Mercedes bettered its already-dominant 2014 campaign this year, building up on its success to clinch another title double.
Some will argue that Mercedes was always going to emerge victorious in 2015, given the sort of advantage it had over its rivals the previous year. And while that’s true to a certain extent, it doesn’t explain why Mercedes even bettered its 2014 campaign.
And there’s no single answer to that question; it was a combination of factors that allowed the Brackley-based outfit to retain its advantage over the rest of the pack.
Firstly, the team increased its focus on reliability, eager to cut down on DNFs that hampered Nico Rosberg’s 2014 campaign, and technical gremlins that hurt Lewis Hamilton mostly on Saturdays. Secondly, it managed to make enough gains over the winter to offset leaps made by its rivals, most notably Ferrari. And finally, it exploited the engine loophole to its best, regularly releasing updates to keep up to pace with the rest of the pack.
The end result was another dominant year for the Silver Arrows, marginally better than 2014 when measured by one-two finishes and podiums, but considerably better when only points are taken into concentration.
In fact, such was Mercedes’ advantage that it could test some fundamental aspects of its 2016 power unit on track with the update brought to Monza in September. Another race which brings to light their pace advantage is the Mexican Grand Prix. At that occasion, the team had such a massive gap over then third place runner Daniil Kvyat that it could afford to do a precautionary pitstop at the end of the race, without losing any positions.
Hamilton emerges on top in downtrodden intra-team battle
The intra-team battle at Mercedes was slightly subdued this season, with Rosberg unable to mount a persistent challenge to eventual title winner Lewis Hamilton. The Brit, after playing second fiddle to Rosberg in qualifying in 2014, turned the tables in his favour, scoring 11 pole positions, compared to Rosberg’s seven.
On Sundays, Hamilton was even more convincing, winning majority of the races of the season en route to his third drivers’ title.
Rosberg showed signs of pace early on, in Spain and Austria, for instance. But it wasn’t until the title battle was decided that he turned up a gear, scoring three wins in a row to cap off an otherwise underwhelming season in style.
Some strategic errors and mistakes
Mercedes is clever not to overlook some mistakes it made this year, particularly on the strategy side. In Malaysia, its decision to pit under the safety car backfired, as it handed track position to Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel. Similarly, in Monaco, it pitted Hamilton under the heat of the moment, losing an easy one-two finish.
The team, until now, has been unwilling to split strategies, something it might be forced to do next year, if a Scarlet car is looming in the mirrors.
Mercedes must also remain wary of a repeat of Singapore 2015, where the team was mysteriously off the pace. Subsequent investigations revealed that their lack of pace hinged on its inability to find a suitable set-up for the unique demands of the track.
* adjusted for double points finale
By Rachit Thukral
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