Analysis: The wars Mercedes faces in the 2015 F1 season

After such a dominant campaign in Formula 1 last year, it is no surprise that Mercedes is clear favourite to storm to more title success in 2015

Analysis: The wars Mercedes faces in the 2015 F1 season

But F1 is a fast-moving sport and - as Red Bull found out to its cost last year - it is very easy to fall from the top of the pack no matter how far in front you have been.

Mercedes was far better prepared for the new turbo V6 rules than any of its rivals, and that was a key factor in giving it such an edge through 2014.

But the opposition have learned lessons and everything will have been done in recent months to ensure they come back stronger, and knock Mercedes off the top spot.

No one at Brackley is under any illusions that things will be so straightforward again, and these are the key wars that it knows it must win if it is to add more silverware to its collections.

DEALING WITH THE POLITICS

There is no better way to have your every move scrutinised that to win regularly in Formula 1.

Mercedes' success last year ensured that the opposition tried everything in their power to derail any advantage it had, whether it be through a push to ban FRIC suspension systems or tweaking the engine homologation rules.

That push to close down avenues that help Mercedes will only increase if it stays in front.

Mercedes motorsport boss Toto Wolff readily admitted that his team had made the kind of political transition that Red Bull went through as it moved to the top.

"I think it is normal that when you start to be dominant as a team, people kind of change their opinion about you and see you in a different light," Wolff told AUTOSPORT. "And I think that is normal.

"I remember Red Bull, transitioning from a super cool team with Star Wars costumes in Monaco, and all of us being so happy for them scoring a podium there, to a team that was seen as the Dark Side!

"From being a Jedi, you become Darth Vader. And of course, Christian [Horner] back then had to defend his position and Red Bull's strengths. Today, we are in a similar role."

IMPROVING RELIABILITY

Although Mercedes' push to produce as fast a car as possible paid off with it winning 16 races last year, it never got totally on top of reliability.

The spate of failures that Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg suffered throughout the year - from the season opener in Australia to the finale in Abu Dhabi - exposed a chink in Mercedes' armour.

Its pace advantage meant such unreliability never quite opened the door wide enough to risk losing the title, but if the opposition is closer this year it cannot afford to throw away points so regularly.

Mercedes engine chief Andy Cowell admitted over the winter that it has to do much better in 2015.

"We had the wake-up call in Canada where we had two ERS issues, and Nico was fortunate enough to get home in second place," he said.

"That's where you realise things do need to improve, and that quality standards need to be exemplary to not have any issues in a tough championship.

"It will be tougher [in 2015] too. With four power units we have to take a step up."

FINDING IMPROVEMENTS

It is well known that in F1, the best way to close up the field is for the regulations to be stable.

That often comes about because there is less room for the best team to move even further ahead, while rivals eventually unlock the speed they need to challenge at the front.

With very little change in the regulations for this year, Mercedes will not find it easy to make a dramatic step forward - which gives its rivals hope.

Mercedes technology chief Geoff Willis said: "There are reasonably stable regulations between 2014 and 2015, which does give it owns challenges. It is harder to find improvements."

COPING WITH THE DISTRACTION OF EQUALITY

Mercedes' decision to let Hamilton and Rosberg fight it out on equal terms ensured that the 2014 F1 title battle was a thriller for fans.

But equally it exposed Mercedes to the headaches that are faced by any team that has two drivers locked in combat - and of course the big dramas of Monaco, Hungary and then Spa.

With both drivers knowing how tight things are, there will be even more of a push from the men in the cockpit to ensure that their rival gets no edge - which can prove a diversion of resources

As Mercedes' chief designer John Owen said at the end of last year: "One of the things that is not obvious outside of the team, is the pressures we had to generate equality of equipment.

"All of the time you have to make sure the engines, the chassis, the weights, the aerodynamics, and everything about the car was the same for both of the drivers.

"Mercedes-­Benz was committed to having a fair fight between the drivers and when you have had to repair a damaged piece of the car and it is a bit heavier than another person's piece of the car then is that fair?

"There are lots of little things like that, which are a distraction."

***

None of the challenges that Mercedes face are insurmountable, but to suggest that the Brackley team can sit back and victories will come whatever it does is wrong.

As Willis said: "You have to be humble in this business. Success one year does not guarantee it the next.

"I hope we will be strong, I think we will be strong, just how strong we will have to wait and see."

shares
comments
Another year...same old liveries
Previous article

Another year...same old liveries

Next article

FIA considering F1 engine rules changes after Honda meeting

FIA considering F1 engine rules changes after Honda meeting
How Ferrari’s Monaco headache became its Silverstone migraine Plus

How Ferrari’s Monaco headache became its Silverstone migraine

OPINION: Ferrari won the British Grand Prix with Carlos Sainz, but it ultimately cost Charles Leclerc a chance to make a bigger dent in Max Verstappen's title lead by leaving the Monegasque out on old tyres towards the end. Like Monaco, indecision over strategy proved to be the Scuderia's biggest issue - and if the team doesn't reflect, the headache can only intensify

The five factors behind Sainz winning a British GP he’d twice lost Plus

The five factors behind Sainz winning a British GP he’d twice lost

Formula 1 has a newest race winner, in a grand prix the victor appeared to have lost twice, only to charge back to headline a sensational and dramatic British Grand Prix. From a massive start crash to a late sprint finish, here’s how five factors saw Carlos Sainz take his maiden grand prix win

Formula 1
Jul 4, 2022
Why there was no case to answer in Aston’s latest F1 copycat saga Plus

Why there was no case to answer in Aston’s latest F1 copycat saga

The appearance of a revised Aston Martin in Spain caused controversy but PAT SYMONDS explains why the FIA investigation found the Silverstone team had no case to answer

Formula 1
Jul 3, 2022
Why it's Red Bull that really leads a three-way fight so far at Silverstone Plus

Why it's Red Bull that really leads a three-way fight so far at Silverstone

After a slow start to Friday at Silverstone, all the Formula 1 teams had to effectively cram in a day’s worth of practice into one hour. But there was still plenty to learn and while Ferrari topped the times, a three-way battle is brewing ahead of the British Grand Prix

Formula 1
Jul 2, 2022
Why the future is bright for the British GP Plus

Why the future is bright for the British GP

It wasn’t so long ago the situation looked bleak at Silverstone with the future of the British Grand Prix under threat. But a transformation has seen it restored to one of the most important races on the Formula 1 calendar, with bigger and better to come

Formula 1
Jul 1, 2022
Could mixed fortunes for F1's leading Brits turn around at Silverstone? Plus

Could mixed fortunes for F1's leading Brits turn around at Silverstone?

For the first time in many years, none of the local racers starts among the favourites for the British Grand Prix. But George Russell, Lewis Hamilton and Lando Norris could have reasons for optimism

Formula 1
Jun 30, 2022
Verstappen exclusive: Why F1’s champion isn’t fazed by Silverstone return Plus

Verstappen exclusive: Why F1’s champion isn’t fazed by Silverstone return

Max Verstappen is the world’s number one racing driver… and he’s determined to keep it that way. Speaking exclusively to GP Racing's OLEG KARPOV, the Red Bull driver explains why he’s relishing the 2022 championship battle with Charles Leclerc – and why he’s not worried about returning to Silverstone, the scene of the biggest accident of his career last year

Formula 1
Jun 30, 2022
Why Red Bull’s RB17 hypercar can help its F1 team Plus

Why Red Bull’s RB17 hypercar can help its F1 team

On Tuesday, Red Bull laid out its plans to develop and build a new hypercar - the RB17 - penned by Adrian Newey. As the project itself sates Newey as a creative outlet, it also offers Red Bull's Formula 1 team a number of new and exciting avenues to pursue

Formula 1
Jun 29, 2022