There is one thing missing from all the discussions about Mercedes winning the Constructors title and their driver Lewis Hamilton clinching his fourth world championship.
This is the first time an F1 team has defended both the titles after a major change in chassis regulation.
Changes were often introduced in Formula 1 to end one team’s dominance over the sport. And that is why this year’s titles win is a remarkable achievement for the team.
A major tyre regulation change in 2005 brought an end to the Todt/Brawn/Schumacher era. That change was beneficial to Michelin, who supplied to Renault and the French team won in 2005 and 2006.
Red Bull was dominant in F1 with their mastery over the exhaust-blown diffuser in the V8 engine era between 2010 and 2013. But when F1 introduced V1.6 Turbo hybrids and banned exhaust blowing, the team slipped down their ratings and are still recovering.
Ferrari produced a strong car this season that was capable of going toe to toe with Mercedes. But a mix of reliability issues with Version IV power unit and driver error by Sebastian Vettel resulted in the Italians losing their chance at both the titles.
Vettel’s actions are under the scanner at the Maranello outfit. His nervousness under pressure as seen in Singapore and Mexico and his angry actions at Baku are being studied as the team plans to make a stronger comeback in 2018.
Aside from his form, Hamilton has been successful in using mind games against his main rival. He can be seen winding up Vettel at the Mexico driver briefings and through his Facebook posts and comments. Last year he was a victim of Nico Rosberg’s mind games and lost the title, but this year, he is using them.
Although there have been no direct accusations against Vettel, there have been a few comments from Ferrari Chairman Sergio Marchionne about ‘driver error… or driver misjudgement.’
Vettel will need a stronger form, steely composure and perfect strategy if he has to win against Hamilton and the Red Bull drivers, Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo. Whether he can deliver on these expectations, we have to wait for the next season.
The other factor working in favour of Hamilton is his relationship with fellow driver Valtteri Bottas and the Mercedes crew. After Rosberg’s exit, the rivalry between the two Mercedes garages has turned towards the common rival, Ferrari. This has improved the team dynamics and helped them focus.
After a ‘clear the air’ conversation between Hamilton and team boss Toto Wolff last winter, Hamilton came back with a better mindset and a form that has improved throughout the season.
Talking about their conversation, Wolff said: “After a difficult moment in Abu Dhabi last year, we had a long evening in my kitchen, during the course of which we aired all the frustrations and issues that had grown over the years and got them out of the way.
“I think that we both felt a sense of relief, and that was when the relationship went to the next level. He went off into the winter break, and he came back with a great mindset.
“He has grown stronger over the year. The relationship with Valtteri is also an important factor. We have a great spirit within the team. That was an important piece of the jigsaw.
“I’ve been working with him for five years now, and I’ve never seen him operate at such a high level,” said Wolff. “The raw pace is spectacular. He understands the tyres and the ability of the car which, at times, hasn’t been easy to drive. I haven’t seen such a sustained performance on that level before.”