This week, Mercedes are celebrating a sixth consecutive Formula 1 Constructors’ Championship due to the points haul they achieved in Suzuka compared to their nearest rivals Ferrari. However, one thing that has become apparent in recent races is that Ferrari has a stronger straight line speed. Therefore, if this cannot be narrowed next year, 2019 may be the last Constructors’ title for the Silver Arrows before Ferrari have their own dominant era.
Duing Valtteri Bottas’ dominance of the Japanese Grand Prix, his teammate Lewis Hamilton could not get past second place man Sebastian Vettel. This was despite the fact that Hamilton was running softer tyres and fresher tyres than Vettel, plus he was also benefitting from DRS.
Lewis Hamilton may be the champion elect for the 2019 F1 Drivers’ Championship but 2020 does not seem anywhere near such a foregone conclusion as previous years. Although, Hamilton is conscious of the danger the Prancing Horse’s straight line speed poses, the 5-time F1 champion believes there is still time for change:
“We’ve got time for next year. I think it’s not been a great year for us in terms of the great issue, in terms of our engine development. I think it’s been a really hard time for the guys, they’ve been working as hard as ever but it’s just not been as successful in that department, as I say, plus it’s quite draggy but we’ve had great reliability and hopefully that remains the same and that’s still something to be really proud of, of course.”
Herein lies one of the key points to Mercedes’ success – reliability! In 2019 the W10 has performed superbly and whilst other teams were busy seeing teammates trip over each other and stalling with strategy (step forward Scuderia Ferrari) – Mercedes-AMG Petronas soared out in front. Again though, Lewis Hamilton is the first to acknowledge that as great as the performance has been, the W10 is not the perfect package:
“We have, obviously, still won the Constructors championship but we’ll push to try and maybe reduce the drag a little bit but also increasing power for next [year] so they’re fully onto it and I have all the confidence in the world that we’ll be able to make some sort of step into the next season.”
This does not escape the point though that DRS zones were implemented into F1 to aid overtaking but Lewis Hamilton had no such chance on Sunday.
“Of course I got in the tow of Seb, the tow with DRS and maximum power and everything… it’s incredible how quick they are. It makes it very, very difficult, even if you’ve got the advantage of the tyre.”
At times, Formula 1 (like all sport) can become a case of ‘ifs and buts’.
However, if Scuderia Ferrari maintain this performance of car, have transparency of strategy between teammates and make the right real-time pit wall decisions in 2020 – they could very well stake a real claim for the 2020 F1 Constructors’ Championship.
Formula 1 needs close racing, unpredictability and cutting edge technology. In recent years, the latter – cutting edge technology – has reduced the possibility of the former.
As impressive as a sixth consecutive title for the Silver Arrows may be, you can’t help but hope that for the good of the sport – someone steps up to stop them claiming a seventh!