Formula 1 is entering a new era of Mercedes dominance. Four races into the 2014 F1 season and Mercedes have won all four races, with a Mercedes 1-2 in the last three.
Predictions of a Mercedes dominated season and a Mercedes driver as world champion are becoming a reality with every race.
This has dented the Red Bull hegemony but will it get boring?
By 2011, teams and fans alike were getting bored with Vettel. Back to back races being won from pole from the young German, made the sport very predictable.
In Valencia 2011, he ran the race virtually unchallenged. With Lewis Hamilton commenting at the time, “it’s finished really…in the sense of the championship, it’s almost over already”. Predicting the race winner was easy as his championship win that year, taking it five races early at Suzuka.
Vettel and Red Bull’s dominance bears striking similarities to the historic record breaking victories at Ferrari and Michael Schumacher. His reign spanned from 2000-2004 and arguably they were more easily engineered wins than that of Vettel’s.
Sebastian Vettel faced more rigorous regulations with regards to fuel and tyres.
Custom made tyres are a thing of the past. With tyre management becoming one of the key tests to any driver looking to become world champion. An end to refuelling meansdrivers in the fastest car don’t have the advantage of cruising to the front without needing to overtake.
Unlike Schumacher, Vettel faced a team mate that put his status of “number one” driver to the test.
Having a “number one” in a team like Mercedes, with two competitive drivers, capable of winning the championship is difficult to manage.
Mercedes were praised for allowing their drivers to fight at the Bahrain Grand Prix. Allowing for some sensational racing, not seen in a long time. This was not the case in both Red Bull and Ferrari, where team orders were used more frequently to ensure victory (usually of their favoured driver) and safe return of both cars. But this doesn’t mean that team orders won’t be used by Mercedes in future races to ensure both cars across the line, seen in Malaysia 2013.
Ultimately, this inter-team rivalry will be the defining factor for this Mercedes dominated era. The Rosberg and Hamilton team-mate rivalry has been likened to that of Prost and Senna at McLaren. This element making it ultimately different from the Vettel and Schumacher era. Bahrain may have been a Mercedes dominated race, but it was an entertaining dominance, with pure racing because of this element.
It may seem pre-mature to assume Mercedes will dominate the season, but Mercedes comfortably lead the Constructor’s Championship with a nearly 100point lead. Solid top point’s finishes from both Mercedes boys means they dominate the driver’s standings.
As the season progresses, the question will be, who Mercedes will ultimately choose to lead the team. This undoubtedly will be the cause of unprecedented friction in the Mercedes garage. But for the fans, an interesting turn of events and will keep the racing and title fight alive.