A more competitive season?
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Australian Grand Prix
Toto Wolff: “the margins at the front of the F1 field have shrunk”
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Mercedes Ferrari
Posted By: Editor   |  20 Mar 2017   |  7:32 pm GMT  |  181 comments

As the Formula 1 circus jets off to Melbourne ahead of the first race of the 2017 season, Mercedes’ motorsport boss Toto Wolff has expressed his belief that the gaps at the front of the field have closed up over the winter.

This season will be the first since F1 introduced new chassis regulations designed to make the cars faster, alongside the re-introduction of wider tyres to increasing grip levels and cornering speeds.

Throughout F1’s history, regulation changes have usually increased the margins between the teams as they offer an opportunity for different approaches. This has also often led to periods of catching up as rival squads try to develop their own versions of the innovations that prove to be most effective.

Valtteri Bottas

But following the two pre-season tests at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya and an analysis of the race simulations completed by the teams during those sessions, it appears that the gaps at the front of the grid have actually closed up – particularly between Mercedes and Ferrari – ahead of the 2017 season.

This is because the Mercedes engine has maintained its place as the best power unit in F1, while the new aerodynamic rules have given Ferrari the chance to catch up with an aggressive car that is kind on its tyres during long runs.

Speaking ahead of next weekend’s Australian Grand Prix, Wolff explained how Mercedes had approached the new rules and outlined its expectations for 2017, as well as his thoughts on the fight to be first on the grid in Melbourne.

Toto Wolff

He said: “We have tackled with determination the challenge of the new regulations. We have been very successful over the last three years through stable rules – but no team has ever maintained its success over such a big regulation change before. In a way, it’s just what the doctor ordered. To have such a challenge is good for the team.

“There is an art to managing expectations. You must not set them too low – but you must also keep them under control. With new regulations, everyone starts with zero points. It provides opportunities as well as risks for every team on the grid. You only need to look back to 2009 to see how unpredictable Formula 1 can be, with Brawn winning the Championship after being on the brink of extinction.

“We enter 2017 with that mindset. We take every one of our rivals seriously and respect every team’s ability to find that magic bullet. What we’ve seen from Barcelona is that the margins at the front of the field have shrunk. We’ll see how that pans out in Melbourne, because we still don’t know about the fuel loads, weights or power settings of the other cars.”

Ferrari

Wolff’s comments could well be an example of the art of managing expectations that he mentions, particularly if Ferrari really has produced a car that can challenge for the win next weekend. But they could also be interpreted as a warning that Mercedes did indeed mask its true performance in testing (which could also be said of Ferrari at times) and is still expecting to be F1’s dominant team.

Either way, we don’t have long to wait to find out.

Hamilton vs Bottas

Wolff also offered an early glimpse into the rapport between his new driver pairing – Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas.

Hamilton often had a strained and hyper competitive relationship with his former team-mate Nico Rosberg, who retired just five days after clinching the 2016 F1 world title late last year.

Lewis Hamilton Valtteri Bottas

But Wolff believes Mercedes’ new line-up is “in a great place” early in their partnership after sharing the workload of developing the WO8 for half a day each across the eight days of winter testing.

He said: “Lewis and Valtteri are in a great place. They have a respectful and friendly relationship from what we’ve seen in our team briefings so far.

“It’s an exciting time for them because these new cars are a real physical challenge. Both felt from testing that the G-Forces are enormous and they are embracing the new challenge of F1 2017.”

What do you make of Wolff’s words? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below or head over to the JA on F1 Facebook page for more discussion.

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181 comments

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1

Photo shows VET and HAM. I have a kind of strange certainty neither will be on the front row. Time will tell.

2

So Phil Glass are you suggesting Hamilton will get beaten by his team mate again?

3

I think Bottas is in for a rude awakening! and he will witness first hand why Rosberg retired!

4

Rosberg retired because he won the world championship. Are you predicating Bottas as world champion? Big call!!

5

...nothing would please me more.....

6

Do you know what I love so much about dreaming? The fact that you always end up waking up to a completely different real life scenario to the one you did dream about.

7

watch this space! BOT be on the front row regularly, prob ahead of HAM but HAM will have the race sorted.

8

Phil, I love pre season predictions. I think that one may come back to haunt you. I predict Bottas to be comprehensively beaten by Lewis over the forst half of the season, before doing a better job in the second half, but still being behind and not doing enough to get a second year at Mercedes.

9

That's VET & BOT. Actually, I can't be 100% sure it's VET ... looks like his helmet, but could be RAI. Can't see the car number, and t-bar colour is the same in pre-season.

10

Pray that he is right. We need some excitement at the front end of the grid.

11

Yes, a couple of different teams, seriously challenging, would be great for F1.

12

Comment deleted

13

Scott, please try and grow up,

14

Yeah I admit that one was very silly

15

You mean the webber who was going to beat vettel in 2010 until Redbull messed him up in the final race.He later turned a doormat to give vettel easy tittles from 2011 - 2013,in the ferocious Redbulls, the most dominant cars ever created in the history of F1.
Rosberg ,the second best driver behind Hamilton on the grid,was beaten, 2013,2014,2015 , until Hamilton's campaign was littered with mechanical breakdowns. One more race and the herculean effort is achieved. No escape from reality.

16

'2011 - 2013,in the ferocious Redbulls, the most dominant cars ever created in the history of F1.'

You might be stretching a bit there..

17

@ Nick H...you've got a trigger finger there hahaha I think that Insha should perhaps recast his comment re 'the most dominant etc etc etc'.

18
Wilma the Great

You present Alternative Facts!

19

Great analysis mate!
I guess all the F1 team bosses that chose him the best driver of 2016 should just keep quiet and let you make the calls.
Sorry, but who you are kidding, there is no one that understands a bit about F1 that would believe this type of statements?

20

@Ionut
And no one does. I wouldn't even bother replying to such drivel😉

21

This pre-season reminds me of the 2012 pre-season. There too everyone thought that the previous year's champions (Red Bull) were in front. They weren't.

I think it's going to be an all red front row in Melbourne.

22

I think you are right. The Ferrari chassis appears to be a game changer. The speed in testing means little. Just look at their chassis.

23

Watched some tech analysis with Craig Scarborough on Sky (he seems to know what he's talking about) and he was very complimentary of the Ferrari's sidepods and how they help direct airflow underneath the car and make the diffuser work harder. He confirmed the Ferrari looked the most planted car at Barcelona.

He also said the Mercedes was such an aerodynamically complex car (with so many little edges here and there) that it could be more sensitive to wind and air flow thus making it a bit harder to find the sweet spot.... which is sort of reflected in how the car looked on track and the drivers comments. They will get it right sooner or later though..

24

Did he just talk aero, or did he talk about the difference between the low and high suspensions on the Ferrari and Merc respectively?

25

He was mostly talking about the aero on the Ferrari and Merc, I don't think they got into the respective suspensions.

26

LOL

27

Hope you're right, boys in red carrying my money.

28

Careful Nick, KRB is playing Toto's game, talking up Ferrari and talking down Merc. Remember if Merc find Ferrari are fast, they will just ramp up their own engines.

29

I'm really not, as NickH would know. I've been impressed with the Ferrari from the start. Maybe Hamilton gets on the front row, ahead of Kimi. Who knows, maybe Merc still have a lot up their sleeve.

Hopefully FOM bring back that fuel usage graphic ... I miss it!

30

True Phil, however I think Mercedes nailing the 'sweet spot' of their chassis is going to be more important than at any point over the last 3 years.

The Ferrari just looks predictable to drive straight out of the box.

31

It certainly seems closer at the front than last year, the Ferrari is clearly a step forward and we haven't seen all of Adrian's trick aero bits on the Red Bull yet. Mercedes are a formidable group of people who thoroughly deserve the success they have earned over the last three years, but we all want it to be a bit closer at the sharp end. The gap between the top three has been artificially widened by Renault's continued poor effort on the engine and Ferrari's inability to make a decent PU and chassis in the same season. Hopefully the winning will be shared out a bit more evenly this year, with Lewis just clinching the title in the last race of course....

32

Until q3 when mercedes turn the engine up and destroy ferrari.😊

33

...and that's when all this BS will stop!

34

Mark, you assume Ferrari can't turn theirs up? Let's wait and see what happens before we write of the challengers.

35

Points aren't handed out after q3

36

I really like Wolff's approach, as far as his public persona goes. First and foremost, he's a Motorsport fan and always comes across as fair and open. Quite refreshing really. Managing the HUGE egos of drivers can't be easy but then again, I can imagine Toto being quite intimidating; he's a big fella! Every team wants to dominate and you can't blame Merc for doing a munch better job than everyone else these past few years...it's up to the others to go faster and it looks like the boys and girls in red might be just be doing that this year.

37

While I don't dislike the guy and usually enjoy seeing him talk or reading interviews, I disagree that he's open.

Sometimes I think the stuff he spouts is borderline insulting to the intelligence of fans, particularly all the times in the last three years where he has talked absolute rubbish about the other teams being so close and Mercedes wanting a challenge at the front. We'recommend worried about Ferrari this weekend... oh I think Red Bull are going to challenge us on Sunday... LOL absolute trite!

The reason he talks the other teams up is because A. He's playing poker with those teams, and B. Because they don't want fans to switch off with another snoozefest of Mercedes running away laughing. Dominance is fine but when you do the job as well as Mercedes does, it becomes not worth the time to watch.

38

Is it just me, or is Toto hyping these regulation changes waaaaay too much?

Big regulation change to me is a new engine formula. Anything else is tweaking current formula at best. To me this regulation change is just as watered down as PU era Formula 1 with DRS/sparks/fuel flow limits/fuel limits/PUs. A tweak to tire width and aero to make up for the PU regulations slowing cars down. I'd like to pre-empt any claims Toto is making here claiming that they are winning across "big regulation changes" here. I don't see it that way. We are in the PU era of regulations. When V10s had to use the same tire for Quali/Race it wasn't some big regulation change. It was a tweak to the V10 formula.

You Mercedes will be winning over a tweak to existing PU regulations. This is not enough to unseat you from your dominating position in this PU era. Yes, I'm calling it. 2016 Mercedes tried to play ball in Australia and it fell back in their lap, and they will try to do it again here in 2017, not winning the first Grand Prix to deliver the "Formula 1 is back and Mercedes CAN be defeated" headlines, but it will be just a temporary deception.

39

For goodness' sake give us a break from constant references to V10s and V8s and the supposed Golden Age of F1. We got your point about two years ago. But no matter how much you bang on about it they're the past. Gone. Never to return. Deal with it and move on PLEASE!

40

Never say never!

41
Ricciardo Aficionado

It's a BIG regulation change. Name me another winter when lap times have dropped by five seconds. Yes, that's what it will be come q3 on Saturday. Mark my words. As for Toto and his hype... It's very clear he is only paying lip service to the idea of a competitive grid.

"no team has ever maintained its success over such a big regulation change before"

Ripped that one straight from every F1 Blog/Forum/tabloid sports section with a vested interest in F1's popularity who've been commentating on this reg update since last year.

"It provides opportunities as well as risks for every team on the grid"

Heard that one before too. Clutching for clichès is a sure sign someone speaking a second language is telling you what they think you want to hear.

"You only need to look back to 2009 to see how unpredictable Formula 1 can be"

What he actually means is, F1 has been completely predictable since the last decade.

"We take every one of our rivals seriously and respect every team’s ability to find that magic bullet"

SO seriously, in fact that we believe they need a "magic" bullet to beat us. And that one actually exists. This is the grand daddy of fluff. What we in Aus call p!ss!ng in your pocket. Nevermind the more modern adage that rule changes only advantage the well funded teams. "Magic" bullet??? I can only assume that trotting out this steaming pile of equine excrement is due entirely to an inability to finesse PR garbage in a foreign tongue.
I like Toto. Have to respect the man and his achievements. I wish I was him, only a little less so than one of the lucky guys who drive in his formula... But convincing anyone of his team's vulnerability this year is not a talent he possesses.

42

Great turn of phrase and sense of humor. Keep it going !

43

Ask not how much faster the cars have gotten, but rather how much they have been artificially held back since 2014 introduction of the PU era?

You can only make this sizeable jump in speed if the cars are slow in the first place. Also note, the change is not via engine power but via tire grip in corners and aero.

For 3 years you and I have been subjected to the slowness of the PU F1, and finally they dip back 3 decades to bring the wider tires as solution. To be honest, I think they should not have made the aero changes at the same time. I think the racing would have been better with just the 2016 car and these wider tires.

I can only imagine what a V10 car would deliver lap time wise on these wider tires with the extra gear in the gear box. By now the 95kg V10s would be revving to 22,000 RPM. Can you imagine? Down goosebumps, down!

Also, I understand that the media hyped the Quali laps in 2016 to give PU some speed merit, but they only set the order of the grid and are not the official fastest laps as record books accept them. These cars are configured differently for qualifying and for various reasons cannot repeat that performance level in a Grand Prix. We will see soon how much faster the cars get. I think that will improve 2-3s on the Sunday Fastest Lap records - function of the wider tires mostly.

Consider this: Australia in 2004, MS in F2004 set pole at 1:24.408 and official in Grand Prix fastest lap record of 1:24.125. That is a car that can repeat and sustain the performance at will, in a Grand Prix - when it really matters.

In 2016 Lewis set 1:23.837 pole and fastest lap was 1:28.997 in the Grand Prix - solid 5 seconds slower. That is an illustration of preserving the hardware, the expensive PUs, the fuel, and whatever else they were preserving. This car never seems to be able to repeat the qualifying performance in a Grand Prix and is long on excuses why it can't.

44

No refueling means they can't really push for lap times as much anymore.

45

fair points Sebee...
The last three years were probably the worst f1 era, the drivers were on cruise control most of the time no one being on limit due to horrible tyres then these stupid engines....no one basically could get ahead of the merc because of these restrictions. There was no challenge and everyone admitted it execpt the media.
For example the media ( sky) keeps telling us that there will be no overtaking...I mean seriously f1 fans are not dumb...I doubt take hakkinen style overtake any day over these drs passes...f1 has been dumbed down quite a lot over the years...

46

The aero regulation changes slowed the cars down, not the PUs, but I have a feeling you know that.

47

The weight of the PUs also slowed them down believe it or not.

48

NickH, the weight penalty was more than overcome by the extra power the PUs produce in comparison to the V8s.

49

True Tim, don't get me wrong I am fully respectful of max grunt of these engines even if I do wish they could be let off their leashes even more. The extra weight doesn't help in the corners though.

50

Nick, no it doesn't help, a shame that a few pounds have been gained, I'm sure they will be shed in years to come.

51

Tomato, tomato.

The cars were slower, and likely still will be in a Grand Prix, not bettering V10 fastest lap records even with new aero and widest tires in F1 since we started to use the internet. Can you imagine a V10 car with these tires and the extra gear in the gearbox? Just as I wrote that Gods of F1 shed a tear.

52

Stop! with the wishful thinking! The V10's are never coming back!

53

can you imagine what a PU car could do with those Bridgestone tyres....

54

Grand Prix distance V10 car with 2004 rules on these Pirelli tires vs. PU car with 2017 PU rules on those Bridgestone tires.

Any doubt about the beating the PU car would take? I didn't think so.

55

Sebee, That's a good one! Hard to say without knowing what this years cars and tyres are capable of, but I think the V10 car would give the 2016 Pirellis an easier ride due to it's lighter weight and less torquey engine, plus the traction control of course. Would they be able to switch those tyres on though? We can't know of course but the Bridgestones were excellent tyres and none of the drivers seem to say the same about the Pirellis do they? Good talking point though, would be great to see.

56

I would LOVE if Ferrari did this. They have the hardware and the tires and the track. I would pay to see this actually.

You know that saying that you should only fight battles you can win? Well, there is a reason why this hasn't been done. It would be devastating for the reputation of the PU car and formula.

Just FYI - You know how I pointed out that Schumi's fastest lap was 1.24.125 in 2004? Well, in his second lap I believe he was right around or slightly under 1.26s. Meanwhile, in 2016 I think Vettel did 1:33 on lap 2, right? So there you have it - 7s or so in the early laps. Let's say 2017 cars are 3s a lap faster in the Grand Prix - a good assumption, V10 car has a 45s lead before it comes in for tires and fuel on lap 12. It would be brutal. I have little doubt V10 car laps 2017 PU formula car before Grand Prix end. If you put these wider Pirelli tires on that F2004 - I'm betting the V10 cars picks up a second or two a lap too.

57

Sebee, its hard to tell from fastest laps as the 2016 FL was a 1.28,9 but it was set by Ricciardo in probably the third quickest car in Melbourne, don't forget the V10 car has to refuel as well. The tyres are the limiting factor, from what I have picked up the Bridgestones were superior to the Pirelli, so this will equalise things somewhat. I would pay to see it, and I don't think it would be as one sided as you think. using a 2017 PU car would make life harder for the V10 as well.

58

Good to see you guys getting along!

59

Alex, we always get along, don't we?

60

Hmm. If it's true that "Ferrari is more kind on it's tyres on longer runs" could it mean that there is going to be exciting moments at the end of the race? I mean if Mercedes escapes at the beginning of the race (as usual) and Ferrari catches them up becouse of the better tyre control.

I'm getting excitied!

61

Teams always leave it too long when they go to faster tyres at the end of the race. The driver usually runs out of laps.

And going the other way, so the drivers' tyres are only a couple of laps fresher is usually pointless too. Better to get the undercut most of the time and keep track position.

62

Or it could mean Ferrari are just generally faster in races.

63

Shhh dont say it! I'm afraid it gives bad luck.

64

Sometimes you've just got to be optimistic bbbernie! Fingers crossed!

65

I agree with Wolff that the regulation change has closed up the gap at the front as shown in testing

Having said that, the Mercedes team keeps making new history as regulation changes usually mean the strongest team loses it's edge but this doesn't appear to be the case

As for the Lewis/Bottas partnership, sure it's in a great place because they do not have the baggage all the way from karting that Rosberg/Lewis had plus Bottas isn't German therefore Lewis less likely to be paranoid if circumstances work against him

66

Hahha! Valtteri may not be German, but there are other things Lewis might get paranoid about. Like that Wolff was part of Valtteri's management team etc 😉

67

@bbbernie
"WAS"

68

@ bbbernie

But Wolff isn't the majority shareholder therefore doesn't have the authority to give those type of orders

69

I was just talking about Lewis' being paranoid. Being paranoid does not mean that the reason you are paranoid really exists. What kind of paranoid orders are you talking about?

70

@ bbbernie

Yes, I was referring to the sabotage orders

71

oh.. How exciting would that be! Totally wrong but..

72

Meanwhile with the cars being close at the front in 2017, will Lewis finally get a title fight between number 1 drivers because in the past, Lewis has won titles against number 2 drivers

73

Was Kimi, in the other Ferrari, a figment of my imagination? Kimi was also driving a car capable of challenging for the title in 2008. Hamilton beat him to the title. Unless you are suggesting an in prime, 2007 WDC Kimi was a number 2 driver??

74

@ A*

Oh yes, Kimi was the number 2 driver in 2007 as he was new to the team

As for 2008, Kimi dropped out of the title fight quite early so this isn't the same

75

I don’t think kimi was ever thought of as a number 2 driver in 2007. Back then, he was regarded as one of, if not the fastest driver in F1. But this is irrelevant because my point was that Kimi was not a number 2 driver in 2008. He was the reigning WDC, highly rated and expected to do well. So your statement that Hamilton has only won against number 2 drivers doesn't stack up.

Kimi was still in that title fight up until about 2 races to go. He dropped out because both Massa & Hamilton were doing a better job. Kimi had the equipment to challenge and that is what counts. Hamilton simply did better in his equipment. Let’s show you what I mean with a hypothetical situation. Let’s say the 2017 title fight is between Hamilton & Vettel, both having cars evenly matched. Let’s say through being more consistent, maximising his opportunities better, Vettel manages to nudge ahead of the fight and wraps it up with 2 races to spare. Now, are you going to suggest that Hamilton didn’t count in that championship battle and Vettel shouldn’t be credited for doing a better job & beating Hamilton? Of course not, but that’s what you are suggesting for 2008.

The fact is, to win that title in 2008, Hamilton had to beat BOTH Kimi & Massa, BOTH of whom had the cars to challenge. So yes, Hamilton has won a championship where another non number 2 driver has had a car to compete with.

76

@ A*

True, Kimi was never thought of as a number 2 driver but officially this is what his car number represented in 2007 until he officially beat Massa

Regards your example of a Vettel win in 2017, it would claim it's exactly like 2008 if Vettel won and Bottas beat Lewis to second place

77

I'm sorry but your logic is complete nonsense. I don't care how you want to dress it up, the FACTS are that Hamilton beat Kimi in 2008 while both driving equally competitive cars. Kimi was in no shape or form a number 2 driver in 2008. Your attempts to discredit Hamilton means you are pulling out all sorts of nonsensical criteria.. Oh and if Bottas beat Hamilton in our example, that wouldn't make any difference at all...Vettel would have still done a better job, beating all those in cars capable of challenging him.

78

Kimi essentially dropped out of contention at Spa when he went all out for the win but the rain gods didn't smile on him.

79

Mathematically, Kimi was still in contention until Japan. (only 3 races remaining). But this doesn't matter, the fact is Kimi had the equipment to challenge Hamilton for that title. Hamilton did a better job in relatively equal equipment and beat Kimi to it. The lengths some people will go to, to discredit LH is bordering on farce.

80

First off, Kimi was the #1 in 2007, that was clear. Your method for determining #1 and #2 drivers as when they arrived, is beyond silly.

As for when someone is still in a title race, or has dropped out, that is an interesting question. Let's quantify this goferet. At which point did Kimi drop out of the 2008 WDC race?

He was leading after Turkey 2008 (round 5). Certainly not by then.

After France (round 8), Kimi was 3rd, but Hamilton was 4th, so surely Kimi was still in it then, right?

After Hungary (round 11) Hamilton was leading, but Kimi was 2nd only 5 pts back, 3 pts in front of Massa. We are now over 60% through the year, and Kimi is 2nd to Lewis in the WDC standings. That's early to you?

People seem to have alternate recall, where Lewis is involved, even those not definitively in the anti-Lewis camp. So let's define when someone is no longer in a title race, etc.

81

@ KRB

Actually team hierarchy is part of the rules and this was shown by the old car number system

For instance all number 1s in the teams had the odd numbered cars whereas number 2s had the even numbered cars

Therefore in theory Kimi was hired to be the number 1 in 2007, in practice he had to earn his stripes by beating Massa first hence why Kimi had the even numbered car in 2007

As for when I consider it too early for a driver to drop out of a title race, well when we're talking of number 1 drivers, dropping out before the last race in a close championship is unacceptable for a number 1 driver more so if the number 2 in the team took the fight to the last race.

82

Was Kimi the #1 at Ferrari in 2008? That he wasn't there at the end is hardly Lewis' fault, is it?

2007 as a rookie going up against Alonso as his teammate, and Kimi at Ferrari, doesn’t count as a title battle for you? Odd.

83

@ KRB

It's true that Lewis went up against Alonso and Kimi in 2007 but unfortunately he didn't win

So yes, if Lewis wins it in 2017 against tough opposition, he will pretty much have solidified his legacy.

84

He beat WDC Kimi in 2008 goferet ... did you already forget that?

Kimi was leading the standings after Turkey in 2008. Kubica was leading after Canada. Both were the #1 drivers in their teams at season start.

goferet, 2008 is the last time the WDC wasn't in the WCC car. That's with the reigning champ in that WCC car, which was the better car that year. The only comparable season to 2008 is 1986, when Prost emerged victorious against the quicker Williams.

Are you the true goferet? What happened to your stars?

85

@ KRB

You make valid points but the issue with 2008 is as the season wore on, Kimi got less comfortable with the car as it the team begun developing it around Massa's style hence the title fight ended up being between Lewis and Massa

And yes I am the real goferet for I always had 3 stars hahaha

86

So if they developed around Massa then he was their de facto #1. Logic!

Massa only got ahead of Kimi and stayed ahead at round 12, when Kimi crashed out at Spa, and Massa was given the win.

87

@ KRB

The rumours from the fans is the team developed around Massa because of Schumi's influence

And as you know Massa was Schumi's guy

88

goferet, duck and cover, here comes the shrapnel!

I'm willing to deflect some of it by brining up 2008 Singapore again. 🙂

89

Aah who can ever forget the first night race in the sport

Magical race it was that had all kinds of evil schemes playing out in front of the fans

90

Goferet, no shrapnel, just a polite excuse for a list of the drivers who have won titles against no.2 drivers in the last 25 years.

91

@ TimW

Oh excusez-moi, I made a mistake as Jenson infact won the title as the number 2 because Rubens had finished ahead of him in 2008

92

@ TimW

Well the champions who have solely won against number 2s in the last 25 years are;

Jenson
Lewis
Mansell

93

goferet, When we say number two are we talking about contractually bound number two, or drivers who became number twos by being unable to challenge the more talented team mate?
My list is as follows, Mansell and Prost were official number ones in 92 and 93. Schumacher became official no1 though 94 and 95. Hill was effectively number one over the rookie Villeneuve in 96 and Villeneuve had the same status over the strangely off form Frentzen in 97. McLaren were devoted to Mika in 98 and 99 in a way that they never were to DC and Michael of course was the ultimate official top dog at Ferrari between 2000 and 2004. Fernando had Fisi in his pocket in 05 and 06 and Kimi was supposed to be Ferrari's number one in 2007. Lewis had no problems with Kovalinien in 08, just as jenson dominated Rubens in 09. Vettel had the full weight of the Red Bull team behind him for the next four years which just leaves Lewis and Nico. No official number one status for Lewis, and the team is scrupulously fair and even handed throughout.

94

@ TimW

Yes, I am talking of drivers unable to challenge their more talented teammates and this team hierarchy was shown with the old car number system

E.g. In the old system the lead drivers in the team had the odd numbered cars while the number 2 had the even numbered cars

Therefore, people like Kimi and Vettel etc may have been in theory employed to act as number 1s, however, they had to earn the official title of lead driver by beating their teammates first

Likewise, Jenson was the number 2 in 2009 because Rubens finished ahead of him in 2008

95

goferet, the old numbering system wasn't a reliable source of who was top dog, it certainly didn't always represent the real situation in the team. I think that Jenson was very much the favoured son at Brawn and at Honda, he certainly erned that status by comprehensively out performing Barichello once they had a competitive and reliable car in 09. The main point still stands that in terms of beating number two drivers, Lewis has done this against drivers from other teams, and from within.

96

@ TimW

Agreed that Lewis has won against number 2 drivers but my original argument was 2017 will be the first time he will compete against other number 1s in equal equipment which will be a boost for his CV if he wins

97

You think 2009 was a walkover? Seb could and should have been closer than he was. He made far too many mistakes that year, but make no mistake that RB5 could've won it all. Alonso or Hamilton could've won with that car that year, and Seb circa 2015 could've won too.

98

@ KRB

2009 was certainly not a walk over but the point is Jenson was fighting Vettel who was the number 2 in Red Bull at the time

99

Agreed on Mansell.

Jenson won against Vettel. Was Vettel No.2? Considering what you have seen since as well? Both weren't WDC when they were fighting for it in 2009 and since Vettel ranked higher in 2009 can you rank Vettel as No.2?

Is Rosberg a No.2 through and through? For that to be so we'd have to agree 2016 was managed and handed to him, the No.2 in the interest of showing it is the Mercedes and not the drivers who are doing the winning. Otherwise, if not, I don't think we can declare a driver No.2 if he's won a WDC. I need clarification here. Is Rosberg a No.2 who was handed the WDC by his team or did he beat his team mate fair and square, thus dethroning the WDC in same car - a feat that surely excludes you from a No.2 club.

100

@ Sebee

Aah yes, I should have included Damon too for I thought Schumi was second in the standings

As for Jenson, he actually won the title as the number 2 after Rubens finished ahead in 2008

Regards Vettel, he was only able to officially become the number 1 at the end of the 2009 season

101

@ Sebee

Yes Vettel was the number 2 in 2009 because he was new to the team and when you're new, you automatically take the number 2 role

Oh I also made a mistake because Jenson won the title as the number 2 as Rubens had finished ahead of him the previous season

Regards Rosberg, he wasn't your typical number 2 as he was much faster and sure when he beat Lewis in 2016, he would have taken the role of number 1 driver in 2017

102

But Vettel finished ahead of Webber in 2009. Can't be #2, can he?

So you're going by #2 designation based on finishing order of team mates that season only? If so I think Hill needs to be added to the list perhaps?

Funny, all British WDCs. :-). Hamilton, Hill, Mansell, and Button in question as winning against #2s. Don't you find that interesting? 🙂

103

I meant by starting order of the season.

104

I imagine Flavio is saying: "Lewis, one day you're going to thank me for this." 🙂

105

@ Sebee

Hahaha truer words have never been spoken. Great pic

106

Good point Goferet. A bit of perspective is always good.

107

@ Phil Glass

Cheers mate

108

That's sort of what I am expecting. A Hamilton vs Vettel Championship with third place between the Fins and the odd Red Bull.

109

@ dren

In other words a classic season, thanks to the F1 gods

110

If Merc F1 have one great quality, which they have proved in the last few years, it is that they have a ruthless and relentless development strategy throughout the season to consistently improve performance - they don't rest on their laurels, and have a vision and direction in their upgrade strategy which works. Do their rivals?

It's worth noting that Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen were leading 1-2 in the early stages in Melbourne last year.............that was a false dawn. By the same token (no pun intended) the 2016 Spanish GP will always be remembered for young Max's amazing win, but lost in the moment was the fact that at Barcelona RB brought a new front wing upgrade that totally transformed its competitiveness and enabled Daniel Ricciardo to take pole position in Monaco having been off the pace in Melbourne...............

Point is, in season development is the key to sustained success.

111

Maybe in the record books the Spanish Grand Prix of 2016 will be remembered for all the records Max's win rewrote however I dare say in the eyes of the those that watched the race its the calamity of Hamilton crashing into Rosbergs rear-end on lap that will remain etched into their memories.

112

Sars, those of us who watched the race will remember no contact between the two Mercs until after Nico had run Lewis off the road, s small point but worth remembering.

113
Jean-Christophe

Toto keeps saying that. In March 2015 he said it was only a matter of time before Ferrari caught them, in June last year he said Ferrari and RB were close. We know what happened. The guy is a politician.

114

I so he's right!
We want to see racing!

115

If Toto wants to be sure he's the first on the grid he could get Mrs Wolff to speed them there 😋

116

Yes, but just like F1 Susie's speed is often offset by a slow stop 😉

117

She was doing 35 in a 30mph zone. Some crime. I will go against the current "safety" propaganda and say that these speed limits are just an excuse for collecting revenues.
Fact is: if you stay on the pavement no car will harm you no matter what speed it's doing. Step off at your peril, so be careful. However, if a car mounts the pavement, then, sure, throw the book at the driver.

118

@phil
True, but 3rd time was not lucky for Mrs Wolff apparently.

119

"if a car mounts the pavement, then, sure, throw the book at the driver"

I'm not sure that's good advice Phil.

I mean, if I'm walking along minding my own business and then all of a sudden I find that have a car heading in my general direction the last thing I want to do is distract the driver with a low flying book.

Just my own opinion of course 🙂

120

As Wolf stated Lewis and Nico had 20 years of personal baggage that sometimes exploded on and off track. But with Bottas it starts from zero. Less baggage less tension.
Hopefully the teams will be closer together. I doubt whether the overtaking will be great as the the dodgy air makes overtaking harder even with DRS.
Mercedes still are the team to beat. But Wolf said a similar thing last year about how the teams were closer together and then the Mercs just turned the engine up and they were off.
Ferrari are the main rivals in terms of test times. The cars will be totally different from the test set ups. So who knows what the season holds.

121

Obviously no tension because Lewis is sure he has Bottas easily covered. Tension will explode if that turns out to be wrong in a few races and Bottas starts beating Hamilton. Not very likely though.

122

That would be nice though. Some arguing, tension, explosions and stuff so Bottas could show us who he really is. It could end up being something unexpected! He may be tougher that what it seems.

123

A bit biased. Go do some research on why the Ham/Ros tensions exploded in the first place. I'll give you a clue--the race begins with the letter B, the year, 2014.

124

Wolff has always kept his expectations "under control". When presented with a chance to fill the seat with a young fearless talent, he "controlled" the urge, made it a tad boring, brought in a fairly safe bet.

The engine is a safe bet as well, it still will have a power advantage in terms of horsepower. Those tenth's of a second advantage mean the other teams need aero to make up the time. Wolff knows he has both when he needs both.

All in all I think hes in a good place right now. What else do we expect him to say. The real message would have been in the body language and his (currently) appears to be "in control".

125

Tonto can waffle away as much as he like, come Sunday evening we'll all have an idea of how the various teams rate. If, as he claims, Mercedes haven't got the lead of previous years, he needs to make a better effort of keeping his No 1 driver happy. I'd suggest he tells Lauda to start thinking before talking about Mercedes looking for new drivers before the season starts.

Perhaps, Tonto will be busy attempting to discover where they can learn from Williams? Then again, Williams might be wondering why they employed Paddy Lowe, when they might not have needed his 'expertise'.

126

Tonto
it's good.

127

Insert Mercedes/Lone Ranger joke 🙂

129

The most important activity for Toto, from amongst his many, many business responsibilities as team principal (no more team at Mercedes, Paddy Lowe gone, and Allison a subordinate, Niki acts as a credibility talisman for the often ridiculous stuff that Toto says), his main job is promoting the belief, regardless of whether it is true or not, in past fans and potential fans that there is competition!
"There is competition!"
We've heard that one before; and it turned out to be false, more than once.

Credibility talisman or not, I won't believe it because Toto says it.

But maybe, this time, by random chance, and/or the inevitability of the end of dynasties, the competition will be better.
But I'm not betting on it.

130

Dean, a bit harsh on Toto isn't it? There were many occasions last season when Ferrari looked to have good long run pace in practice, but then failed to deliver in the races. They should have won races last year, but didn't because of strategic and driving errors, hardly Toto's fault. A lot of the quotes about competition from the other teams is simply the Mercedes management guarding against complacency, if the team take their foot of the gas then that advantage they have earned will evaporate very quickly. Toto isn't the only one to think that Ferrari are closer this year than last, should he be the only one to get criticised for saying so?

131

Tim: just commenting on key responsibilities of Tonto and the relative importnace of being honest (very low) in the execution of those business drivers.

132

You've noticed it too?

133
Stephenctaylor123

Certainly amongst the top 3 teams it will be close. However, James want to get your opinion on Sauber who in my opinion have scored a spectacular own goal by going with a year old PU . STR got away with that last year as they had budget to build a good midfield chassis -However Sauber chassis in years haven't done that that great even with up to date Ferrari PU's . I just imagine them just crawling round at the back (in comparison to the others of course) , including struggling McLaren . Wehrlein and Ericsson's only way to measure how good a weekend is will be beating each other but very few others if any at all in a race. Have I got this right or wrong James?

134

I wouldn't call it an own goal - Last year sure, but not this year.

Last year they had to compete with Manor for any prize money. Now with only ten teams, they can afford to trundle around at the back and still pick up some cash, and if they can actually beat McLaren so much the better for them. Combine that with the cash they might be saving by using old engines and it kind of starts to make sense.

Ideally they survive in this way long enough for Liberty to negotiate a new deal where the prize money is more evenly distributed, and then hopefully we'll see them start to move back up the grid a bit.

It might be painful to watch right now, but I'd rather see Sauber at the back of the grid than not at all.

135

Bring it on...................

136

There's so much spin going on that the F1 teams better check their clutch bite!

137

These guys are just politicians spewing PR lingo. I wouldn't put much trust into what they say.

138

Lewis and Valtteri - Fire and Ice...I think it will be a great combo...

139

Not quite. Räikkönen is ice. Bottas is somekind of soft and warm. Like a hot water bottle.

140

I believe absolutely nothing that wolff says. IMO none of the top three/four teams have actually tipped their hands. It is in wolff's best interests to play down his teams prospects for various reasons. If another team were to exceed or even parallel the mercedes then he has a fallback position...'I told you so'. The fact that mercedes has totally dominated the series for three years in a row has lead to considerable dissatisfaction and possibly a loss of audience numbers. A fourth year will impact even more! I seriously think that they will further attempt to 'muddy' the waters by testing the field and once they have a handle on where the others are at they will try to stay just a whisker ahead to avoid the obvious. Of course it is possible that i am entirely wrong and they will not win a race in '17! My forecasting is far from reliable haha.

141

Sounds about right to me...

142

It's that tricky part of the season where Mercedes aren't sure if they need to turn the car up to level 6 or 7. However, he understands that Mercedes doesn't need to win first GP, and in fact it is best they don't. So it has been decided cars will be set on level 6 and let the chips fall where they may.

143

Its who drives that Mercedes that makes the difference Sebee, not that spluttering wreck of an engine they have hidden under the bodywork.
To suggest otherwise is to irk the Faithull as they can't drive their narrative of the greatest driver of all time being soley responsible for Mercs horrifying record these past 3 seasons.
Happens all the time when people bring up Mercedes dominance, wonder why?

144

Sarsippious, I assume you regard me as one of the faithful, could you point me in the direction of a comment I have made where I infer that Lewis is solely responsible for Merc's success over the last three years. In the event of your inevitable failure to do that, a similar comment from anyone else will do.

145

Sebee, that's great insider knowledge, we are lucky to have such an expert on this site....

146

Whatever Mercedes and Toto are selling I approach with a healthy dose of skepticism.

Why?

Because their F1 program is full of smoke and mirrors. And so, a good starting point with Toto is this: Whatever he says, the opposite is usually closer to the truth.

147

Sebee. I'm sure you are correct, after all you have an amazing record of accurately predicting the future.....

148

Well, I did predict Spain 2016 Mercedes crash. I predicted Mercedes wanted a German WDC. I predicted Mercedes wanted both drivers to win the WDC. I predicted MMC. I predicted Mercedes agreed to give up 3 GPs per season early in 2014 after it was clear they would level the field. (2016 only 2 happened because Australian GP fell back into their lap with a red flag and Mercedes got their free tire change. ) Mercedes were surrendering it in 2016, just like I have a feeling they will surrender the 2017 edition, conveniently.

149

Sebee, I really don't recall you predicting Spain 16, was it a catch all Lewis and Nico will crash into each other this year, or more specific. either way of you make enough predictions then some will come true eventually, but I have to say your list of failures is rather longer than the the list of successes...

150

It's my job to remember only the hits. Up to someone else to keep track of the misses.

But if I must, I'll give you a hint to get you started. I also predicted Pascal will get the seat.

151

...but if Bottas is a non factor...

152

I will only believe what toto says when the fuel is taken out off the car and strat mode is at its highest level.

Merc are fast how fast we will know in q3.

153

Wow! All atingle. Can't wait for Friday.

154

"This is because the Mercedes engine has maintained its place as the best power unit in F1, while the new aerodynamic rules have given Ferrari the chance to catch up with an aggressive car that is kind on its tyres during long runs."

It seems to me that Ferrari has made some progress on the engine front as well or am I missing something in that statement?

155

Wise words, correct and respectful. Maybe even humble. It's all very exciting at the moment and the tension is building up nicely. I just hope it's not going to be a massive anticlimax but I'm sure it won't be.

156

@jeroen
Toto has been wise,correct and respectful the last 3 years. And we're still waiting for the others to catch up😉
Fun aside, just hoping Toto is not jesting again. We'll soon find out🏁

157

Toto
Carrying on from where he left of last year😊
Let's hope he's not pulling our leg this time👍

158

Are you saying that Toto's claims of competition hype are as pure as DRS is to passing? 🙂

159

@sebee
We'll find out on Sunday my friend😄👍🏻

160

We won't I am afraid. I have a feeling we'll have more questions than answers after Oz.

I think Mercedes know winning this first race would be gutting to fan enthusiasm. They will hold back plenty and claim something trivial to turn down the cars, like a vibration in a crankshaft or some other excuse. They may even go deeper, like not winning first 3 races, then lighting it up after summer break.

161

Why would anyone bother to watch an event they 'know' to be fixed? Especially someone who dislikes pretty much everything about the sport in question....

162

Proof of theory. 🙂

163

Fair enough I suppose....

164

> Mercedes will win the Constructors Championship again this year..(and easily)

> Ferrari will get themselves in a bit of a muddle this year...they'll tail off in the development race.

> RedBull will only become a serious threat to Mercedes when Renault provide them with their upgraded Power Unit in the 5th race of the season...(as stated by Renault already)

> Hamilton will win Driver's Championship

...basically, an utterly predictable season...

165

@shane
Thanks! Now you've totally ruined my GP season. 👍🏻

166

@Shane - I am sure you are being Sarcastic, but not sure in which direction 😉

Are you a 'bieliber' or 'dis-bieliber', that is Not the question. What.. is a 'beiliber' - seems to be the more apt question! 😀

The season will be as the season will be - Que sera sera. Hope you and the rest of us here, have a wonderful year watching

167

Ferrari will find a way to cock it up when wins are possible and implode by Monza. Vettel will leave and Arrivabene axed.

168

It'll be love or war at Ferrari by the end of the season...

169

Hmm, exactly what he said wouldn’t happen if we went along with the regulation changes. Strange, huh?

170

Ad long as PU stays, Mercedes advantage remains.

171

So James Allison has bequeathed Ferrari his engineering trademarks ,as we saw with his lotus of 2012 : competitive speed, mechanical reliability, and tyre efficiency .Be in no doubt about it,that lotus of 2012,was a car capable of winning the tittle that year.It enabled Raikkonen to produce some decent performances, but both Lewis and Alonso, who would have dug up more performance out of the car,would have been better off with that lotus of 2012,rather than the cars they drove that year. And now Allison is at Mercedes. We may just have a repetition of 2007/2008 with regard to the cars competitiveness. Not long to find out.

172
GPBackToAdelaide

James, do you know if there is any substance to the "oil burning" story raised recently, through a letter sent to the FIA by Red Bull? Mercedes seem to have been implicated in some type of "fuel boosting". If it can be substantiated, surely this will be the biggest story of the season so far, but for some reason not much is being said.

173
Clarks4WheelDrift

Toto Wolff says: “the margins at the front of the F1 field have shrunk”

Yet again, what I hear Toto Wolff say: "Blah, blah blah, spin, politics, blah blah"

Woe betide Mercedes if they have to crank their engine up from 85 to 90% to take pole; if they have to try harder to go from 51 wins from 59, to 71 wins from 79; if they don't have their rogue driver deliberately backing into their world champion
driver to make the race for victory exciting...

The only thing that I would be interested to hear from Toto is if they decided to give all their customers identical engines, energy recovery gubbins and software as per the works team, so they weren't monopolising our sport. Our sport that despite rule changes is completely dominated by the Merc works PU.

Anyway, on a brighter note, roll on the weekend, what tyre strategy will win Oz, ultra softs to pit first for the undercut?

174

As my grandmother would say, "From Toto's mouth to God's ears."

175

Wouldn't be surprised to see Ferrari take a few wins at the start of the season and then Mercedes will win the development war. Ferrari may lose their way without Allison to guide development of the car he conceived. Meanwhile Mercedes now know all Ferrari's design secrets.

176

'Meanwhile Mercedes now know all Ferrari's design secrets.'

Conjecture?

177

Sorry to disappoint you but it is pretty well known by now that this Ferrari is NOT an Allison work, actually he was against it and unable / unwilling to work with the different departments, which were VERY frustrated with a different approach to work. He wasn't just listening to them. Coordinator and creator of this car is Ferrari tech departments coordinated by Binotto and behind him there is Rory Byrne. You cannot develop a car whereas there is not a clear direction on development. Now their way of working is very similar to the way they were working with Byrne Brawn. So I do expect very quick developments actually from them as they were used in Schumi days.

178

Aelfwald: If Allison is so good why was the 2016 Ferrari so poor??

179

how do you know who conceived/designed the car?

180

Is Toto's major in public relations?!
"Margins ve shrunk, rivals closed up, blah blah blah..."
Come this Saturday and if Lewis blows the whole grid by 0.5 s, am very curious what Toto is gonna say:
"Oh, that was just Lewis, not a car" "Margins really shrank, you all saw it in Q1 & Q2"...

181

SD, and if those margins have shrunk, what will you say?

182

If I have to bet money I would put them on SV. The battle will be mostly between Vet and Ham. The only risk they will face is that they will over do - crash because they REALLY want to win. But in my view this year cars fit more SV way of driving and Ferrari seems having put down a good car and most of all a great organization finally unleashed. Merc will be strong if they are able to fix the oversteer (rear suspension - the stored energy system they had in mind I think Ferrari trapped them with FIA letter). VB is strong but will take his time to fully integrate. KR will be there too, but I see him more a strategic / Lauda driver. RB MV and DR will bring fun: car seems good but again down on the engine department so far. They are very strong aggressive and smart.
Also ... this year requires fitness preparation... will see who can last to the end.
Other teams are behind: FI a little ahead of Williams (for now) and Renault. TR looks great (but draggy very slow on straights). McLaren... Alonso (and his teammate is a very fast dude too)! If only Honda puts together an engine PU that allows them to fight so far they are in a nice car powered by a lawnmower ...

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