercial right’s body, Formula One Management (FOM), to start making changes to balance the power and raise competitiveness. We’ve seen that with the banning of many key elements that have given teams and advantage.
Blown diffusers, flexi-wings, flexi-floors, F-duct, J-dampers and more have been banned with many bans leading to a tangible impact. The issue here is that much of the sport today is reliant on the engine and unless they start making serious changes to the way the power units work, there is little they can do to close the performance gap…unless they let the aerodynamic regulations loose for rampant innovative tricks etc.
That said, I think it is a worthy cause to recognize the reality of what the sport is facing in terms of a regulatory-fueled domination and while the FIA have remained very quiet, it is time for them to act and un-load the deck that Mercedes dealt with.
I have no axe to grind with Mercedes, pushing the limits of the regulations is all part of the F1 game but this is a series that has a driver and reading Max Mosley’s biography it is is clear to me that he clearly understood that key element.
There is no trophy for world engineer’s title and while he was castigated for banning many of the innovations, he knew all too well that this is a racing series first and technology coupled with engineering is an additive but shouldn’t be the focus. That’s why he banned driver’s aids and even Ayrton Senna was calling for the ban.
Hat Tip: AUTOSPORT…great jobs folks.