Nico Rosberg, Lewis Hamilton, Shanghai, 2011

Mercedes building for the future in year two

2011 F1 season reviewPosted on | Author Keith Collantine

Nico Rosberg, Lewis Hamilton, Shanghai, 2011
Rosberg led in China

It was clear early in the season the Mercedes W02 was not going to trouble the front runners any more than its predecessor had.

Indeed, unlike last year, Mercedes never made it as far as the podium.

But while there was little to celebrate on the track, the team made several major signings as it prepares for the years ahead.

It has bolstered its technical department with several major signings including Bob Bell (from Renault) Aldo Costa (from Ferrari) and Geoff Willis, who was with the team in its Honda guise five years ago, before they took the disastrous decision of putting Shuhei Nakamoto in charge of design.

While the 2011 car was often the quickest in a straight line, the chassis had a propensity for devouring its tyres early in the season – this was a particularly conspicuous problem at Monaco.

On occasions the team was able to mix it with the likes of McLaren and Ferrari. Nico Rosberg was in superb form in Turkey, qualifying a season-best third on the grid, on his way to finishing fifth after passing Jenson Button.

Mercedes team stats 2011

Best race result (number) 4th (1)
Best grid position (number) 3rd (1)
Non-finishes (mechanical/other) 7 (2/5)
Laps completed (% of total) 1,963 (86.63%)
Laps led (% of total) 20 (1.77%)
Championship position (2010) 4th (4th)
Championship points (2010) 165 (214)
Pit stop performance ranking 2nd

Schumacher, meanwhile, had the first of several run-ins with Vitaly Petrov, clipping the Renault as it came past him. The pair collided again in Valencia – and again it was Schumacher’s fault.

While Schumacher’s race pace was often impressive, errors such as these proved costly. And they didn’t end with Petrov – he hit Kamui Kobayashi in Silverstone and spun at the Nurburgring.

But on his day there were more convincing signs of the Schumacher of old than there had been last year. Particular at Monza, where he defended his position from Lewis Hamilton to the limit of the rules for lap after lap.

He ran in the top three in Canada until his DRS-equipped rivals came past him on the straights, and climbed from last on the grid to fifth at Spa.

The last driver he passed on that day was his team mate who had been told, not for the first time in 2011, to slow down and save fuel. He had a similar instruction in China, where he had led early on, and ended up falling out of the podium places.

For much of the season Mercedes lacked a credible threat from rival teams behind them, nor a serious chance of beating those ahead of them. So it mattered less if their drivers raced other with increasing ferocity.

Michael Schumacher, Mercedes, Nurburgring, 2011
Schumacher was quick but error-prone

Rosberg was particularly unimpressed at spending the Spanish Grand Prix stuck behind his team mate, unable to make progress as Schumacher benefitted from the ‘undercut’ during each of their visits to the pits.

In India a slow pit stop cost Rosberg a place to his team mate at a time when Schumacher was drawing in on his team mate in the points standings. This was uncharacteristic for a team that made the quickest pit stop in seven races this year – more than any other team bar Red Bull.

Rosberg retaliated against the growing threat from his team mate on the first lap in Abi Dhabi. The pair battled furiously as Rosberg reclaimed the place from his team mate he’d lost at the first corner. It was a superb display of hard yet restrained racing between team mates.

But after two consecutive years of finishing fourth, Mercedes will be expecting greater results in 2012. So will Schumacher, as he weighs up whether to extend his comeback beyond the three years he originally signed up with them for.

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Images ?? Daimler