Formula 1 mid-season review: Mercedes
4 August 2014 – As the Formula 1 fraternity enjoys the summer break, GPUpdate.net takes the opportunity to analyse team and driver performances over the first 11 rounds of the 2014 season. First up, we look at runaway championship leaders Mercedes, along with battling team-mates Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton.
Many expected Mercedes to hold the advantage coming into 2014 but few anticipated that the Silver Arrows would exert such dominance. The team has claimed all bar one of the pole positions, with six 1-2s out of the nine victories it has taken from 11 races. The W05 Hybrid is a frighteningly fast machine. It is unfathomable that its enormous championship lead will be eroded, although reliability has not been bulletproof, with both Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg having lost a significant haul of points due to mechanical gremlins. The issues have particularly affected Hamilton, but any ideas of a conspiracy are woefully misplaced – it is simply misfortune and shows the difficulty of running two equal cars at a championship-winning pace. Its pace is such that it could set a record for the most wins by a team in a season, and few would be surprised if it managed that feat. Credit must be given to the team management for allowing Hamilton and Rosberg to race so hard, although it isn't perfect. Niki Lauda's relationship with Hamilton is strong, while Toto Wolff and Paddy Lowe are astute on the business and technical sides. However, as Hungary proved, it lacks an out and out strong arm on the pit wall – would Ross Brawn have allowed the situation to develop as it did? Whichever driver loses the title will need picking up by the team – this is where the loss of Brawn may be felt even more.
Nico Rosberg: 9/10
Rosberg has had fewer mechanical problems but that doesn't mean that the W05 has flattered his ability. It took him until the sixth round of the year to beat Hamilton on merit, but in doing so he racked up significant points, even as the Briton went through a purple patch. Rosberg lacks the ultimate racecraft of Hamilton – as shown by his inability to pass in Bahrain, despite his tyre advantage – but he makes up for it in other areas. His pace is sufficient to keep Hamilton on the edge and when his team-mate goes over it, Rosberg is there to pick up the pieces. He lacked a few tenths in qualifying early on in the season but lately Rosberg had been the form man on Saturday, and, as Q3 in Monaco showed, he does have a ruthless side beneath the film-star looks. Rosberg is also mentally strong, so it'll be interesting to see how he reacts to the business end of the season – this will be Rosberg's first championship fight. Hamilton has been here before and felt both sides of the emotional divide.
Lewis Hamilton: 9/10
Hamilton has been the unluckier of the driver pairing, having been forced out of races in Australia and Canada, while his qualifying failure in Germany put him on the back foot. He showed his class through four straight wins – Malaysia and China were fairly comfortable and controlled, Bahrain and Spain achieved through expert defending when Rosberg was, in theory, on the better strategy. He placed his car perfectly through the race in Bahrain and showed that, out of the two, he has the better race craft. However, there have been chinks in his armour. His very public downbeat demeanour in Monaco showed that Rosberg can get under his skin, while qualifying mistakes in Canada and Austria handed the advantage to his team-mate. Backing off in Q3 at Silverstone, too, was a costly error, and one at odds for an aggressive racer who 'never gives up'. If he can cut out those minor niggles, then the wins will flow. Hamilton is a driver who wears his heart on his sleeve and fans love him for this character trait – but in the heat of battle it can sometimes backfire. With both drivers guaranteed a big haul of points for just finishing the race, any retirements will be costly – Hamilton may only have had two more major issues than Rosberg but at this level that could swing the points tally by as much as 50.
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