Mercedes had a weekend mixed fortunes in Bahrain. After dominating qualifying with Nico Rosberg, the team discovered their race pace was well below than that of the true front runners’.
Nico Rosberg dropped from pole to third after four laps and continued to do so lap after lap until he was 9th when the checkered flag dropped. This type of tumble through the field is in stark contrast to the team’s performances in the opening three races, where they were in the fight for podiums.
Ross Brawn was understandably frustrated by Mercedes’ poor performance in Bahrain, saying that the lack of pace was unexpected. “To be honest, we didn’t anticipate quite such difficulty. It was worse than we expected,” he explained to Autosport.
Brawn admits the problem lies with the tires, which are proving to be the determining factor of success in 2013. The Mercedes is known to be harder on its tires than the other front-runners, but still manages to obtain good results from the first three races. This made the race in Bahrain all the more puzzling.
Asked if he felt a repeat of Mercedes’ performance dip of 2012 was beginning to repeat, Brawn was keen to avoid defeat, but admitted there are things to work on. “We just overheated the tires. We could have more races like that unless we improve our performances in this area, because when you are at one end of the scale, then whenever the tire become compromised because of the temperature, you’ll be the ones meeting that limit earlier than other people,” he explained.
What could happen?
While Nico’s journey from here to zero was disappointing, Lewis Hamilton’s race made the predicament all the more confusing. Having started from 9th, poor pace in the first two stints transformed into prodigious speed in the final half of the race. The change in fortunes was good enough to propel him to 5th place.
In juxtaposition, the races of Nico and Lewis make no sense, and that is something to be concerned about. Bahrain marked the last race of Mercedes’ true competitiveness in 2012. Other than the one-off successes in Monaco and Valencia, Bahrain was the last race Mercedes achieved a truly decent result. There is no midseason test this year, so Mercedes need to find a way to fix their tire troubles.
I personally Mercedes face the same fate as they endured last season. There is nothing to suggest anything different is being done to remedy the situation at Mercedes and, if the past is to be believed, nothing should change.
Tires have been the Achilles heel for Mercedes since they refutes to the sport in 2010. The problem was at its worst last year, but their underlying problems have been restricting them for the last three years. If 2013 ends up being a repeat of last season, Mercedes will have even more to think about for the 2014 regulations overhaul.