Having his F1 domination usurped by that
of Merc’s drivers was bad enough, but world
champ Sebastian Vettel wasn’t even on top
at Red Bull, getting out-performed by new
teammate Daniel Ricciardo out of the gate.
Five grands prix, five crushing Mercedes-Benz team wins.
Is a season domination of historic proportions ahead?
As Hamilton and Rosberg pushed each
other to greater and greater heights, they
left the rest that much further in arrears.
Kimi Raikkonen had an excellent view of the
late-race battle for the lead in Spain, but
only because his Ferrari was a lap down...
While it was clear from Formula 1’s
pre-season testing that the predominance
of Red Bull Racing and Sebastian Vettel
was unlikely to continue into 2014, few
would have guessed how completely the
new top dogs from Mercedes-Benz would
assert themselves. After five grands prix in
which the margin of superiority enjoyed
by its drivers Lewis Hamilton and Nico
Rosberg has not only been maintained,
but actually widened, it’s starting to look
like 1988’s F1 high-watermark campaign
of 15 wins from 16 races for McLaren-Honda might be in jeopardy.
Rivals had maintained a brave front
ahead of the start of the European
season in Spain, suggesting that their
ongoing developments would close the
gap; but either their progress was
insufficient or Mercedes’ was greater,
because Hamilton and Rosberg actually
increased the gap in Barcelona (see graph
at right). After narrowly avoiding being
lapped on home turf while coming home
sixth, Fernando Alonso dispensed with
the usual upbeat post-race take by
conceding that his Ferrari team’s title
aspirations were already over. Red Bull’s
surprising pacesetter Daniel Ricciardo,
too, admited third place was the best he
could hope for, at least for now.
Meanwhile, the occupants of the Silver
Arrows are keeping their personal duel
clean, but intense. After a mechanical
failure robbed him in Australia, Hamilton
bested Rosberg the next four times out,
but the margins were tiny and the
intra-team tension already into the red
zone. Hamilton pointedly questioned
every aspect of his crew’s strategic calls
in Barcelona with Rosberg breathing
down his neck, while Rosberg admitted
frustration at his string of near-misses
and vowed to reverse them.
While a repeat of the Prost-Senna
contretemps that spiced the ’ 88
steamroller season seems unlikely, it’s
clear neither Mercedes man will accept
anything less than victory. Which gives us
plenty of drama to watch for, even if the
metallic Mercedes W05s gleam at us from
parc ferme after every race this season.
Lewis Hamilton delivered a long string of
victories to Mercedes, but it’s hardly been
cruise-and-collect for the driven Brit.
A GROWING CHASM?
The margin between the winning Mercedes
and the first non-Merc was big if relatively
stable for the flyaway races, but in Spain it
doubled! Back to the keyboard, rival teams.
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