What makes Mercedes the powerhouse of Formula One?

Mercedes AMG Petronas - 2020 Constructors Champions

The Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula One team were crowned 2020 FIA Constructors Champions for the seventh time in row at the Imola Grand Prix, in Italy – setting a new world record for the most consecutive Constructors Championships in the sport. A one-two finish by Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas at Imola secured their championship with four races to spare. Since rejoining the sport in 2013, Brackely based F1 outfit started their consecutive run of championship credentials from 2014 to 2020 since the inception of the current hybrid power units. Mercedes surpassed Ferrari’s previous record of six straight world titles secured between 1999 and 2004. Since 2014 Mercedes domination has gone from strength to strength; they had won 16 out of 19 races available that year, followed by 16/19, 19/21, 12/20, 11/21 and 15/21 in successive seasons. This year alone, the team has so far won 11 of the 13 races covered in the calendar, a massive 93 race victories put together.

Credit must go to Mercedes leadership

Mercedes AMG Petronas leadership spearheaded by the stewardship of the Austrian, Toto Wolff has over years demonstrated a solid Formula One team admired by many around the paddocks. Toto Wolff is the CEO and team principal of the Mercedes team and has mostly attracted and earned the trust of top drivers like Lewis Hamilton to continue driving for the team. Wolff has assembled a team of super gifted engineers such as James Allison, Ross Brawn, Aldo Costa, Geoff Willis and Paddy Lowe to work with him at Mercedes factories and at the paddocks. The Austrian is well-known among his peers and competitors for his clear leadership style and inclusiveness that encourages constructive criticism but demonstrating unique capabilities in the sport. Each and every one in the team knows exactly what are their responsibilities. Each individual has their own room to breathe, innovate, contribute, flourish – and inspire the rest of the team. Whenever they’ve stumbled technically, they have calmly and analytically pinpointed the problem and corrected it with such bewildering speed.

The DNA of Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula One race cars

Mercedes have simply constructed one of the best power units (in the hybrid era), thanks to their high performance powertrains (HPP) factory at Brixworth lead by Briton Andy Cowell. The Mercedes W-series racing car models have evolved with time yielding seven consecutive constructors and six drivers titles since their first launch in 2010. The jigsaw behind this success is the reliable chassis and the 1.6 litre V6 hybrid power unit (PU) that has yielded close to no DNFs (did not finish) instances. The mercedes car has a longer wheel base than most F1 cars which makes it more efficient in terms of aerodynamics but other teams like Red Bull have a different approach.

Mercedes AMG Petronas 2020 F1 Car

What is more interesting is Mercedes title partner, Petronas, which supplies the team with both fuel and lubricants. In 2017 Mercedes engine provided 50% thermal efficiency which is far more than twice an average F1 car can produce. Thermal efficiency is how much potential energy an amount of fuel has and how much of it comes out of the engine as usable power. One other area that Mercedes excel in is the tyre management area – their engineers introduced vented wheel spacers which help in cooling rear brakes and tyres. The high reliability of Mercedes F1 cars demonstrate the efforts and the remarkable state of engineering perfection that the team delivers year-on-year. A combination of aerodynamic perfection, sheer pace on track, optimizing and stretching the rules to the limit makes the team untouchable. The drivability of the W11 and its predecessors seemed to suit each every circuit that is at its disposal even when “governed” under the banning of party mode settings during qualifying.

World class drivers – Hamilton and Bottas

The Mercedes F1 team has always been blessed with the most talented drivers the sport can offer. Since joining F1 Championship in 2010, the team has paired the likes of Nico Rosberg and legendary Michael Schumacher (2010 – 2012) Rosberg and Hamilton (2013 – 2016) and currently boost the pairing of Hamilton and Bottas. The return of Schumacher did not yield any good results with only one podium finish in the span of three years until the sports most decorated driver was replaced by the six time world champion Hamilton, who joined the silver arrows at the time when the sport experienced a major rule change with the introduction of the V6 turbo hybrid engines at the beginning of the 2013 season. The team has relatively become stable since the untimely and shock retirement of Rosberg from the sport after winning his maiden Formula One drivers title in 2016, beating Hamilton during a fiercely fought campaign season.

Driver managementRosberg vs Hamilton

Mercedes have the philosophy of allowing their drivers to race each other without any team instructions as long as the drivers bring the cars home in one piece. The mentality behind this approach has somehow worked for the team but there is always a risk to it as it was witnessed with the pairing of both Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg. The approach with the team is to discourage the environment where there is number one and support driver set up that we sometimes see in some F1 teams. This open cheque approach back-fired heavily between Hamilton and Rosberg and created one of the fiercest driver rivalries that the sport has ever seen. The two team-mates barely talked to each other and their fights towards the top spot on the grid was unbearable and created a lot of tension amongst the team. Who remembers when Hamilton and Rosberg collided at each other on the fourth corner of the Spanish GP in 2016, ending the race for both drivers? Rosberg ended up retiring from the sport prematurely after winning his maiden F1 driver title at the end of the same year. The approach works only when you have a more talented driver than the other team-mate, but for similarly gifted alpha males it just doesn’t work, Toto Wolff knows very well.

Forward thinking and planning by Mercedes

Because Mercedes most of the time clinch the F1 Constructors championship title early, the team start working on the development of their new car for the next season earlier than every other team. While the other teams grapple for the remaining points on the running season, the team focuses its resources on developing the next competitive machinery well ahead of time and this gives them comfort to.work, innovate and understand what is lying ahead. The cohesion and team togetherness that prevail within the factory and paddock teams, always working towards breaking barriers is something that keeps the Mercedes team always hungry for more. With the drastic change in F1 rules starting from the 2022 season, one would wonder what is the next all conquering silver arrow (W13) lying ahead, its just a matter of time before another beast is unleashed.

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2 thoughts on “What makes Mercedes the powerhouse of Formula One?

  1. Hey Joel,

    Interesting read and it’s clear that Merecedes are getting a lot right to be able to have been such a dominant force in F1 for so long. I wonder, though, does this dominance stop the sport from progressing in terms of viewership? I still like to watch it, and think Hamilton and Bottas are phenomenal drivers, but perhaps for some the excitement is diminished when you know who will win most of the time. Also, do you see a time when a new powerhouse could take over from Mercedes? 

    Thanks, Richard

    1. Yes sometimes when the sport has one winner it becomes predictable and obvious to the fans, its good to winning team but not to the fans. Of course at some point Mercedes would lose their cutting edge or Hamilton retires and the next generation driver will emerge especially when the regulations change around 2024.

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