While Lotus was one of the best surprises of 2012, Mercedes were probably the worst surprise of the season. Yes, they won the third race of the season in alarmingly convincing fashion, and yes, they took two further podiums afterwards. However, this does not take away from the fact that after the Singapore Grand Prix Mercedes only scored six points, all from the chaos that was the Brazilian finale.
Mercedes will do doubt have this in mind as they toil away before the season opener in Melbourne. Their new recruit Lewis Hamilton has been quick to heavily play down Mercedes’ chances of success this year, stating that getting into the top-10 is the first goal.
One would think that the level at which the 2008 World Champion plays down his chances indicates that things may be better than expected for the Brackley team.
The managerial reshuffle that has occurred at Mercedes recently has led many to believe that things aren’t all rosy within the team, regardless of its outward appearance. The appointment of Toto Wolff from Williams and the poaching of Paddy Lowe from Mclaren certainly show off the long-term intentions of Mercedes.
Testing has indicated Mercedes could surprise us even more than Lotus did last year. If Mercedes can just stay in the top-5 teams this season, they will be well poised for a championship tilt in 2014. We only have two more weeks before we find out if that is true.
The biggest story of 2012 was the move of Lewis Hamilton from long-time team Mclaren to Mercedes. The high profile and lucrative move sparked many to believe that Lewis was just plain crazy. He insisted that he moved teams for the challenge of bringing a team up from bad times, though, a $19 million per year contract certainly eased the passage.
Lewis arguably should have been the 2012 world champion. His car was the fastest for a majority of the season, and he drove the best races of his entire career. Only through pit stop and reliability issues did his championship fall through. The one moment of weakness in his campaign was towards the end of the European Grand Prix when he fought a bit too hard against Maldonado for a position he was bound to lose.
As tensions between Hamilton and Mclaren grew, so did the rumors of a potential split between the two. They were proven right when, after retiring from the Singapore GP, the team announced that they would be parting ways with Lewis Hamilton.
Now, after settling into his new surroundings, Lewis looks happier than ever. He has been very positive about the progress the team has made during testing, but goes short of suggesting they will win the title. His impressive form in the final preseason test in Barcelona suggests otherwise, however.
Lewis is under no pressure to win the world championship, which may be the right thing for him. The team is under no pressure as well, as they will be focusing most of their efforts on the 2014 championship and the technical regulations that will come with it.
All Lewis has to do is enjoy the ride, and his raise.
One of the most under the radar drivers on the grid, Nico Rosberg almost invisibly navigates each race undetected. That is, when he isn’t winning the race.
The Chinese Grand Prix marked the first time that Nico stood on the top step of the podium after a race. After 111 tries, Nico finally had a winning car under him, and he put it to good use. His win was one of the most dominant of the season and set up a potential title challenge for the German. After Mercedes’s development quit, Nico failed to score a single point in the last six races of the season.
While his season ended in an anticlimactic fizzle, there is no reason that 2013 shouldn’t be better. We know that he beat Michael Schumacher over three seasons, proving that he can indeed beat an old man. Now comes the real test. He will be competing directly against a driver considered to be one of the three best in the world at the moment.
The pressure is on Nico to perform. The expectation is that he would have achieved more in his career, but the stars haven’t aligned for him yet. He is a true talent who is capable of winning races when the car is under him. Now, we just need to see if he has a championship fight in him. 2013 could just be his year; the car just needs to deliver.