F1 2014: A Mercedes state of mind

On going through the results of the first 4 races of the 2014 season, the German and British flag logos sparkle through so brightly you’d think World War 2 never happened.

The other teams must be feeling a lot like the other teams did when Mercedes, formerly known as Brawn GP, made its F1 debut in 2009 to sweep the first half of the season in an unprecedented manner. Their performances tapered away in the second half, with initial runaway leader Jenson Button (British, again) barely crossing the line towards the end to win his first ever F1 World Championship. Young Sebastian Vettel began to dominate the second half of 2009 in his first season with Red Bull. He eventually finished second. After that, Brawn GP renamed themselves, Ross Brawn left the team, and things were never the same. Nico Rosberg, the German hailed as the bridesmaid to Vettel, has seen this new Mercedes team through thick and thin, racing along with Schumacher and others, forever awaiting his turn.

Now he has the car to back his talent. Unfortunately for him, a temperamental Brit, equally if not more talented, is his teammate under orders of legend Niki Lauda. Lewis Hamilton hasn’t enjoyed the best few years after his first Championship win in 2008 — ironically it was Brawn GP that ended his short dominance. Everyone mocked his decision to leave mother team McLaren in 2012, to replace Schumacher in an underperforming struggling Mercedes outfit.

Either he or Lauda, or both, have tremendous vision.

Lauda often says that Hamilton reminds him of his younger calculative self. In actual fact, the two drivers are not similar at all. Hamilton is impulsive, Lauda was ruthless and mechanical. But Lauda’s technical knowhow seems to have rejuvenated an entire team once again, and both his drivers are performing to their potential. Except for a minor lapse in the first race at Melbourne, where Hamilton’s dominance was interrupted by a technical failure, it has been a clean sweep of 1-2s for the rampaging team.

This is good and bad news for F1 fans hoping for a change in direction after 4 seasons of Red Bull dominance. It has reached the other extreme, with another team threatening to make this a one-horse race, with the only potential excitement between the two teammates. Vettel must feel like he has entered another planet, one where he and his team are kings no more. It is truly remarkable what a slight change in rules between seasons can do, and how some teams (1) take to it like a fish to water.

What is more remarkable is the lack of mistakes made by two young drivers. Rosberg has finished on the podium 4 out of 4 times, winning just one race and finishing second thrice to his teammate. Hamilton has won 3 out of 4 races, and still finds himself a few points behind Rosberg in the standings. He has outperformed his teammate in Qualifying, establishing himself as the modern-day unchallenged King of Qualifying sessions. They are starting to translate into race wins, which is always dangerous for the other World Champions in the mix. Consistency is a word alien to Hamilton, but Lauda seems to be merging both, creating a formula that is next to unbeatable.

Even if they do taper off towards the end, I don’t see any other team rising up to challenge their dominance. Force India have the resources and engines, but the drivers are inexperienced. It is a good step up for Perez though, who could be racing for the big guns and challenging for the title next season.

Onto Spain, where Alonso will find an extra gear. But no amount of gears can put him at the top, with a mediocre Ferrari engine.

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