If we are treated to a Mercedes vs Red Bull Racing contest in 2017, it could well be an ‘engine vs. aero’ battle given Mercedes’ superior power unit and Red Bull Racing’s aero prowess.
Nevermind, Bernie Ecclestone doesn’t believe Mercedes will be challenged this season, either. *Sigh*
On this ‘engine vs. aero’ debate, we’re reminded of Enzo Ferrari’s famous quote: “aerodynamics are for people who can’t build engines.”
And this does seem true for Red Bull Racing – who have publicly declared that they’ll be fighting for wins only in the second half of 2017! *Sigh*
Also in this week’s episode of the Inside Line F1 Podcast, we discuss the Renault-Magnussen-Haas love-hate relationship, possible retirement options for Jolyon Palmer and Mclaren’s sponsor-friendly statements.
Finally, even though we narrowly missed the Valtteri Bottas to Mercedes announcement, like everyone else, we knew it was happening.
While Mercedes made the most of the positive PR around their second cockpit, they do need lessons on how to maintain suspense!
When a team is so far ahead of the competition in talent, structure, skills, organisation, leadership and resources, it leaves rivals searching for the only possible weakness they can exploit: the inconsistency and irrationality of human beings.
It’s why Diego Costa’s situation at Chelsea is being monitored so keenly; should the unsettled striker leave the club over the next two weeks, it creates a previously unaccounted for opening for the rest of the Premier League.
It’s why the NBA’s other 29 teams were hoping the introduction of Kevin Durant to the Golden State Warriors would somehow disrupt dressing room harmony or that Draymond Green’s disciplinary issues will flare up again.
And why, for the last three seasons, the rest of the Formula One grid have been secretly hoping Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg’s personalities clashed to such an extent they would essentially defeat each other.
A glimmer of hope, a shred of optimism.
At times the Rosberg-Hamilton rivalry threatened to undo the team’s dominance, leading executive Toto Wolff to act as much as a mediator as he is manager. But with Rosberg’s retirement on the back of his maiden world title won in Abu Dhabi, it immediately thawed any frosty chemistry that may have existed between the Mercedes drivers, Wolff, chairman Niki Lauda and the team at large.
It also, of course, presented somewhat of a quandary for Wolff as to who and what comes next. In the blue corner, Valtteri Bottas – a cool and calm proven points-scorer whose consistency for Williams (six retirements over his 77 race starts) may not catch the eye but is certainly impressive.
And in the red corner, Pascal Wehrlein – the 22-year-old German, described as Rosberg’s natural heir in F1, and who has led Manor racing director Dave Ryan to deny accusations of arrogance from his fellow drivers.
Bottas a stoic and safe pair of hands; Wehrlein the firebrand who carries a risk. After the saga of Hamilton and Rosberg, there was only going to be one winner.
The Mercedes boss admitted as much on Monday at the team headquarters in Brackley, stating the Finn is “a no-nonsense guy, down to earth, straightforward and very focused”.
Bottas and his boss insist he will be racing on level terms with Hamilton, and that may come to pass to an extent, but everything about the Finn screams ‘team player’. Those who have dealt with the softly-spoken 27-year-old describe him as professional, pragmatic… a nice guy.
Of the precious few disputes he’s had with fellow drivers – Kimi Raikkonen in 2015 and Max Verstappen last season – on each occasion he’s emerged more Gandhi than Genghis Khan. Indeed, if Hamilton somehow manages to antagonise Bottas it will, for all the Brit’s race wins and titles, be some achievement.
Which is why Bottas’ appointment is terrible news for the rest of the grid. Hamilton now has a perfect deputy, who will race with selflessness, never challenge team direction and do whatever benefits Mercedes the most.
It’s unclear how rule changes will impact the potency of Mercedes, but as a result of an unexpected turn of events emanating from the unpredictability of the human mind, Wolff has impressively managed to eradicate Mercedes’ only glaring weakness by signing arguably the most consistent and rational driver in F1.
Reigning but retired world champion Nico Rosberg will remain a prominent member of the Mercedes family as an ambassador for the German manufacturer.
Rosberg stunned the sport at the end of last season, hanging up his driving gloves and steering wheel just days after winning his first championship title.
While Rosberg has not divulged how he plans on shaping his future, or if he plans on remaining connected one way or the other with motor racing, he will remain committed to Mercedes as a spokesperson and public relations figure.
Mercedes have announced that the 31-year-old will make his first public appearance in his new role next Tuesday in Geneva.
At the event, Rosberg will appear alongside Lewis Hamilton at the Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie on behalf of team partner IWC Schaffhausen.