It was all set for a perfect weekend. Mercedes was a team celebrating their 200th race start and 125 years in motorsport and the venue to celebrate was the Hockenheimring in Germany. It looked destined that the German team would win the German Grand Prix. However, following changeable track conditions the outcome of Sunday’s race showed that sometimes, just sometimes, Formula 1 in the modern era can still be unpredictable which is why 100% focus is needed at all times. It could be argued that Mercedes lost this focus in Germany but as Hungary approaches you can be sure they will be ready to fire on all cylinders…literally.
Last weekend, the fans at the track and TV audience had already been discussing the colour scheme of the retro look livery of the W10 but Mercedes did not stop there. The whole team went back in time. In the hospitality team, the catering staff wore colourful dresses whilst the men wore braces and then in the garage (adorned with posters from the past on its walls) the Mercedes mechanics arrived for work wearing full white boiler suits as their overalls and tweed caps. This retro uniform was a tribute to the style worn by the Mercedes racing team at their first Formula One world championship race, the 1954 French Grand Prix at Reims – which they won with the legendary Juan-Manuel Fangio at the wheel.
However, in 1954 the team was fully focused knowing there was a race still needing to be won. This past weekend, it seemed like Mercedes assumed the win was a foregone conclusion but as we all know that was certainly not the case. Toto Wolff shared is thoughts and how such a stunt will not be shown again…which is somewhat of a shame as it really did bring a breath of fresh air to the event:
"Many drivers crashed. Overall, for us, it was a bad day and, for the drivers, it was a bad day, it cannot go much worse. This shows that you shouldn't fool around with the staff. You should concentrate on the job. We are not superstitious, but we believe in karma and it's a day to learn."
Luckily, for Mercedes, there is still one race before the summer break which means only a few days to wait before having the chance to respond on the track. However, had this been the final race before summer I wonder what impact this would have had on the team. As it is, Free Practice 1 of the Hungarian Grand Prix is just two days away and you can be sure that the whole team will be back to business as usual.
Mercedes has still not made clear their future plans with regard to Valtteri Bottas’ future and when Toto Wolff hit his fist on his familiar command desk in the Mercedes garage upon seeing Bottas’ W10 sliding off track and into the advertising hoarding – which ironically featured Mercedes – many wondered whether that had already signalled Bottas’ departure. This assumption gains more credibility due to the fact that in the previous laps the talented Finnish driver had been unable to pass Lance Stroll.
Nevertheless, Toto Wolff has said Mercedes will delay a decision on their 2020 driver line-up until the break in the calendar after next week's Hungarian Grand Prix. Therefore, Bottas (in theory at least) has one more race to prove his worth – that Australian GP victory at the season opener in Melbourne feels a long way ago now. Surely nothing except a win for Bottas this Sunday would be good enough for him to stand any chance of holding off the much favoured Esteban Ocon.
In 2018, the Hungarian GP was won by none other than Lewis Hamilton. So, will history repeat itself? One thing is for sure - Valtteri Bottas will certainly hope not.
Another thing we can learn from history is that maybe it shouldn’t be repeated. Something tells me that it would be another 200 races before Mercedes are tempted to do that again…and even then that may be too soon for Toto Wolff.