The Mercedes team will enter the second half of the 2017 season without the cushion of dominance that the team have experiences in recent years. With Ferrari hot on their heels in the Constructors and Vettel ahead of Hamilton in the driver standings, the second-half of the year could end up being so close that the outcome of this season’s title comes down to errors.
Mercedes edge Ferrari in the victory department, with six so far this season, but with both teams matched on two 1-2 finishes apiece, any suggestion of dominance from either team this season remains unfounded. With two circuits coming up on the calendar that are expected to complement the longer wheelbase of the W08 in Spa and Monza, is a perfect restart after the break needed for the Silver Arrows to stay on top?
Recently, Lewis Hamilton said,
“We’ve given up a lot of points to this point – Ferrari have given up a lot less as a team We just hope that we don’t give up any more points.
I don’t know why we were off the pace compared to the Ferraris [in Hungary], whether or not that will continue in the next race, I’ve got no idea.”
– Lewis Hamilton
Losing a clear victory at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix thanks to a loose head rest has cost Hamilton the Championship lead heading into the break. Had there not been a cockpit cock-up, he might have been going on holiday with slightly more optimism.
One driver who will be enjoying his season is Valtteri Bottas. If he had been the driver that many preempted, Mercedes may have found themselves behind Ferrari in the Constructors too. He was positioned by many voices in the paddock as a late decision that would be a clear number two driver who lacked the talent to match his teammate.
Bottas has put in some stunning performances and on a few occasions, pulled pace out of the locker that even Hamilton hasn’t been able to match. The Merc Finn has been a more efficient hauler of points than his Ferrari compatriot, which goes a long way in explaining the gap between the teams in the Constructors. Bottas has emerged from the first-half of this season as an outside bet for the title, a clear asset to the team and surely a long-term prospect.
A huge bonus has to be the chemistry he clearly brings to the team. Where for the past few seasons Mercedes management figures such as Toto Wolff and Niki Lauda have had to manage the impossible of keeping good relations between two drivers that at times, even seemed to be in opposition on an atomic level, have this year had a much-deserved break from public fallouts. Hamilton’s action to give Bottas the place back in Hungary was emblematic of a much better relationship where there is clearly a lot of respect. We can’t imagine him being as humble if a situation like that had arisen with Rosberg in the other car.
Overall, the first half of the season has been below par by Mercedes’ standards based on the dominance they have displayed for a long time, but heading into the second-half, the team have the car, the drivers and the personnel to develop the W08 at the same rate as the Ferrari and fight for every victory. Neither of the top two teams get a 10/10 half-time report simply because there is no clear-cut leader in either Driver or Constructor championships, but that’s great for the sport and exactly what was needed this season.