When will Mercedes be toppled from the top spot?

by Dec 9, 20200 comments

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They say that the more things change, the more they stay the same.

That statement certainly rings true in the world of Formula One with Mercedes recently winning a seventh successive Driver’s Championship victory.

Since 2014, the Silver Arrow has been the dominant force in the pinnacle of motorsport. Although fans of the German manufacturer will celebrate the continued status quo, rival fans will bemoan another year at the top.

That is if rival fans have not been scared off for good and with very little on the horizon in terms of change, one wonders just how many titles Mercedes or their star man Lewis Hamilton can rack up in the years to come.

Such has been the dominance of the former McLaren driver, that the UK’s best betting sites have taken an influx of bets for him to be crowned the 2020 BBC’s Sports Personality of the Year. Plus, Squawka’s recent analysis proclaimed him to be the best that Formula One has ever seen.

Because for as long as Mercedes still employ Hamilton, there is no reason to suggest that he is going to be usurped. Although Formula One is very much a two-person team sport, his teammate is often left in his wake.

For Valtteri Bottas, he can be either considered to have the best job on the grid or the worst, as even though he plays the role of loyal teammate, being outclassed each week also comes at a rather hefty price.

A price that could cost the Finn his Mercedes drive for 2022 and with Hamilton recently testing positive for COVID-19, it meant that a personnel shakeup was required for the Sakhir Grand Prix in Bahrain.

Personnel that came in the shape of George Russell, as although the young British driver currently plies his trade for the ailing Williams team, he is contracted to Mercedes and therefore a promotion of sorts was afforded him.

A promotion that nearly saw a dream win on his Mercedes debut and after such a performance, it suggests that when the permanent opportunity presents itself, Bottas’ days as Hamilton’s trusted teammate could be numbered.

Should Russell eventually make a permanent switch and replace his current temporary team leader, it will only spell bad news for the rest of the grid. If the current champion decides to stay around, it could mean a dose of British double trouble for their rivals.

Of course, there is still a chance that the Stevenage born driver decides that seven titles are enough and if he does not choose to attempt to surpass Michael Schumacher, the Formula One paddock can at least breathe some form of relief.

However, it could simply mean that the baton of Mercedes dominance is passed from a one-time star to the next. If the 35-year-old makes way for the man who filled his seat in the Middle East race, that does not mean Mercedes‘ days at the top are subsequently numbered.

If anything, far from it and in terms of succession planning, Toto Wolff and his management team have always had this day in mind, it’s just they don’t know exactly when and with their main man yet to put pen to paper, such a day might come sooner than you think.

If that day does come in 2021, it will be too early for the rest of the field to take advantage of any rule changes and with Mercedes‘ stand-in driver further highlighting just how good their current car really is, there’s almost a sense of nearly anyone could pilot it.

That’s not to suggest that the man on the street could simply enter the cockpit and romp home to victory, it’s more the fact that the Mercedes team have created a deadly weapon in the world of Formula One.

The argument has always been that they have the perfect setup, one almost bordering on unfair, as the best driver is placed in the best car. Because of that, a litany of race wins or championships has been collected.

Which is why Russell’s promotion for the Sakhir Grand Prix, was the acid test for just how good the current iteration of the Mercedes is and the fact that he nearly won at the first attempt, only adds further weight to the claim of the German’s outright dominance.

Of course, that is not to do the 22-year-old a massive disservice, as you still need a tremendous amount of talent to be competitive in this discipline. It’s just that being situated in a Mercedes will provide a considerable boost to your chances of winning.

While with Honda deciding to call time on their current stint at the end of the next year, it leaves Red Bull without an engine supplier and although they will most likely team up with Renault again, it is currently being viewed as a backwards step.

With Max Verstappen bloodying the nose of Hamilton and Bottas on several occasions, he has been viewed as their heir apparent to the overall crown and the leader of the sport’s much needed new generation.

That was before Honda decided to leave the sport and with Red Bull and Renault being awkward bedfellows in the past, the begrudging decision to likely take French horsepower once again has been a source of frustration for the team.

That’s because with so few engine suppliers currently available, Red Bull have been left between a rock and a hard place, as Mercedes will certainly not supply anything to their arch-rivals, and neither will the other option Ferrari.

There is perhaps one more route that Christian Horner and his team could take and that is a continuation of the Honda engine with a new badge. In essence, Red Bull would become its own supplier, just like Mercedes and Ferrari.

However, a lack of expertise in how to look after the engine in-house could provide the biggest stumbling block. That is why a marriage of convenience with Renault looks like being the most likely route in terms of engine power.

What does this mean for Mercedes, though? It means that as they get stronger, their rivals get weaker and no matter who the two-person setup is for years to come, the eventual result will only prove to be the same.



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