Mercedes’ F1 decline: From domination to desperation?

Frederic Vasseur, the team principal at Ferrari, exhibited a tone of impatience when questioned about his decision to favour Lewis Hamilton over the in-form Carlos Sainz for the 2025 season and onwards. During a chat with reporters last weekend in Suzuka, he reiterated his previous stance, suggesting, “We have the same question each weekend,” and instructed to “Copy-paste my reply of last week.” Adding a brisk, “Next question,” Vasseur signalled his desire to move past the ongoing speculation.

But it’s the current scenario at Mercedes that paints the true picture of desperation, with seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton facing difficulties in matching the pace of his teammate George Russell. Hamilton’s inclination towards his confirmed future with Ferrari became apparent in Japan, where he mentioned initiating an “conversation” with Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff about transitioning to the Maranello based team later in the year.

“Clearly Lewis is already focused on 2025, which shows a lack of confidence in his current team,” commented Ralf Schumacher, a former F1 driver, to Sky Deutschland. He added, “The fact that he’s already mentally in a different place clearly poses a serious problem.”

During the Suzuka race, Hamilton’s gesture of allowing Russell to pass him was described by Wolff as “extremely fair.” Post-race, Hamilton’s patience was tested by a journalist’s query about Ferrari’s current superiority, leading to a terse, “Do you have any better questions?” before he abruptly ended the interview.

Mercedes, once the reigning force in F1, now faces a challenging period, marked by a performance downturn that began in 2022. Fernando Alonso voiced his reservations about joining Mercedes next year, citing the team’s lack of appeal. Christian Danner, another ex-F1 driver, shared his observations on Toto Wolff’s recent comments, suggesting a disconnect between Wolff’s positive remarks and the team’s actual performance at Suzuka. He critically noted, “When he said his drivers did well at Suzuka, I thought he’s seen a different race.”

Danner and Schumacher critiqued Mercedes’ tactical decision at Suzuka, labelling the one-stop strategy with hard tyres as a nearly “desperate” move. Danner elucidated, “If I have a not-so-fast car, I might do a nonsense tactic that could work if you’re really lucky. So you see how desolate it is for them at the moment.” He further lamented the ongoing crisis within the team, terming it a “catastrophe” not only for Hamilton, who finds himself in a perplexing situation, but for the entirety of the Mercedes team.

GMM

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