German Grand Prix: The Aftermath: Mercedes, the World’s Most Confusing Team

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In what was perhaps one of the most enjoyable races of the season, audiences were treated to another display of Mercedes inconsistency. From what I’ve observed, Mercedes has had three types of races this season: One in which they are either right there with the leaders, or are the leaders themselves (we’ll call that “Type A”), another in which they are towards the front of the field, but have no answer to the dominance of another team (Type B), and finally one in which their tire issues plague their race to a degree so intense, they can do nothing but sit back and watch as they plummet down the order (Type C).

If you want more specifics, you can group all the Grands Prix as such:

Type A: Monaco, British

Type B: Australian, Malaysian, Chinese, Canadian

Type C: Bahrain, Spanish

The Bahrain and Spanish Grands Prix were painful to watch, and highlighted the struggle Mercedes has endured since their return to the sport. This season, though, Mercedes has not done itself any favors in the tire department.

Rear tire-swapping has become all the rage in 2013, but, like most newfangled practices, has undue effects in the long run. This tire swapping puts extra strain on the tire sidewalls that, in their normal position, should not be happening. As a result, the frightening tire explosions during the British Grand Prix emerged. While the practice was not new at that particular point in the season (it has been around since the Spanish Grand Prix), the characteristics of Silverstone may have been the catalyst for all the destruction. At an average speed of aver 140 miles per hour, a lap around Silverstone puts the tires under extreme stress, what with the countless long, fast, sweeping corners. Could this be the culprit for the debacle that came from the five individual tire eruptions? I wouldn’t doubt it.

But Mercedes knows, as well as every single team up and down the pit lane, that the rear tires were not meant to be swapped from left to right willy-nilly. Those sticky, black circles, while sometimes headache-inducing, are just as fastidiously engineered as the cars they keep on the track. You wouldn’t swap the positions of the front and rear wings on an F1 car just to see what would happen, so you shouldn’t do the same with Pirelli’s rear tires. All the teams talk about the need for improved safety in the sport, yet they are all responsible for one of the most horrendously safety-reducing events in F1 that we have seen in years.

But The British Grand Prix was a fantastic race for the Mercedes team. Had Lewis Hamilton not been the victim of a Pirelli blowout, we would probably have seen a different winner. The pole-sitter was able to fight back to 4th place in the end, though, so disaster was avoided.

Why was the British Grand Prix so good for the Mercedes team, though? Based on the previous seven races, Mercedes should have had a Type B race a week ago. To be honest, I have no clue why they were so competitive, thus the title of this blog post. This confusion will be further justified by the disparities between this “Aftermath” post and the “Aftermath” post following the British Grand Prix. You may recall that I said Mercedes were in the title hunt after their British victory. I assumed that the data they gathered from their secret test in Spain was finally coming good at a traditional circuit like Silverstone.

Silly me. Silly, silly, Chris.

Who knew that only a week after a Type A race in England, Mercedes would be back in the doldrums of Type B/C fever. I say B/C because there were elements of both types of races in the German Grand Prix. Mercedes were not they best team on Sunday by any stretch of the imagination, but they did not endure the tragic tumbling that characterizes most Type C races. A classic B race then.

Not entirely. After their final stops Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton were 16th and 10th, respectively. Within those final 10 laps, they managed to make up 7 and 5 places to take home some hard-fought points. So, there were elements of the classic “C” race, for sure. From the beginning, Lewis Hamilton was clearly struggling with his, you guessed it, rear tires. He was his most vocal for a long time about his displeasure with the tires during the German Grand Prix, though no complaints about being passed by a Williams.

But the final 10 laps of the race suggested that the pace to be at the front is still there. Both Nico and Lewis were just as fast as the leaders during those laps, allowing them to make up the plethora of places they did. After all, there is no question about the Silver Arrows’ ability on new tires and with low fuel.

Mercedes is the most confusing team for quite some time. After the German Grand Prix, there is no kind of indication that they will be competitive at a certain track. Even results from 2012 are no good as an indication for the team’s competitiveness. The results from 2013 have been often the opposite of those from 2012, so there is no telling when they will be fast. This uncertainty is not conducive to a successful championship campaign, and Mercedes know that.

I started this “Aftermath” series because I wanted to analyze how the results from one race will affect those of the next one, but frankly, I have no idea what will happen next. Mercedes may not, either.

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