Mercedes’ remained as F1’s dominant force in 2016, with rivals Ferrari and Red Bull unable to mount a lasting challenge on the Brackley-based outfit.
One must give credit to Ross Brawn for laying the foundation to a team that has just won its third successive title.
The head start Mercedes got under the leadership of Brawn continues to pay dividends, although a lot of effort has also been put in by Toto Wolff and Paddy Lowe to maintain their performance advantage over the rest of the field.
Such was their level of dominance that they had the fastest car in all but one track, with Monaco being the sole exception. However, the Silver Arrows still managed to win at the Principality after Red Bull botched its pitstop.
While Mercedes was fortunate to win in Monaco, it lost out on victories in Spain - where Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg collided on the opening lap - and Malaysia - where Hamilton retired with a engine failure while in the lead of the race.
Mercedes’ qualifying form, too, was top notch, with Hamilton and Rosberg scoring 20 pole positions between them. Again, the unique characteristics of Monaco played into the strengths of Red Bull, allowing Daniel Ricciardo to beat the Mercedes pair by one-and-a-half tenths.
While Mercedes’ themselves made an incremental step in 2016, Ferrari’s underwhelming season equally contributed to former’s dominance.
After three wins in 2015, many were hoping that Scuderia would be able to take the fight to Mercedes. However, due to varied reasons, Ferrari never emerged as a title contender, letting Mercedes pull clear.
Red Bull, meanwhile, had a mountain to climb after a dismal 2015 season. Hence, despite their best efforts, the energy drinks brand had to settle for the best-of-the-rest spot.
The title duopoly between Mercedes drivers Hamilton and Rosberg was once again one of the leading storylines, although the outcome of their battle was very different to last two years.
Rosberg was faultless in his championship winning year - and made significant improvements in his race craft, as attested by his move over Max Verstappen in the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
He was also ready to jump into any opportunities thrown in on him, establishing a buffer for himself at the start of the season, and later after the summer break.
Hamilton, meanwhile, suffered from a spate of technical issues throughout the season, with Malaysia engine blow out perhaps being the moment where he lost the championship.
However, at the same time one, must acknowledge that the Englishman made some unforced errors of his own, particularly during race starts. It is fair to say that those mistakes equally cost him the title.
There were also questions marks over how Mercedes controlled their drivers, with some feeling Wolff was unsuccessful in containing their rivalry.
The new-for-2017 regulations may put Mercedes’ hegemony to end, unless the Brackley-based team responds well to the changes.
However, there are many signs that Mercedes will be fighting for the championship in 2017, having diverted its resources to next year’s car ahead of most of its rivals.
It also has to find a capable replacement for Nico Rosberg, who announced his shock retirements news shortly after winning the title.
by Rachit Thukral