The chase is on
Shanghai 2018
Chinese Grand Prix
Posted By: Justin Hynes  |  07 May 2014   |  10:20 am GMT  |  230 comments

With the first four ‘flyaway’ Grands Prix out of the way, it’s a good time to assess the start each team has made to the season and look at how each team has fared so far with the new hybrid turbo technology.

This time we look at 2014’s runaway leaders, Mercedes, who after a clean sweep in the first four races, look unstoppable.


Best result: P1 (Rosberg, Australia; Hamilton, Malaysia, Bahrain, China)
Best grid slot: P1 (Hamilton, Australia, Malaysia, China; Rosberg, Bahrain)
Average grid slot: 1st.
Retirements: 1
(Hamilton, Australia)
Constructors Championship: 1st
Drivers’ Championship: P1 Rosberg, 79pts; P2 Hamilton 75pts

Fastest race lap, gap to pace setter
Australia: +0.000s (Rosberg fastest lap 1:32.478)
Malaysia: +0.000s (Hamilton fastest lap 1:43.066)
Bahrain: +0.000s (Rosberg fastest lap 1:37.020)
China: +0.000 (Rosberg fastest lap 1:40.402)

What’s gone right?
Just about everything. From the moment Mercedes W05 hit the track in Jerez it was abundantly clear that the Brackley squad, in partnership with their Brixworth power unit developers, were well ahead of the game on reliability, performance and potential. By the time the team had completed its pre-season programme it had logged 4972.644 km of testing. Williams, also powered by the company’s PU106A hybrid power unit, were their closest rival with 4893.432 km and the closest non-Mercedes powered team were third-placed Ferrari with 4488.516 km. Taking the chassis out of the equation, the four Mercedes-powered teams had put in a total of 17994.408 km, whereas the four Renault-supplied teams had managed just under half that with 8743.332 km. Williams’ Felipe Massa set the fastest time of testing but Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton finished pre-season with the second and third-fastest times.

And their dominance of testing has been repeated in the heat of battle. Rosberg and Hamilton have been quickest in all but two sessions this season so far (Fernando Alonso in FP1 in Australia and Daniel Ricciardo in FP3 in China, in which neither Mercedes driver set a time). In the sessions that matter the pair have been imperious, with the only real pressure coming from each other.

After the opening ‘flyaway’ remains streets ahead of the competition. Mercedes has a 97-point lead in the Constructors’ Championship and that battle looks as good as won now. Rosberg heads the Drivers’ standings on 79 points with one win and three second places and Hamilton is four points adrift with three wins and one retirement. What’s not to like.

What’s gone wrong?
You would have to say hardly anything. Hamilton’s retirement in Australia after just two laps due to a misfiring cylinder slightly took the shine off Rosberg’s excellent win in Melbourne (he led every lap and won by 24 seconds) but since then the team have hardly put a foot wrong. Hamilton’s hat-trick of victories have been superb, with the 2008 champion in blistering form in Malaysia and China and both Mercedes men offering up some enthralling racing in Bahrain.

If there is anything to go wrong it will come in this next, European phase of the season. Traditionally the period when teams crank up development, it is key to Mercedes’ season that they repel any challenges from rivals as the development cycle spins up, as team boss Toto Wolff admitted this week. “We know our rivals are going to be relentless in their effort to close the gap on us so our aim is to increase the advantage we enjoyed at the last race, in China,” he said.

Technical chief Paddy Lowe added: “The objective is to not only match, but to better the development rate of our rivals”.

Strong points of the team and car
At the heart of Mercedes’ dominance so far has been a mix of ingenuity and good old-fashioned preparedness. As mentioned elsewhere on this site the team had Geoff Willis leading an inner group solely focused on the integration of chassis and power unit for the past two years and it began investing heavily in energy recovery expertise at Brixworth as long as six years ago.

The result is an exceptionally clever power unit that benefits from having the turbo’s compressor at one end of the engine and the turbine at the other, linked by a long shaft through the vee of the engine. The benefit apparently comes from less turbo lag meanin that less of the energy from the ERS is required to keep the turbo spooled up off throttle. With more energy available from ERS, the ICE is needed less and less fuel is burned.

The innovation helps on the chassis side too with the positioning of components leading to better weight distribution and a better centre of gravity as it has enable the team to move the gearbox further forward.

Elsewhere, the team has one of the strongest driver pairings on the grid, with both showing they are capable of allying outstanding pace to the complex demands of race management made by F1’s new technologies.

Weak points of the team and the car
Few. The car appears to have few real flaws, though of course refinements will occur across the season. The only issue could be the developing rift between Hamilton and Rosberg. The pair have already demonstrated that losing to the other is a painful business, with a stoney-faced Rosberg admitted on the Bahrain podium that “I strongly dislike coming second to Lewis, that’s really not something I enjoy”. There may come a moment during the season that one is required by the team to give way to the other and how that situation is managed will be interesting. It is, it must be said, a nice dilemma to have.

Where do they go from here?
The short answer is forwards. This weekend in Barcelona is likely to be telling. The Circuit de Catalunya is famously something of an F1 bellwether. If a car goes well there it will go well anywhere. If Mercedes see of challenges from redeveloped rivals this weekend, and if their own technical progress, maintains or stretches the gap then the only questions remaining will surely be at which race the teams’ title is taken and which of Mercedes’ drivers is eventually crowned champion.

Overall Marks out of 10
Mercedes – 9/10
Nico Rosberg – 8/10
Lewis Hamilton – 9/10

How many marks out of ten do you give Mercedes so far? Leave us your comments on this post in the comments section below.

* Interesting to note, as we went live with this post, Mercedes announced a new partnership with a sponsor, new to F1, which they say is the first major partner to enter Formula One as a direct consequence of the new efficiency-based rules, with hybrid turbo engines.

The deal is a relatively small one, but they hope significant and the start of a trend, with leading fan and motor provider ebm-papst. The company provides external cooling for the cars in the garage and on the grid, bearing in mind that the temperatures inside the side pods can each 120 degrees. They also have an innovation for improving the conditions for the mechanics in the garages in hot countries, all based on more sustainable technologies.

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It’s easy to give the drivers such high marks when they have such easy machinery to work with. That’s not very objective.


I’d give 10’s across the board for the Merc team. They have performed without leaving any one behind.

Rosberg’s 10 comes simply because without Hamiould be dominating this season so far. He is doing a superb job and getting all he can from the team and car.

Hamilton’s 10 comes because he is taking this car to its limits and is driving outstandingly up till now – beating his teammate in equal equipment and who has .equal team support



Above should read – If Hamilton was not around Rosberg would be dominating this season so far..


True that …he’d have 4 wins from 4. It’d be like 2009 and 2011 over again, a driver in a dominant car with an easy-to-contain teammate. This is assuming that Nakajima was in the 2nd car.


Mercedes have been awesome so far this year, and if it wasn’t for the engine issue for Hamilton in Australia, it could have been four easy 1-2 finishes. They have no real weaknesses at this moment.

As for the drivers, despite him not leading the championship at this moment, Hamilton is beating Rosberg well right now, and it seems whatever Rosberg is trying, it is not working. For Rosberg, he needs to show some more guts in combat, and not rest on his laurels in terms of his supposedly better ‘cerebral’ ability compared to his teammate. Otherwise, it will be one way traffic for Hamilton, straight to his second world championship.

Overall, Mercedes are doing a far superior job compared to their competitors, and it will take a very long time to catch them.


My feeling is that the only blot on the copy book of Mercedes is Hamilton’s engine failure which was known about in the parade lap before the start of the race. A simple insulator failure, but one that cost Hamilton the race. On subsequent performance I think it is quite likely had that not happened Hamilton would also have won in Australia, but it is conjecture. Given that however his subsequent form merits 10/10 score.

Dean Reynolds

I tend to agree with the majority of sentiments here. The scores given for Mercedes and Rosberg seem about right. I fail to see what Lewis has done not to merit a 10 though. Not put a foot wrong so far. He has put Nico and his critics firmly in their place and long may it continue. Think it’s far from a done deal yet though as Nico will bounce back….. Just don’t think he will have quite enough to beat Lewis. Mercedes have produced an almighty car, one that will be remembered in the same vein as the MP4/4…. On that basis alone I believe they deserve a 10.


Hamilton a 9 for driving a 1.5 faster car than anyone, he is not driving better than Alonso for example, the only difference is the machine both have.


He is driving to the maximum, save for Bahrain Quali, that the car allows.

How do we know that if Lewis was on the same Ferrari that Alonso is driving, he wouldn’t match Alonso? Especially in qualy trim, I think Lewis has a slight advantage. We all know what happened between him and Fernando in the same car in 2007. Tied for 2nd in the WDC.

Besides, It’s not fair to compare drivers in different cars. I think both deserve a 10 in their respective teams.


“Tied second” Wrong! Have a look at the standings, they were not classified joint second. Lewis was second, Alonso 3rd


A bit of nitpick as per KRBs post above, but my point stands with regards to Lewis and Alonso being equal in same machinery so to say that Alonso is driving better than Lewis as per Holly’s post is unfair. Lewis should be judged against Nico only. And in my opinion he should get a 10.


A nitpick: they didn’t tie for 2nd in 2007. Lewis finished 2nd on countback, Alonso 3rd. It’s the smallest gap between 1st and 3rd, in the DWC standings, in the history of F1.


Whenever I read that comment I disagree. Both are excellent qualifiers, and say BOTH, including Alonso. I put the same level. The minimum difference was due to give the last lap with minimum fuel and Lewis often not complied with agreements not respected team and Alonso’s turn


You are the first one here I agree with. It is exactly as you put it, very well said.


If I were a Merc fan, I’d say 10/10, but I’m not. Therefore I’m giving them a 2/10 As “Humpy” Wheeler (former General Manager of Charlotte Motor Speedway) might say, “You’re stinkin’ up my show.”

I say ban them both for the rest of the season so that we can have a taste of good racing. As it stands now, we can expect one or the other to win all the remaining races……….. Dang! It’s getting harder and harder to be a Ferrari fan.


If only we could change 2014 to 2004 and then no-one would have any complaints about a dominant team.

The hard truth is that Mercedes have done the best job and the harder truth is the rest need to do better – even Ferrari.


“The hard truth is that Mercedes have done the best job and the harder truth is the rest need to do better – even Ferrari.”

Well, that’s precisely the problem if one is a Ferrari tifoso. And the sad fact is that as others do better, so will Merc. And that explains why I’m whining and crying like a silly school girl. I also own a Ducati, so I have the pleasure of crying on MotoGP weekends too.


Lol Roberto 🙂

When your teams are struggling I think it’s good to have a sense of humour and you have a good one 🙂

Keep it up and don’t worry, Ferrari will come good.

About Ducati I’m less sure, but Ferrari yes 🙂


Lewis deserves a 10/10 just based on his performance in Bahrain alone – his 2n place grid slot not withstanding.

I don’t think ANY driver has been able to keep his teammate behind him whilst being on inferior tyres and with the added disadvantage of 2 DRS zones!

Also, the way he has beaten Rosberg at the other races and the gaps he pulled out should mitigate any other negative that went into that 9/10 he was given.

Lewis keeps getting held to a far higher standard than other drivers – why? I do not know. If Rosberg had driven like Lewis this season, or Alonso, they would be getting a 10/10.


Quite simply put, the silver arrows have hit the bulls-eye… And as James states in the article, the W05 is not only ahead on development but ahead in terms of potential as well…

A question to the aero-boffins on here… Would it be possible to integrate the sort of vent tht the RB10 nose has on to the W05’s nose? Surely there’s a benefit to it since it is somewhat disguised in black paint as opposed to the traditional RBR colours? It seems as if though Lotus and RBR had similar ideas in mind and reports suggest mclaren or catching this train too… Your thoughts?


I read on another site that Merc is expecting a 0.6s gain with the developments they’re bringing to Spain. Seems like quite a bit.


Seems like quite a task for even the ‘blue army’ to stop this german blitz-krieg.


It would be interesting to see what happens when Red Bull and Ferrari are in full swing of development. If they catch up it will make the season interesting and if they cannot come close in 3-4 races championship would be over.

Lewis is completely zoned in on the title.

Nico needs to get going and start beating Hamilton very quickly and not rely on DNFs of Lewis to claim being ahead in championship.

David in Sydney

I think Lewis is a shoe in for the title – he is going to do a Schumi this year (and just like with Schumi it’s not going to be boring seeing someone on top of their game wipe the floor with his competitors)


I would give a 11 to the engine designer


Watching F1 live since 1995, Mercedes this year is the most dominant car I have ever seen. It will carry their underperforming drivers to the championship with ease.

Mercedes: 10

Hamilton: 6

Rosberg: 3


Watching with blinkers on IMHO

Dean Reynolds

Ha ha ha….. a truly reasoned and considered view. That bitter taste at the back of your throat must be killing you.


We’re not going to end up with another Button Brawn 2009 debate are we?

David in Sydney

Sort of McLaren early 1998 and Ferrari in early 2000s – question is whether teams will be able to catch up without extensive in season testing…


I give Ross Braun a. 12

The rest 9 and 8.

I can’t give tens to anyone that is driving a car that much more powerful than the rest.

I give 5 to Renault who really screwed the pooch with their power unit. How they could have gotten it so wrong is really amazing but I suspect even if they got it right the Merc is brilliant enough to still have the advantage. Ross Braun is truly a great mind and a loss to F1.


I’d say 5 for Renault is charitable 🙂


All of the “… so far” articles have been great. Thanks James.


I think the scores are fair, however I can,t help feeling were it not for LH then the mercedes advantage would not be so big. Nico is a great driver and ambassador to mercedes. However he does not posess the raw speed of LH. I just hope the team can give lewis a reliable car for the rest of the season. It seems difficult to appreciate how much damage was done by the DNF in oz.


Mercedes, up until now, has all the characteristics of an “A-Student”


Nico has recently commented on how he had taken pole position last year at Barcelona, in the WO4, whereas Lewis at the time, was still learning to find that comfort zone to enable him to extract the best, from the WO4. Hamilton now has expressed that he is much more confident and comfortable in this season’s WO5, and IMO will enable him to possibly blitz the field at Barcelona this weekend during qualifying, as he did in 2012, with a car that he was comfortable in, the Mclaren MP4-27.


Mercedes have done a brilliant job, and Ross Brawn’s role in getting them to where they are now cannot be understated.

The danger, in my book, is that they put something on the car that doesn’t work as expected and totally upsets the balance and turns it into a different beast. We saw with Brawn (essentially the ex-Mercedes team) in 2009.


These are the first marks that are about right, but completely out of proportion compared to some other irrisory scores. Lewis 9 is about ok, he is not a ten because Rosberg has been faster in some conditions, and during the whole Barhein weekend. I probably would give him a 9.3. Together with a 9.7 to Alonso (those 0.3 to 10 are because he didn’t maximize his last lap of Q3 in Australia), these are by far the best performers of the year. I know people ten to give higher scores to new guys as Ricciardo, just for the novelty, but this is how it is objectively.


The only thing that will keep the championship fight interesting is if Hamilton has another DNF soon. He’ll have to fight like crazy to make up the points deficit.


I Agree with Mr J. Allens synopsis on Mercedes : 4 race evaluation. ..though I’d give Lewis a 9.5 mark…as he did nothing wrong in the Aus race.The car failed not the driver.

See what happens in Espana & Monaco with regards to any advances in car development by Mercedes & how it slots in with the other teams developments.


9 for Merc – Oz retirement for one of their cars.

10 for Lewis – Perfect so far.

8 for Rosberg – To miss the front row twice in a dominant car is inexcusable

The only time one of the Merc drivers should be told to move out of the way for the other is when a driver from another team has even a remote possibilty of snatching the WDC. If only Nico and Lewis are in contention then they should fight it out on track, double points or no double points. May the best Merc driver win.


“May the best Merc driver win”



I keep hearing the saying about Barcelona “if a car goes well there it will go well anywhere”. Yet Vettel won the last two WDC but struggled at Barcelona. Maldonado and Alonso won there in 2012 and 2013 and didn’t win anything after that.

Could somebody please explain this to me. Was it about the tyres in the last two seasons?


What does Lewis need to get a 10?

Mike from Colombia

He needs to be a Lewis without the last name Hamilton.


1 more 😉


why not 10 for Mercedes? How can it get better than that?


they had a retirement in melbourne.

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