Lewis Hamilton, Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes, Circuit de Catalunya, 2020

Mercedes as dominant now as they were at start of hybrid turbo era – Horner

2020 Tuscan Grand Prix Ferrari 1000

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Mercedes have pulled as far ahead of the competition as they were at the beginning of the V6 hybrid turbo era, says Red Bull team principal Christian Horner.

The current engine formula was introduced in 2014. Mercedes dominated the first season under the new rules, winning 16 of the 19 races. They continued that form into the following years, taking another 16 out of 19 wins in 2015 and 19 out of 21 in 2016.

From 2017, after a change in the aerodynamic rules, the team faced closer competition from the likes of Red Bull and Ferrari. However Horner believes Mercedes have drawn clear from the opposition again this year, saying their current level of performance is “right up there” with their 2014 standard.

“Their first year they were incredibly dominant. But they they didn’t quite show their full hand because they had such a power advantage.

“I think collectively, power unit and chassis, they’re very, very strong at the moment. But we’ve shown that they can be beaten, at Silverstone. And so that’s what we have to focus on, extracting and working to our strengths and getting more out of our car to take that fight to them on a more consistent basis.”

Horner admitted it was “frustrating” neither Max Verstappen nor Alexander Albon had been able to pick up a win when Mercedes stumbled at Monza last weekend. AlphaTauri scored a surprise victory with Pierre Gasly.

“The car was never particularly happy in a very low downforce configuration,” he said. “So qualifying fifth we still felt with Max, we had a chance in the race, Alex ninth.

“It wasn’t the best first lap, we lost quite a lot of performance at the start because the car overheated. And it did likewise at the second start. Then unfortunately we had a retirement. So on a day where Mercedes didn’t, for once, dominate proceedings we weren’t able to capitalise on that, which was frustrating.”

“In the event that we weren’t able to, it was fantastic to see AlphaTauri, Franz [Tost, team principal] and Pierre get that victory. But Monza for us felt like an opportunity lost.”

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2020 Tuscan Grand Prix Ferrari 1000

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Dieter Rencken
Dieter Rencken has held full FIA Formula 1 media accreditation since 2000, during which period he has reported from over 300 grands prix, plus...
Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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20 comments on “Mercedes as dominant now as they were at start of hybrid turbo era – Horner”

  1. Horner: “Mercedes have done a consistently better job than us for the best part of seven years”.

      1. And as we know it is really necessary to be a works team in this chapter. Only Ferrari have come close to being consistent competition. Another works team. Prior to this chapter it was RBR that did the consistently better job.

        1. It seems like Hybrid era broke Newey as well along with Vettel. All his designs have failed miserably after being oversold by Horner and Marko. Every year they start from scratch with a new broken design only to improve towards the year end only to be scrapped for new season. This trio of Horner-Marko-Newey are past their prime and need to retire/fired for doing their job inadequetly. After advocating the current high drag regulations in 2017 and now with “party mode” ban only fall flat facefirst in bullcarp they have no where left to hide. Ferrari have their own problems to deal with in terms of internal politics and design issues with the car.

  2. Horner? Is it Turbo whine again?
    As the leading proposer of limiting engine modes.
    I politely suggest he keeps his complaints under wraps from here on in.

  3. Look, at Silverstone, we had very unique circumstances. These things are what it took for Verstappen to win at 70th Anniversary Gp:

    – Softer tyres in comparison to the previous race at the same track.
    – An increase in both the front and rear tyre pressures.
    – Red Bull opting to qualify into Q3 using the Hard tyre, and they went into Q3 by just a tenth. Note: Sainz was eliminated in Q2.
    – Both Mercedes encountered high tyre wear in the race that was in extremely hot conditions.

    Let’s be real here. It took all of those just in one race, and among all the races that we will have, what are the chances those race occur with those conditions. If you put in the rulebook that we will have those tyre pressures and tyres every race, Mercedes will just work in creating a car suitable for all of those conditions.

    Come on Horner, did you really think you had a chance to win at Monza?

  4. I assume he’ll be resigning shortly then? Being beaten comprehensively for so long is surely a failure of leadership on the part of those who fail to match them.

    Now’s the time. Given your successor time to turn things around with the new regulations.

    1. Along with all the other teams and every driver except Hamilton? What a bizarre suggestion….

      1. Whats bizarre is you commented without thinking about what he said.

      2. Arrivabane’s head rolled.
        RBR I believe is a top team? Then Horner has to go.

  5. I don’t see why any of this is surprising, they’ve been hugely dominant for a while now – and not even by a small amount. So much so Ferrari had to resort to doing dodgy stuff to keep up. Their advantage was so large that I doubt they ever ran at full power, and their gap in the championships let them comfortably develop for the following year while everyone else was scrambling to keep up with the current one – so that advantage doesn’t really decrease, and the rules and financial structure makes closing that gap very difficult.

    1. @rocketpanda Perhaps due to Ferrari cheating, but Ferrari could have easily had a WDC for 2017 and 2018. Plus potentially 2019 too. It’s just that they messed up in Bahrain, Baku, Canada, Austria, Russia, Japan and Mexico. As Did Red bull for that matter in Monaco and Hungary.

      So yeah all that makes it easy for Mercedes and especially Hamilton to pick up the wins, but that was not because of a “domination” as you imply existed.

      1. Between 2014-16, there were 59 races, of which they won 51 of them and only missed three pole positions. I dunno, I’d say that’s at least a little “dominant”, wouldn’t you? In 2017-18, there were 41 races, of which they won 23 of them – missing out on 18 wins shared between two separate teams, and only lost 13 pole positions. Again, I’d say that was a very dominant showing?

        Like, I don’t entirely disagree with you – Ferrari certainly binned a lot of their own chances due to shooting their own foot but to say I am implying a Mercedes “domination” that didn’t exist is ridiculous. I mean call it what it is, they’ve been in a totally different timezone since 2014. Even now they can lap nearly a second faster than the 2nd fastest team. If you don’t consider any of this “dominant” I dread to think what you do.

        1. @rocketpanda that said, as you acknowledge within your post, that in itself is not necessarily a complete picture of the situation given that there were situations where Ferrari could have won, but they failed to capitalise on the situation.

          There were instances like the 2017 Malaysian Grand Prix, where Ferrari were very competitive and had the potential to win, but their reliability issues – Vettel’s failure in qualifying and then Kimi on the lap to the grid – meant they gave a golden chance to their rivals (although it was Red Bull who capitalised in that case).

          There were times when they made strategy errors, or made peculiar decisions in the races – for example, allowing Kimi to hold Vettel up in the 2018 German Grand Prix when they were on very different strategies, meaning Hamilton could catch up and perhaps helping to put Vettel under the pressure that eventually caused him to crash.

          There were times when the drivers, too, made their mistakes as well – enough has been said on that front – and there were also times when, arguably, the team was the victim of random fate: the 2018 Chinese Grand Prix being one, where Vettel probably would still have been in contention for victory had the mid-race safety car not played into Red Bull’s hands, with Max’s collision with Vettel compounding those problems.

          It’s also worth noting that the margin that Mercedes was winning by in a number of those races was not huge either. We had a number of races in 2017 and 2018 where the leading Mercedes was only winning by a few seconds over Vettel – indeed, we had two races in 2017, in Russia and Austria, where Bottas won by barely 0.6s over Vettel, such that one more lap would almost certainly seen Vettel, and Ferrari, win instead of Bottas and Mercedes.

          The win tally alone is in itself a little misleading, as it also depends on the context of how that victory was achieved and the margin by which you won. If you’ve only won by, say, 3 seconds over a race distance, is that really a dominant performance? I wouldn’t call the 2017 Austrian or Russian GPs were dominant performances by Mercedes, given how Vettel only just missed out on winning those races.

          There were several races with a margin that was fine enough that a single mistake by the driver, a sluggish pit stop or an error in strategy could have cost the team victory. Sometimes, it felt more like Mercedes won because Ferrari gave them the means to do so, rather than because of anything in particular that Mercedes did – it did feel like, in 2017 and 2018, Ferrari lacked the overall cohesion between team and driver that might have allowed both to operate at their maximum potential consistently over the whole season.

        2. Yes, no doubt it was a dominant performance, more than that, it was the most dominant in f1 ever.

          The only years we may not call dominant, at least in race performance, are 2017 and 2018, I think winning 2017 would’ve been a tough ask for any driver that ever competed in f1 at ferrari, while 2018 was definitely doable, vettel was terrible there, he did worse with a better car than the previous year.

          Even so, 1 realistic possible title out of 7 years, that’s nothing, and only 1 team had that chance, which is even less, rest was already written.

    2. …they’ve been hugely dominant for a while now…

      The question is why haven’t Honda, Renault, and Ferrari replicated what Mercedes did to their power unit to give them such an advantage over their competitors? Surely there’s chemistry experts at those manufacturers’ laboratories who know what Mercedes are doing to give themselves such an advantage.

  6. I point to one main issue—team stability. Mercedes have not had a steadily revolving set of principals and key engineers. And their horde of technical directors appear to work without controversy or drama. When was the last time there was any intrigue in their leadership or any top people rage-quitting to go elsewhere? They had driver conflicts with Rosberg/Hamilton but both of them were driving at a very high level—it was not a situation with one driver lagging and complaining about fair treatment. This juggernaut was under construction by Brawn and his successors even when MB was a bit like Toyota in qualifying up front and then fading away in the race.

    You can’t say this about the team best placed to challenge them, Ferrari. RBR has been less stricken by these issues but they have also been unable to keep a solid second driver employed. Newey seems to be a one-man show on the design leadership side. Also, RBR has not had a top-two engine for a very long time. RBR should have could have would have done their own engine project when the hybrid era started but didn’t want to spend the money. It’s only 6 years on that they have a really competitive engine, but it still has some reliability issues.

    Rome wasn’t made in a day, but it was made well and endured a long time.

  7. Mercedes have been completely dominant 2014-20, but 2014-16 it was a dominance never seen. The 2002 and 2004 Ferraris, 2011 RBR didn’t come close to the level of dominance Mercedes had.

  8. This sounds suspiciously like the reactionary firing of the NFL coach for the team that looses in the Super Bowl game.
    Being second best out of a packed field is something to celebrate. Mind you, finish 2nd, 3 years in a row, is cause for a re-think, but sacking the team leader isn’t likely to improve things.

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