As much as one race in Australia didn’t spell doom for me as a Formula 1 fan leaving me miffed at facing another year of domination by Mercedes, so too the Malaysian Grand Prix didn’t leave me with a sense of dire circumstances for Mercedes.
If I had to place bets on either scenario, I’ll lean toward the Mercedes domination rather than the Mercedes unraveling. Yet, if you read some news reports today, you may be surprised at the allegations about Mercedes collapsing under the first real pressure they’ve had in six to eight months.
Sunday’s race may have witnessed a Ferrari victory and it did comprise of a frustrated Lewis Hamilton and button-fumbling Paddy Lowe as well as a strategy that didn’t pan out in the heat but while some dissect Mercedes as crumbling under pressure, I’m not quite convinced.
Ferrari were terrific all weekend and you could see that on Friday onward. Their tire sympathy was very good in high-heat environments and their cooling was equaling on par. They were contextually competitive and no one is doubting they didn’t make advances in the winter but have they leap-frogged Mercedes? I am inclined to say no, not yet.
Mercedes boss Toto Wolff says it was a wake up call for the team and that they los ton pace, not strategy. Lewis Hamilton says he trusts the team’s strategy although questioning it in post-race interviews. Nikki Lauda says Ferrari deserved the win and were simply better in those conditions.
The one person who sounded befuddled out of the weekend was Nico Rosberg. He seemed slightly lost during the race and even after questioning what was going on and how he lost so much time.
Lewis was confused as to why he had no medium compounds for his final stint and Paddy’s fat-fingered radio call confused him, as it naturally would anyone, but he knew what he was looking at. Nico seemed stumped.
Mercedes is a great team and while Ferrari’s pace may have caught them off guard—it shouldn’t have because you could see if coming on Friday—it is not the sign of Ferrari having leapt past Mercedes in the performance category. I suspect China will be a return to Mercedes form as long as Nico knows where he is and how to race.
Mercedes is fine but the Ferrari win was more of a boost for F1 than a warning to Mercedes I suspect.