Irrespective of the costumes worn by mechanics, both drivers running off on the corner causing damage and an exceedingly long pit-stop - the German F1 Grand Prix in 2019 did remind us that Mercedes has been in motorsport for 125 years. With 2020 bringing about the 126th year for the silver arrows, it should be a time to relish success (namely a 6th straight Constructors’ Championship). However, based on crowd reaction at races around the world and online comments, the question could be posed as to whether the only way to satisfy modern day F1 ‘fans’ is for Mercedes to fail.
Lewis Hamilton is certainly a supremely talented racing driver who splits opinion in the same way he splits his rivals jumping off the line…on the rare occasion he does not start from pole. Hamilton sealed a 6th Formula 1 Drivers’ World Championship and due to Ferrari falling off the pace, the outright points total (and gap to the Prancing Horse) was far greater than anyone would have expected earlier in the season.
The events in Hockenheim during the 2019 German F1 Grand Prix will also be remembered for the crowd reaction when the errors befell Mercedes in the latter stages of the race – the majority of the crowd was visibly and vocally happy by the trials faced by the Silver Arrows. Of course, there was a large Red Bull Racing contingent in the stands but let’s also remember how special this race was due to the fact it saw Mercedes celebrate its 200th grand prix start as a works team. This Grand Prix was a dream scenario and as we all know the outcome was a real nightmare.
Although the fans of Mercedes may not be in the same level of jubilance as the Tifosi, it is unthinkable to consider an Italian crowd react with such joy at seeing an Italian manufacturer face trouble during a race. We all remember the sea of red that greeted a victorious Charles Leclerc under the legendary podium of the Italian Grand Prix last year. The crowd reaction in Germany was quite heartbreaking because it raises the question of whether the team has become out of touch from its fanbase.
However, before everything is all doom and gloom, we must remember that this is a sport and fans do not like predictability in sport.
History shows us, especially in Formula One, that fans do not like dominant eras of teams if the battles are not closely fought. A Ferrari with Michael Schumacher at the wheel dominated F1 and many people found it boring. A Red Bull piloted by Sebastian Vettel dominated four consecutive championships and once again the label of boring was attached. However, McLaren Honda in the time of Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna dominated F1…but to fans this was a gripping spectacle!
Herein lies the problem because it is fair to assume that no one would begrudge Lewis Hamilton a record equaling seventh F1 Drivers’ Championship in 2020 as long as his path to get there was a closely fought one. However, if you were to ask Lewis Hamilton, he will make clear that ‘it looks easier from the outside of the cockpit’ and he is constantly ‘driving on the limit’. So, instead of waiting for a dominant team to fail, fans should instead start to ask more of others on the grid. Once again, the burden of responsibility falls on Mercedes’ rivals because the Silver Arrows literally show no sign of slowing down.
Exceptional engineers should be celebrated – not criticized.
Creative designers should be revered – not rebuked.
And, outstanding drivers should be verbally praised and not verbally attacked.
If an F1 fan feels they can only be happy if Mercedes fails – my advice is to follow a different sport.
A real F1 fan should be happy to see every manufacturer and driver on the grid perform to its maximum and maybe, just maybe 2020 will see that come to pass.