Winning in Formula 1 has always been about putting up a winning package together and at the right time. Ever since the turn of the new 1.6 liter V6 turbo era, it has only been one team that has, day in day out, dominated the sport to say the least. That team is of course, Mercedes AMG Petronas F1.
The German squad has annihilated and obliterated all the other teams in 2014 with their powerful package and are on course to do the same again, this year. That safe prophecy can be made based on the team’s clean sweeping performance at the 2015 Australian Grand Prix a fortnight ago and because of their respectable effort at Malaysia as well.
The dominance of Mercedes last season was such that, despite winning three races, the former champions of 4 years Red Bull had an annus horribilis. Yes, that was the degree of their mighty power.
However, the question remains, how and what are the actual factors and aspects behind this huge interspace of dominance between the Silver Arrows and their rivals. For example; Is it the drivers, the Chassis or the Engine Power Units? All of them need towork in harmony to yield out the fast lap times, and within these criteria, the amalgamation factor always spans in.
A thorough research and cognition is warranted in order to better understand and pin point the rationale behind their attero dominates. So, let us take our focus to the reasons why Mercedes has been able to tyrannize the whole F1 field for past year or so.
The Engines and the Power Units have been the catalysts, but not the main reason
There have been many talks in the paddock that the prime reason behind the success of Mercedes lies in their engine department. However, as a matter of fact, many other teams use this same Engine Power Unit and its Hybrid system. McLaren used it last year before they swapped for Honda power, while Williams and Force India still have the Brixworth made Mercedes engines at the back of their car. In fact, from the start of this season, even Lotus has joined this exclusive club.
But, as we know, despite having Mercedes Power Units last year, McLaren were struggling last time around all year long because of the lack of performance from their chassis. And, as far as the current Mercedes customer teams are concerned; apart from gaining few tents in lap times because of the PU106B Mercedes-High Performance Engines, none of them have been close enough to give Mercedes a run for their money, let alone dominate. However, gaining a bit of speed is also huge, as a millisecond in F1 is also worth a fortune.
So the gist of all this is that; the Mercedes power-units are fast, reliable and they produce around at least 40 (or more) BHP extra than any other engine on the grid. The credit for this goes to the fact that Mercedes have used their knowledge from the Hybrid technology and Road-Car engine making, to create an efficient spilt turbo base for the F1 units. But, this unfortunately, is not enough to take a driver to the top spot of the podium; the chassis itself has to compliment the power. Thus, we can surely assume that ‘Engine, Power Units and its Hybrid Systems’ cannot take all the credit for the Mercedes-car performance. However, it is a clear notion that this engine is top of the class currently, and it packs the punch where others fail, in particular the Renault Units.
They have put in emphasis on developing ‘the’ fastest chassis. Period
Mercedes had developed the W 05 (their 2014 car) for the best part of two to two and half years. In fact, according to some rumors, Geoff Willis, the Technical Director of the team, was brought to the squad in 2011 just for this sole purpose, as soon as the regulations for 2014 were made clear. The car’s chief designer is Aldo Costa, who was regarded as one of the most valuable members of Ferrari-Michael Schumacher golden era. And, together he and Willis had worked hard since 2012 to give last year’s and this year’s car the absolute cutting edge over its rivals. No other team had dedicated this much energy and thought-process over their current cars, and thus Mercedes got a free pass to exploit the advantage.
Also, because this year’s W 06 is a straight evolution of its predecessor, building upon such a good base wasn’t a huge problem for this season. In fact, the lack of regulation change (from 2014 to 2015) also aided the team in this regard. But, continuous hard work has been done at the team factory in Brackley, United Kingdom, all throughout these years, to produce a rocket ship, 2 seasons in a row. The team has worked day and night at the wind tunnels with vehicle and air flow dynamics and we have seen the proof of that at every other race-weekend on the more than capable hands of Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg
What exactly is so special about the Silver Arrows cars?
Well, of course, Mercedes will never reveal the exact reasons why their car is beating all the rivals’ day in day out. But, we can still decipher a lot about the car by just looking at the way it runs. At the front, the car has a very distinguishable nose cone section, solid suspension base and a front wing system, which is very unique to them. These (the wing and the front part) help in generating high amount of down force, and hence Mercedes always stay ahead of their rivals when they are on the technical parts of a track. And, their engine power helps them on the straights.
In fact, like last year, we might one again see Mercedes running away in places where down force is a must (Example; Catalunya, Spain). But, even Ferrari, this year seems to have made a car which can come close to tackle the Silver Arrows. Unfortunately, generating similar points of down force levels as Mercedes will be difficult for the team. But, as Malaysia has showed us, a blunder from Mercedes can evolve into a victorious proposition for others, in particular Ferrari this year. And, it was Red Bull picking up the pieces last year.
However, the key element of the Mercedes W 06, because of which their dominance is guaranteed, car lies in the way it is packed, especially at the rear. The W 06, like the W 05, is very aero efficient, and has a much better and more balanced weight distributing technique and exhaust system than any other car on the grid. Of course, lot of that is thanks to the fact that the team has used their Power Unit knowledge to the optimum. That’s because, the Silver Arrow engine unit has a revolutionary split turbo foundation, and hence Mercedes could effectively package and design the whole back of their car that way. And, all this, in turn, has made ‘clearer passing of air’ through the back of the chassis to yield faster lap time.
There was also a very general consensus that last year’s Red Bull (and maybe this year’s Red Bull too) was also a competent chassis. But, thanks to the Renault Power Unit issues and its lack of output, the team always had to run a very low down force setting. And, this has hampered cornering speed at technical parts of a track. The same can be said about Ferrari this year, although it seems that the Scuderia has a good car and a decent engine package, but still they might not have that edge which Mercedes enjoy. And, finally, McLaren might struggle this year because of Honda.
The fact that Mercedes Power Unit and Chassis department could work together
You may believe that since their chassis is quick and their engine is fast, they just had to put in the drivers to win races, but, remember, nothing is that simple in Formula 1. However, the fact that both parts of Mercedes (engine suppliers and race-car makers) can work hand-in-hand knowing what the other needs and requires, is a huge privilege. And, this is also a huge advantage, because, for optimum performance, a car can be designed around an engine specification, and Mercedes has done that immaculately. The only other team with this engine knowledge advantage is Ferrari, as they are a team and an engine supplier. But, they couldn’t use this benefit up and hence the internal-rightsizing (read house cleaning) of the team was done during the last couple of years in order to stich in the program for this year.
Also, to use up this advantage, Mercedes started preparing and planning their 2014 car from 2011-2012 onwards. And, hence the W 05 and its evaluation W 06 always had a much more profound impact on the lap-times than what their rivals could generate.
Besides, during the time of the 2012 season and beyond, McLaren, Red Bull and Ferrari (the main rivals) were all busy developing their current and their 2013 challenger, hence their emphasis and focus was never totally towards 2014 (or indirectly on 2015). Of course even Mercedes were making decent enough cars for 2012 and 2013 too; in fact they were race winning cars. But, this is where; then-team boss Ross Brawn was clever in handling his recourses well. He had put in Willis, a new recruit, on a job just to understand, decipher, and make a good car for the 2014 season. And, for that, he was provided with the blueprints of the future 1.6 liter Turbo Engines and Hybrid systems, which was going to be used after the regulation changes in 2014.
This gave Willis the ability to create a car which was neatly packaged and made around the engine. An advantage, to embrace the regulation changes, which no other team had (apart from the under-utilized Ferrari team). Not even Mercedes client teams like McLaren, Williams or Force India could do this. That’s because; Mercedes Engine Department did not disclose its engine plan to its customer teams at that time. And, the Red Bull-Renault package (till date) never enjoyed his much of an advantage, let alone sharing faulty details with each other.
Mercedes have got in the right people at the right time and provided them resources
Potentially, Red Bull, Ferrari, McLaren and Mercedes have the resources to spend money in order to win and challenge for the Formula 1 title. And, these 4 teams have thrown in money significantly in the past and will keep on doing so in the future. However, Mercedes have spent it right. Flashbacking to 2011 and 2012 again, Mercedes had put in a different department and a different hierarchical structure altogether to exploit the regulations from 2014 and beyond. This was working parallel with their, then in season and following season car, development process.
This meant, the team was busy luring away top class and senior engineers like; Paddy Lowe from McLaren, Mark Ellis and Giles Wood from Red Bull, Bob Bell from Renault-Lotus and obviously Willis and Costa. Of course, these people came in to support the already existing and a talented technical team which had made the 2009 Brawn GP car. But, more was the merrier, and the rest was history-in making. The team overall, after the departure of Brawn, was controlled efficiently from the non-technical side by Austrian Toto Wolff and former F1 legend Niki Lauda, with Lowe taking over Brawn’s technical responsibilities. And, these three people have been a major force behind creating the dynast that we are currently obeying to.
Also, background and non-technical structure is very important for a Formula 1 team, for example; for the past 2 years, Ferrari and McLaren has been changing personnel after personnel because of their failure to win a drivers’ title since 2007. But, sadly all the changes have not worked out in their favor till now, but early signs are that 2015 may yield better results for Ferrari because of it.
Mercedes have achieved a lot in a short space of time
Domination is nothing new in Formula 1; however, sometimes it takes ages for the teams to do so. Everyone thought Red Bull had raised the bar when they started their F1 dynasty in 2010, but Mercedes in a very short space of time, since taking over from Brawn GP, has raised the game even further. And, all thanks to, optimum usage of their resources, making the most their engine knowledge, and timely regulation change. But, most of all, Mercedes benefitted by anticipating and exploiting the future correctly by building a strong base at the nascent level by taking a head start. And, this head start is the reason that Mercedes has already got 2014 and is in the process of getting 2015.
The decision making circles of F1 are still contemplating about new regulations in order to curb and cut the clips of this Mercedes dominance. But, for the time being, even in 2016, if no change is made, expect Mercedes to be up there, frequently notching up race wins.