Mexican GP | What is the atmosphere like inside the Mercedes F1 camp?

05-11-2021 11:00
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Mexican GP | What is the atmosphere like inside the Mercedes F1 camp?

Desperate times call for desperate measures, and that’s where Mercedes are at going into the final five races of the 2021 season. The World Championship battle now turns into a sprint. A quick-fire blast of five races in six weeks to bring the curtain down on what has been an epic encounter sure to feature as a stand-alone chapter in Formula 1’s history book. 

Lewis Hamilton has a 12 point deficit to Max Verstappen in the World Championship and even another minor points gain for Verstappen in Mexico places the seven-time Champion in must-win territory. Desperate times.

The rule and regulation book is getting a reprint this winter and that marks the end of the current era of F1. Mercedes have so far scooped every single World Championship trophy since the introduction of the turbo-hybrid engines in 2014. But that could all change next month. A proud 100% record is on the line. Perhaps literally in Abu Dhabi. 

Under pressure

For the above reasons, Hamilton and Mercedes are under serious pressure. The next two Grands Prix, on paper at least, favour Max Verstappen and Red Bull Racing. The last three circuits on the calendar perhaps lean slightly towards Mercedes but a lot is unknown given the layout changes in Abu Dhabi and two new tracks. 

Mercedes know they need to start attacking this weekend. We’ve seen in the past sandbags come off the car. In Turkey, it seemed as if the car had an upgrade with eye-watering straight-line speed and it looked more hooked up around corners compared to previous in 2021. 

In the United States though, Mercedes made a step backwards in FP2 and couldn’t get the car into the optimal working zone. Valtteri Bottas has been taking engine penalties after engine penalties. Could there be more to this than meets the eye?

The Mercedes team seem to identify reliability issues as the cause for all these changes. A problem which they’re trying to get to the bottom of. Hamilton is on his fourth ICE of the season and is half expected to take a fifth ICE either in Mexico or Brazil. But Bottas has used significantly more and it would really be bad luck if these problems only caused issues for the Finn. 

Perhaps more eye-catching is the body language inside the Mercedes camp. A term often overused in pre-season testing when a team aren’t doing as well as they perhaps would’ve liked. Neither Toto Wolff, Lewis Hamilton or Andrew Shovlin seem overly concerned by the numerous engine changes supposedly required. 

Are Mercedes trying to work out just how high they can turn Hamilton’s engine up for the final five races of the season? Could this be the final sandbag they have to take off in their hope to beat Red Bull and Verstappen? 

Shifting the pressure 

Verstappen has never been in a World Title fight before. And it’s clear Mercedes are trying to capitalise on this. In the week leading up to the Mexican Grand Prix, we’ve seen Toto Wolff potentially trying to shift pressure on Red Bull and Verstappen. 

“At the moment the mathematical probability of us winning the drivers' championship is 45 percent, compared to 55 percent,” Wolff said in a conversation with the German RTL. Wolff is shifting the weight of expectation over to Verstappen and his counterpart Christian Horner

Maybe it has a sense of realism but those inside the Mercedes camp will not even be close to thinking like this. If any team in Formula 1 has a champions mentality, then it’s Mercedes. 

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