Raikkonen and Bottas might have grabbed a daily fastest lap in testing but the reality is Mercedes are a lifetime ahead of the rest once again
“I don’t make mistakes,” said the Formula 1 commentating legend that is Murray Walker, “I make prophecies which immediately turn out to be wrong.” A statement which frankly sells his contributions short. Whilst his errors might have been few and far between his actual comments ranged from the absolutely absurd “There’s nothing wrong with that car except that it’s on fire……” to the merely slightly bizarre by contrast; “The lead car is unique, except for the one behind it, which is identical”.
Start Your Second Rate Engines
• Mercedes 1 second ahead after testing
• Teams aware of massive gap
• Other drivers race to be ‘best of the rest’
Unfortunately, of course, that last one is probably just a bit too prophetic for Bernie Ecclestone’s liking although I’m relatively sure Murray didn’t have the latest pairing at Mercedes in mind when he said it. The fact is, however, that after three pre-season testing sessions in the glare of the world’s media and the public alike, the writing for the 2015 season is almost upon the wall already as the Hamilton/Rosberg pairing demonstrate themselves a clear second faster than the rest of the field.
A rematch of last season appears in the offing with the German and the Brit rushing off in their own private battle and everyone else scrambling behind to be the best of the rest, perhaps gambling news over the team radio in at least one grand prix will be of the pair crashing into each other and retiring from the race. The competitive margin between the other major teams is negligible at best, perhaps a tenth of a second at most, but with the leaders eight tenths or more ahead they’re a world away.
When the lights go off in Australia the practice and qualifying sessions are likely to have already proved that Mercedes really are that far ahead, but the teams already know as they track each other over the off-season like hawks watch their prey. This has led to a few disparaging comments from the other teams, one team boss calling Mercedes’ laptimes “depressing” which has to inspire confidence from his drivers, but then they’re probably not that confident anyway.
A Second Is A Long Time In Formula One
Eight tenths of a second doesn’t sound like a lot of time, but over the course of a entire race that becomes an unassailable advantage. The rest of the drivers can put a brave face on it, and indeed damn Mercedes with faint praise, but those who like to bet on sports in Finland are unlikely to be backing their countrymen Kimi Raikkonen or Valtteri Bottas to win the championship, even when site like ComeOn! Sportsbook are giving them 29.00 and 34.00 respectively. Those odds are very telling.
Lewis Hamilton is 1.62 before a car has even been started in anger, with his teammate, Rosberg on 3.40 which given how close he came last season probably reflects the fact that he’d needed that ridiculous double-points-on-the-last-race rule to even stand a mathematical chance. The next nearest after them is Vettel on 14.00 with the wall-seeking missile that is Fernando Alonso and Daniel Riccardo on 17.00 some way back in a sport Mr. Walker summed up in the phrase “Anything happens in Grand Prix racing, and it usually does.”
Apparently. However, the bookies already know what is going to happen, the pre-season testing sessions at Jerez, a circuit better suited to bike racing in my humble opinion, and Catalunya, Barcelona’s bull-horns circuit that will this year host the Spanish Grand Prix for the 25th consecutive year, merely proving it beyond the doubt of anyone paying attention. This then means we the viewing public are consigned to another year of two teammates attempting to pretend they don’t loathe each other.
Not that this isn’t good fun in of itself, there’s nothing like watching someone who has just finished a hard fought battle in second place try to make polite comments about their teammate who came in first before the gleefully knowing press. Indeed I suspect we will see the battle between Hamilton and Rosberg stoked by both the sport and the media covering it, as turning them into gladiators of speed and honor might just detract from how truly predictable it’s going to become.
Better Cars, Equal Drivers
The lamentable part is the other drivers are just as good, just as fast, want to win just as bad, but the Mercedes cars are simply that much better than Ferrari or Williams or Redbull that they leave them behind. Hamilton is doubtless a talented driver but is he 146 points better than the next guy down who isn’t driving a Mercedes? I’m not so sure. Of course the sport has always been about car and driver, but it would seem drivers have reached a plateau of performance and professionalism.
“That just shows you,” said the indefatigable Murray Walker once upon a Grand Prix, “how important the car is in Formula 1 racing.” A statement that continues to hold true, at least far more true than “I should imagine that the conditions in the cockpit are totally unimaginable.” Which he also said. The question is of course will teams, sponsors, drivers and fans be happy racing for less than first place? Is being the best of the rest enough? Lamentably perhaps, it probably is.
The vast sums of money that swirl around the F1 circus, the publicity and exposure, the media coverage and of course the live racing audience, will continue to be a big draw, even if drivers further down the pecking order have to get used to being asked their opinion of the Hamilton/Rosberg duel up front. Perhaps one of the more forward thinking will point out to the vultures from the press that no team dominance lasts forever and neither does a driving career.
In the short term Formula 1, alas, is destined to be a bit two tier, with Mercedes on top in a league of their own and everyone else in a straggling trailing bunch. This is a ghastly shame because it probably means that anyone taking advantage of Finnish gambling laws in Helsinki this season is likely as not to be betting on a German or a Brit rather than, as they perhaps would in a more car-equal championship, their very own countrymen, Raikkonen and Bottas.