If there is one thing that has been certain over the last half decade, it’s that most times a Formula 1 race is a race for third.
This weekend, F1 took on the Spanish Grand Prix, and as is often custom, Mercedes came out on top.
The German outlet led by Toto Wolff has seemed nearly unstoppable, only seeming to get beaten by accidents, mistakes or wet weather. However, a team really hasn’t challenged Mercedes on speed since around 2013.
Back then, the Silver Arrows had just brought on Lewis Hamilton after stealing him away from McLaren. There were nearly five powerhouse teams that season, McLaren, Mercedes, Ferrari, Lotus and the dominant organization that season, Red Bull Racing.
Sebastian Vettel won the 2013 championship, winning 13 times, including nine straight. Things all seemed to change when Vettel jumped ship to Ferrari in 2014.
In what seemed like a questionable off-season move, Red Bull’s pace dramatically fell. McLaren’s pace dropped off the face of the earth and Ferrari was essentially a midfield team.
Mercedes picked up the slack. The Silver Arrows won all but three races in 2014, five with Nico Rosberg and 11 with Hamilton. The team just couldn’t be beat. 2015 wasn’t any better for the rest of the grid, as Mercedes once again claimed victory in all but three races.
Where in 2014, Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo claimed victory in the remaining three events, in 2015, it would be Vettel in the Ferrari.
The 2015 Hungarian Grand Prix marked the only time the Mercedes cars were just not as fast as everyone else.
In 2016 Mercedes lost only two events all season, and in 2017 the midfield picked up and managed to steal eight victories from the Mercs.
Mercedes logged only 11 wins in 2018 and didn’t score its first win until round four in Azerbaijan. That didn’t matter though, as the team outlasted any possible challenge from Max Verstappen and Vettel to once again claim the world championship.
Just last season, Mercedes would go on to lose only six races.
So what exactly do these stats all mean?
For one thing, it means the other teams need to smarten up and figure out a way to beat Mercedes. Second, it means that unless you’re a serious Mercedes fan, you probably won’t have much fun watching F1.
What team has the best chance to beat Mercedes?
There may be some uncertainty in the Mercedes camp. Both Hamilton and Wolff have been reported as potentially not coming back, and that could mean big implications for the team.
If the feng shui of the team is disrupted, that could allow another team to overtake them.
Red Bull has been the best of the rest — well, maybe just Verstappen, that is. The Dutchman has been a thorn in the side of Mercedes all season, stealing the 70th Anniversary Grand Prix win away from a very annoyed Hamilton. Despite teammate Alexander Albon being average at best, a promotion to a driver like Pierre Gasly might be what Red Bull needs to truly compete with Mercedes.
Red Bull’s shown it can beat the best, now it just needs proper pace and a proper second driver, and then it should really show its speed.
Racing Point — er, the Pink Mercedes — has been one of the fastest-developing teams on the grid so far. The Lawrence Stroll-lead consortium has been nothing short of stunning, its drivers Lance Stroll, Nico Hulkenberg and Sergio Perez have all been working wonders in their questionably designed cars.
The team has been slowly improving, and I suspect in 2021, when the team’s deal with Aston Martin comes into effect, Racing Point will really excel and contend with Red Bull and Mercedes.
McLaren joins forces with Mercedes in 2021, a partnership that won the British outlet three drivers titles in 1998, 1999 and 2008. The team had fallen from grace in 2015 after allying with Honda, but the team has bounced back. Lando Norris has already proved to be a decent wheelman, and the experienced and proven race winner Ricciardo will join the team, bringing plenty of added experience… and money.
The team looks to be in a stable place that will allow for constant improvement. Its drivers are talented and don’t appear to be going anywhere anytime soon.
One notable exclusion is the prancing horses over at Ferrari.It very well known that its pace is suffering. The team boss over there has already mentioned the team most likely won’t be competitive until 2022 or 2023, which has to be heartbreaking for new driver Carlos Sainz.
The Scuderia need to find something, and find it fast, or it will be left behind. The team has certainly gone the way of McLaren back in 2015 and fallen hard from grace.