Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Circuit de Catalunya, 2016

Mercedes’s daunting test form shows they intend to dominate again

2016 F1 season previewPosted on | Author Keith Collantine

In the first year of F1’s V6 hybrid turbo regulations Mercedes covered more ground in pre-season testing than any other team: almost 5,000 kilometres.

Then the W05s arrived in Melbourne and Lewis Hamilton’s car stopped on its first lap out of the pits.

Nico Rosberg, Mercedes, Circuit de Catalunya, 2016
Rosberg ended 2015 on a high
So while Mercedes’ covered a daunting amount of ground compared to the opposition in pre-season testing this year, it’s no guarantee everything will go according to plan once the season start. At least that’s what their rivals will be hoping.

The W07 scarcely missed a beat from the day testing began, and by the time the chequered flag fell last Friday it had amassed almost the same mileage as in pre-season testing last year over eight days instead of twelve – a stunning achievement.

On paper there’s little reason to foresee any let-up in Mercedes’ relentless pace of progress. While some have put forward the view that Mercedes have less to find from the current engine regulations than their rivals, the law of diminishing returns does not seem to apply at the moment.

The team used the first practice session at last year’s Italian Grand Prix to get an early reading on its 2016 engine, rumoured to be worth at least 40bhp more. That would put them well over 900bhp with everything turned up to the maximum, and unlike their customer teams they can harness the peak power output for longer.

Most of the key personnel remain in place with the exception of former performance engineer Jock Clear, now at Ferrari. While Mercedes looked vulnerable on the pit wall at times last year, notably in Malaysia and Monaco, the opposition were usually far too far behind to put them under pressure to begin with.

With the planned shake-up of the qualifying rules unlikely to cause the team any major headaches, it’s down to Mercedes’ rivals to catch them the old-fashioned way by building better cars. But so far the champions have given every indication they intend to dominate year three of the V6 hybrid turbo rules as they did the previous two.

44: Lewis Hamilton

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Circuit de Catalunya, 2016

Although Hamilton romped to his third world championship last year and, for the first time, sealed the deal before the final race of the year, there were times when his commitment waned. By his own admission, there were times he wished he could have been elsewhere. This is not the best frame of mind for a driver about to embark on F1’s longest-ever championship.

You sense that Hamilton would find new reserves of motivation if he were more seriously tested, perhaps by a hungry Vettel and a resurgent Ferrari or even just if the cards fall against him early in the season as they did in 2014. However his commitment is rarely found wanting on the track, and as he’s likely to have the best car at his disposal again a fourth championship is a very real possibility.

6: Nico Rosberg

Nico Rosberg, Mercedes, Circuit de Catalunya, 2016

Does Rosberg’s streak of three consecutive wins and six pole positions at the end of last season indicate he can take the title fight to Hamilton more effectively this year? Several theories were put forward to explain how Rosberg ended 2015 so strongly but they boiled down to two answers: either Rosberg had found another level or his team mate was phoning it in.

Hamilton’s post-season remarks suggested the latter. But it may be a moot point: Rosberg’s upswing in form didn’t stop Hamilton beating him more decisively than he had in 2014 or 2013. It will be a surprise if Rosberg suddenly finds a new level this year.

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10 comments on “Mercedes’s daunting test form shows they intend to dominate again”

  1. They had a hard act to balance during the test. Not to show the real strength and making the test usable at the same time isn’t easy at all. I can imagine what the public response would be if Merc pursued peak performance showing what they are capable of. I dread to think…

    1. Since when does proving that an evolution of last years car in testing is reliable translate to dominating the championship?
      The fact that Mercedes dominated for the past 2 years based on reliability in testing is junk science. They dominated because they had the best engine by a country mile, the fact that it is/was reliable was not the reason they dominated, in fact Mercedes last year were less mechanically reliable than Ferrari.

      1. Sean, why is it always the case that people assume that Mercedes’s are dominating the sport solely because of their engine?

        Quite a lot of individuals believe that Ferrari has all but closed the gap between themselves and Mercedes on the engine side. In particular, there is an individual on the F1Technical forums whose nephew works for Honda’s engine development team, and he stated that Honda believe that Ferrari’s peak power deficit to Mercedes is pretty much negligible (potentially as little as 5bhp and at most 15bhp). The powertrain really is not the performance differentiator that people seem to think it is, as the performance advantage Mercedes had in race trim cannot be accounted for based on the most probable difference in power between the engines.

      2. RaceProUK (@)
        12th March 2016, 8:17

        They have the best engine, but that alone isn’t enough; they also have a great aero package and a well-balanced chassis. It’s the combination of all three that’s made the cars so dominant.

  2. Suppose Ferrari are faster on Options/Superoptions while Merc are faster on Primes?

    That would be okay wouldn’t it?

    Meanwhile there are some stints and charts on https://twitter.com/f1debrief

    Lewis’ final race sim stint is quite scary, though the time of day seemed to make more difference than anything.

    1. That’s not how the words primes and options work……

  3. Should be another great rivalry at Merc. What I’ll watch for is the dirty air effect. Will it once again come down to who qualifies ahead and thus keeps their teammate behind? Will a Ferrari be more in the mix to add some spice to the Merc rivalry? Will be fun to watch but I sure hope we don’t just see a repeat of drivers hard pressed to be within a couple of seconds of the car ahead without ruining their tires. Not sure if much will have changed in that regard.

    1. Yeah I agree @robbie. The same car on the same tyres can’t really challenge on so many of the circuits. They know the front wing change from 2013 to 2014 made it worse, but don’t seem to care enough to do anything about it.

      I would not be amazed if Rosberg has the edge on the soft tyres and Hamilton on the mediums, so we could see this in action, again.

  4. “That would put them well over 900bhp with everything turned up to the maximum, and unlike their customer teams they can harness the peak power output for longer.”

    Could you elaborate on this please keith? Fuel or lack of upgrade parity?

    Thank you

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