Mercedes dominance questioned: ‘Verstappen had to fight a bullet’

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Mercedes dominance questioned: 'Verstappen had to fight a bullet'

Mercedes won eight constructors’ titles in a row from 2014 to 2021, but has only won one Grand Prix since the new regulations. The German manufacturer is currently trying to resolve the leak, but former Formula 1 driver Christijan Albers wonders whether Mercedes’ chassis over the past decade have been as good as is often assumed.

Lewis Hamilton joined Mercedes just in time in 2013, which dominated for years from 2014. With six world titles in seven years, he won one top prize after another, but the Briton has not won a race since 2022. ‘You’re comparing two different generations. With the first generation of hybrid engines, Mercedes was so strong, which allowed them to compensate so much in terms of downforce. That car was so fast, it was like a bullet on the straight, which Max had to fight against,” Albers says in De Telegraaf’s Formula 1 podcast.

Red Bull does have the complete picture

Albers believes that Max Verstappen and Red Bull Racing could only compete with Mercedes because they already had a better chassis. “You can also turn it around: how good was the Red Bull compared to the Mercedes?” Albers also knows why Mercedes’ advantage disappeared like snow in the sun. ‘If you make something fantastic, with a bullet from a car, it is very difficult to keep all those people on the team.’

‘After two or three years, everyone knows how such an engine is made. Then people are simply transferred to another team. These have also been obtained by Red Bull and Honda. If you have a combination of a fantastic car and a killer engine… That difference in engines has become so small over the years, so the question is: did Mercedes have a good car?’ Albers wonders. The Eindhove native sees that Red Bull now has a good power unit and a good chassis.

Is Hamilton still among the top?

Albers also discussed the performance of Hamilton, who only took ten points in the first four weekends, while George Russell already collected 24 points. However, Albers does not want to write off the 39-year-old yet. ‘In the early stages I thought Lewis Hamilton was pushing too hard with those hard tyres. Then halfway through that stint you get the cover on your nose, but he said someone had hit him and he lost downforce because of it. That’s why he also passed up George Russell. The question remains: was the car that good or was the engine extremely good? When I look back at all those seasons now, I wonder if they had ever built such a top car.’

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Can Hamilton still beat Russell?

Still, Albers thinks that Hamilton will strike back. ‘Hamilton had a big gap on Russell in qualifying last weekend. That is a driver’s circuit. Normally he is faster and more consistent in races, but if he lost downforce now, that explains a lot. “If you drive a Formula 1 car without a front wing, it’s like riding a bicycle,” says Albers, explaining that minor damage can take a lot of time.

Mercedes maintained a one-point lead over Aston Martin in Japan, which remains narrowly behind Mercedes in fifth place. ‘It’s just a rumble there, although that might not be so bad. We worry that that car was the best car, but maybe it wasn’t the best car at all, and that car had so much more power that that car could win almost everywhere.’ In the years of Mercedes dominance, Mercedes managed to beat the customer teams, but in 2024 McLaren will still be stronger, and Aston Martin will be evenly matched by Mercedes.

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