After a largely forgettable Australian Grand Prix the stand out fact we were left with was that this season is pretty much a lock for the Mercedes team. Any slim hope the likes of Williams and Ferrri had that perhaps the German Juggernaut might have been within reach were dashed as the team eased their way to a 30+ second victory over next best Sebastian Vettel.
Shortly there after Dietrich Mateschitz was quoted as saying that Red Bull were considering an exit strategy from formula one if the financial and marketing sums didn’t add up, though it should be noted he tends to say this every year even when winning. Christian Horner also publicly stated his desire for the FIA to step in a level the playing field somewhat but implementing the kind of in season rule changes that saw innovations such as double diffusers, engine mappings and flexi-wings banned after complaints from other teams.
Unsurprisingly given Red Bull’s recent dominance this has caused the IFOC (Internet F1 Community) to collectively lose their minds and slate the Red Bull duo as terrible sports throwing their toys out of the pram when things go bad for them.
However, when you look at it, is it not reasonable for any F1 team to petition the governing body in hopes that a competitor is pegged back? As Horner said, Red Bull were constantly having innovations banned at the insistence of the paddock during their 4 year dominance of the sport. Before that it was Brawn’s double Diffuser and so and so on through out the annals of F1 history. Surely this “tactic” is just part of the fabric of the sport and so picking out Red Bull as being particularly sore losers is disingenuous to say the least.
Should we also consider that currently engine development is frozen all bar some token “Tokens” to allow minimal development of the new, highly complex power units. So not only do Mercedes have a massive advantage the current rules actually hinder the development of a rival engine. Felipe Massa has questioned whether the customer teams are getting anything like as good a unit as the works team given how far Mercedes are ahead still but Williams have appeared to have dropped backwards.
Is it in fact Mercedes who are the bad guys here? They lobbied as hard as Renault for the new engine regs, both teams making veiled (and not so veiled) threats to leave the sport should they not be introduced. On top of that Mercedes veto’d the relaxing of the engine freeze over the summer that would most likely have seen major steps taken by Ferrari, Renault and perhaps even Honda.
In ensuring that their engine advantage is protected both from customer teams and from the chasing pack Mercedes are actually the driving force behind the lack of p[ace pf the other teams. Even the other drivers have been talking about how dull the last grand prix was for the fans, is it good for the sport if we end up with 20 races all finishing 1-2 for Mercedes? I think the answer is clearly no, the reaction of the fans to 4 years of Sebastian Vettel caused a little panic in the Ex-driver/now pundit crowd and 2 years of another team with an even bigger advantage can’t be enticing for new viewers and the old crowd will turn against Lewis or Nico eventually.
But what else can Mercedes do? Sebastian and Nico had a little verbal spar when Nico suggested he wanted to see the Ferrari’s catch up. “You hope you slow down” was the barbed sarcasm from the 4 time world champion at the notion but his point is well made. What are Mercedes supposed to do? Turn the wick down for 60% of the race to give the other teams a chance? Publish the 3d printing design to the chassis and engine on line? They’re only doing what every team attempts to do in F1, get on top and stay on top by any means necessary.
And that’s what Red Bull are doing; so who’s right and who is wrong? What’s best for the sport? What’s best for the fans?