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Sunday’s Spanish Grand Prix was an exercise in pure domination. Last year fans moaned the Red Bull/Sebastian Vettel domination and perhaps with good reason but this year has taken word to all-new heights.

Five wins from five races, pole position for every race and their fourth one-two in a row. Mercedes is writing a new chapter in the Formula 1 history book and starting to make fan wonder if they couldn’t be the first team in history to win every single race during a season. That’s a tall order but McLaren nearly did it back in 1988 winning 15 of 16 races.

Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel had a resurgence in Spain and it is a track that exposed the limitations of many cars including the Ferrari’s, McLaren’s and even Force India’s. Mercedes was nearly a full minute ahead of their closest rival, Daniel Ricciardo, who finished in third place.

Vettel told the BBC:

“It is a massive gap but I am sure we will get there. We all know what Adrian Newey is like, as well as the 600 other people at the team.”

Could Red Bull catch them? Vettel’s new chassis seemed to fit him better on Sunday and he had a terrific drive from 15th to finish 4th. His teammate, Ricciardo, said that third was the best they could hope for.

Given that, is anyone concerned, tired, bored or frustrated with the domination of the sport so far? Many use Red Bull’s 4-year reign as champions as a reason to be thread-bare on F1 but two of those years was won by a mere point. This is a different class of domination.

Is the thought of the final races being between Lewis and Nico enough to keep you interested in F1 for the balance of the 2014 season? If you were bemoaning last year and Sebastian Vettel, is this different than that and if so, why? Let us know what you think of the situation in the comment section below.

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An F1 fan since 1972, NC has spent over 25 years in the technology industry and as a CTO, he focuses on technology integration in commercial workspace design, AV systems integration, digital media strategies, technology planning, consulting, speaking, presenting, sales, content strategy, marketing and brand building.
  • Mike Steck

    I don’t mind it. Schumi had many years sometimes winning a lap ahead of everyone with no competition. Senna, JYS the same at times. Red Bull saw not even Mark threatening Vettel most years, only Lewis would drive at the level many times to threaten Vettel from walking away it the spoils. So, Merc did their homework and teams will catch up, but for me the battle between the two Merc’s is much more fascinating and closer than the Red Bulls ever were in the last few years.

  • X

    Nobody booed Vettel last year because he was dominating. They booed him because he’s an arrogant, obnoxious, petulant manchild with a ridiculous sense of entitlement. I’ll remind you that the Second Coming of Schumacher here is a man who has on several occasions lost control of his car because he couldn’t get past someone and was once heard on team radio begging his engineer to make a driver from another team let him past. Two of his four WDCs also came only because Toro Rosso drivers let him past uncontested. He isn’t a racer; he’s a time trialist.

    Lewis, on the other hand, has a lot of good will. He should have won the WDC in 2007 – only McLaren’s failure to pit him in China prevented it – and as Mike Steck says above he’s been a hard competitor in the “Vettelreich” years. A lot of people want him to win that second WDC to prove 2008 wasn’t a fluke, and if he dominates then that’s OK. Nobody wants the title to be decided in Abu Dhabi by Bernie’s cretinous double-points rule.

  • patrick

    The Vettel-bashing is getting a little old in my respectful opinion. You don’t become a 4 time champion on the merits of the car alone. I was upset after Multi 21 – being an Aussie, and more recently “tough luck.” But that’s Formula 1. Playing the game has always, and always will be a part of the sport. You don’t pull 4th place from a 15 placed gridslot out of your hindquarters. It takes skill to do. So fair being fair let’s give the man his dues.

    It’ll be easy for people to enjoy Hamilton’s GP wins, for a period of time. It depends on how long Mercedes can keep this up. Obviously the pitch was made to Lewis, “you won’t win today, but soon.” Not sure if it’s worth remembering that Lewis has had his fair share of boy band moments while with McLaren.

    Vettel might raise his index finger somewhat obnoxiously when he wins, but he is as yet, to resort to whinging on Twitter about suspected unfair treatment.

  • I am enjoying the ‘Vettel vs Ricciardo’ and the ‘Alonso vs Räikkönen’ and the ‘Massa vs Bottas’ intra-team battles way too much in the 2014 twitchy formula 1 cars to be that upset about Mercedes team’s utter F1 domination at the moment. The Hamilton vs Rosberg intra-team battle being just as epic. I like seeing drivers have to ‘drive’ the cars again and have the changing of oversteer and understeer and torque slip play with these guys in corners they never used to even take any cautionary notice.

    So the results of order don’t really buzz me as much as the gauntlets being thrown down between team mates. I ask you all… Who knew Daniel Ricciardo would be harrying Seb Vettel so much in season #1 at Redbull. I sure as heck didn’t. I was expecting more fireworks between Kimi and Fernando. Call me pleasantly surprised as a DR supporter.

    • Jack F., Ricciardo’s been a revelation. Based upon last year, I expected him to be pretty fast in qualifying, somewhat innocuous in the race, and completely overpowered by Vettel on the team/personality front.

      Instead, he’s proven fast and consistent in both race and quail, and for me most surprisingly composed under pressure, assertive yet balanced. Ricciardo’s saying all the right things with an ease, grace, and effortlessness, unlike the robots or emotional children comprising most of the grid. He’s stamped his foot down on his vaunted teammate on the track and in team dynamics, but sans the public contentiousness many do to prop themselves. How great was Ricciardo’s phrasing “We’re losing time like this, we need to decide what to do” in Melbourne?

      Ricciardo’s free practice feedback and race status updates sound to my non-pro ears as informative, concise, non-whiney, he’s appeared racy-yet patient… the press jokes about his big smile, but really, on track and off, he looks like he belongs in F1. What a great future ambassador.

  • PeterFan

    “Lewis, on the other hand, has a lot of good will.”
    I do beg your pardon! We are talking about the same person that seriously lost form over his exGF issues, posted tons of BS on Twitter both about his team and teammate and made public car telemetry.

    Still I do have my sympathies for him. But saying that Vettel is “arrogant, obnoxious, petulant manchild”, while LH is not … is a nonsense. Both of them are primadonas, same as Schimi, same as Alonso, same as probably many of F1 world champions.

  • I never moaned about Vettel’s domination, rather I moaned about Mercedes lack of speed. If the others are doing a better job, I can respect that.

    At least this year is shaping up to sport a duel for the title.

  • I’m loving the show; to be fair, being non-partisan helps.

    More to the point, for those in the US bored by the season or Merc’s dominance, may I suggest listening to a race via BBC?

    As my UK friend’s Slingbox died, I recorded the NBC’s broadcast just in case. Luckily he grabbed a new one, but as I still had the race on my DVR, decided to re-watch the last 20-ish laps, as I was surprised many found this race dull.

    For us Americans, I get it now; there was no sector to sector timing callouts between Lewis/Nico, a prediction on how Nico might gain on Lewis through T3 because the latter was too jumpy on the throttle. No pre-overtake driving line guesswork on Vettel v. Bottas. When the cameras shifted to Alonso overtaking Raikkonen, no alternative (ultimately false) theories on why Alonso allowed 1st right again. Unlike the British broadcast watched earlier, there was precious little color commentary on the psychological battle being waged between the Merc cockpits, no guesswork that Lewis felt a momentum shift according to his pitfalls.

    In short, I found little analysis or insight in the presentation, much of it merely adjective-laden viscera. It wasn’t that NBC’s commentators were wrong or right in comparison (in fact much of what Sky presents fails occur; the nature of guesswork), it’s that the Brit broadcast presented the race more interactively, an event rather than a show.

    I followed Peter Riva’s advice and listened to the BBC radio broadcast of China; riveting, despite no visuals and minimal sounds. Perhaps many bored w/ the racing or Merc’s domination might try different (legal :D) content streams. I personally am the type that’s satisfied w/ online lap trackers/driving line graphs etc., but understand many want a more passive experience, so perhaps watching the NBC video while listening to BBC’s Radio broadcast.

    I’m curious if this would help some.

    • UAN

      spot on assessment. Not all broadcasts are the same, nor do they articulate the true nature / excitement of the competition going on in front of them. Unfortunately viewers don’t see beyond that, especially if they don’t have any alternative sources for comparison. In the US, a viewer is able to watch football or basketball with different announcing teams and networks and knows which ones they prefer or hate, etc.

      To give them the benefit of the doubt, the NBC broadcasting teams suffers from being stuck in a studio thousands of miles from the track. They also lose out on many of the nuances of each years F1 story lines since they aren’t in daily contact, off the record, with all the different players in the paddock. I’d be curious if they even watch all of FP1-3 (except when they are broadcasting them as apparently they are now).

  • The argument I see in this article is a fandom issue. As alluded, I don’t actively root for a driver team above all others, so I want to see competitiveness and interesting technology. For me therefore, the fights between teammates, between teams closely bunched (behind Merc), and the thrill of just how far Merc can outpace the field or conversely how close RBR can get is amazing.

    If I had a favorite or “hated” an institution/driver, I might cheer more or throw my remote at the screen, but I wouldn’t accuse the sport of being dull. Dull to me is unchanging tech regs leading to tiny performance differentiators, athletes performing below their maximum skill levels, and acknowledged hierarchy amongst teammates; read 2012-2014, It has nothing to do w/ who is battling at the front; the battles (plural) are what matter.

    We all watch F1 for different reasons, but I wonder if some are less a fan of the sport and more of an entity within it. Nothing wrong w/ that, I dislike basketball but watch March Madness for the office pool/social aspect.

    Even if a homer for one, the sport itself can be appreciated; those w/ long enough memories remember the epic ’88 season; whether a Prose or Senna fan, or perhaps a Williams or Ferrari fan, that season’s universally regarded as a classic. One team absolutely walked away w/ the championship, and if memory serves, there was little else discussed, unlike 2014, yet the drama on and offtrack of a single team, 2 drivers, made it compelling. I feel we’re pretty darned lucky having so many talking points and so many interesting on-track visuals this year.

    • UAN

      The one problem with the Prost/Senna analogy is that while it’s easy enough to slot Hamilton into that (with HAM in the Senna role), it’s much harder to put Rosberg into the Prost role. It feels a bit more Mansel / Patrese in ’92.

      • …maybe even Piquet / Mansell 87. Or sticking with the theme of Patrese as second fiddle, how about Piquet / Patrese 83 ?
        Not sure I would equate to either driver pairings on personality as much as dynamic. My brain doesnt allow me to reminisce too much about Piquet. There’s an auto shut off mechanism.

      • Good comparisons both, UAN and Nofahz. I unfortunately don’t remember the era in detail; ’88 only due to the widespread press coverage here. As Grace laments, I miss Speed TV’s re-airing of past Grands Prix/seasons. It was a wonderful way to connect to the sports histories. Sky and I believe BBC does it; I wonder if it’s a licensing issue, or ambivalence on NBC’s part.

        • I believe FOM told Speed to cease and desist for licensing reasons. Most of the 80’s I followed at the time via race reports in magazines. Even Live TV was really edited highlights after the fact. Ah the good ole days

  • The Captain

    Yea, “frustrated” is the right word for me.

    While everyone loves to compare the Merc domination to that of past Red Bull’s they are distinctly different, with the Merc one having the potential to be much more total, and for longer.

    RB dominated because they had the best chassis design and could keep it up, Merc is dominating because they have the best engine. (yes there is knock on effects to chassis design, but as I say, it’s the engine stupid). Now during RB domination the old Ron Denis adage it’s up to us to get better applied to everyone. But under the engine regs, that’s not the case, the rules prevent that. Once the engines where revealed Renault can’t look at the split turbo design and say “wow that’s a great idea, lets do it” (or get other ideas) and then develop their engine to match. BUT Merc CAN look at at say RB chassis and say “wow that’s a great idea, lets do it” and then actually do it. Any advantage a competitor gets on Merc in chassis design, can be usurped and neutralized by Merc, but Mercs engine advantage can’t be by anyone else. The Merc cars have a baked in advantage now by the rules.

    This would be like say… when the Brawn came out with the double diffuser, there was a rule in place that before the start of the season the rear defusers are to be homologated and the other teams could only change theirs slightly after each year for safety, for the next 5 years…. everyone would still be looking at the back of a Brawn. Would fans really have liked that after two years?

    • Dave

      Those Power Unit rules were ‘baked in’ by the teams, all of whom were convinced that they had an advantage that they wanted to protect. As someone recently said on team radio, “Tough Luck.”

      • Sammy

        On the topic of rules and advantages, anyone else thinking the Mercs have figured out a way of implementing traction control through highly sophisticated system mappings to manage all three power generating systems or am I stating the obvious here? For example if traction control is banned through the engine mapping would the teams not implement it through the mapping of the other power generating units like the electric unit? Possibly even managed by the driver after heaving breaking? Almost 2 sec a lap is huge, and they don’t go through their tires like the others? Sounds like a pretty efficient way of getting the power to the tarmac.

        • A good question; for once IMO, FIA has sufficiently covered off loopholes. Regs here:
          http://www.fia.com/sites/default/files/regulation/file/1-2014%20TECHNICAL%20REGULATIONS%202014-01-23.pdf

          -Technical Regulation 9.3 “prohibits any system or device” that prevents “driven wheels from spinning under power or of compensating for excessive torque demand by the driver.” In other words, the system will deliver power commensurate to the throttle pedal.

          There’s more if one want to get anorak-y.

          TR 5.5 in its entirety deals with throttle input and signal linearity and timing. Basically, throttle opening must conform to pedal travel on a fixed scale w/ a finite delay.

          -TR 9.91 prohibits L/R side torque splitting save for the differential

          -TR 5.2.3 mandates MGU-K (the torque to wheels portion of ERS) be fixed to ICE via a fixed ratio to the engine crank.

          -TR 5.2.4 fixes MGU-H to turbine speed ratio (regen braking re: traction control)

          -TR 8.6.2/3 defines how driver inputs (like throttle/brake) are interpreted /controlled by ECU.

          I think FIA covered all the bases, save for variable geometry generator fan blades, but as they spin so quickly anywhere, and there’s no way to control the MGU’s functions outside those FIA outlines, it’s a dead end IMO.

          Sidenote: While looking at the regs, saw Variable intake trumpets again allowed 2015 (5.9.3). By evening out intake path lengths to the combustion chambers, the teams could manipulate the torque curves further, perhaps promoting even more efficient turbo and ERS usage. With cylinder deactivation as well, some neat games can be played w/ power delivery. Not fully relevant here, just interesting.

      • The Captain

        No, they’re baked in by cost cutting rules by the FIA. Not all the teams where “convinced that they had an advantage” as RB tried to get a merc contract before having to settle with Renault for instance.

        But my point is that even your “Tough Luck.” argument glazes over the fact that the teams (or actually the engine suppliers) are not allowed by rule to develop their tech in the same way the teams can with the chassis. That doesn’t site well with me on a competitive front.

        I don’t care if Renault or Ferrari loose in development, I just care that they are allowed to compete.

        • Well, the rules were unanimously agreed upon where they not? So there’s no point moaning about those rules after the fact.

          Having said that, I do agree that in a perfect world, engine development would be free. I’d totally support that despite being a Mercedes fan, particularly because I think the engine should be the most important part of a car or at the very least be equal to aero.

  • Rik

    I don’t have a problem with Mercedes, nor Hamilton for that matter, winning the races. The spoils go to those which are smartest.

    I only wonder if the Mercedes Engines customer get the exact engine and power that the team Mercedes gets? It seems that the Mercedes team is miles ahead of even their customer’s cars with the “SAME” engine? The engine is damn good as it even made this years McLaren look better than last year and the same can be said for Williams.

    The only problem that I can see with this situation is that come 2015 everyone is going to be bidding to get their hands onto a Mercedes engine. Is this possible? Red Bull tried to get them before going to Renault and McLaren veto’d that from happening. Would it, could it happen in 2015 too?

    • Bob

      When Mercedes supplies an engine to a customer, I assume that they must also supply the turbo and its motor/generator unit, as well as the main kenetic energy motor/generator unit. Would they also supply the Storage Unit? What about the engine management software? And, if they supply the software, does it include the stuff that makes the rear brakes work?
      I am thinking that Vettel’s team made big improbements in that braking area. I also think that the Merc advantage might well be in the brake by wire stuff.

    • First of all, I don’t think that this is necessarily the case. The engine manufacturers can update their designs by 2015 and my guess would be that they copy all those neat Mercedes tricks which should level the playing field. Secondly, I don’t think Mercedes is planning to add another customer. Though the vacant McLaren spot will surely be very interesting. Red Bull would probably love to jump in, but I can’t see Mercedes prepping up its biggest competitor.

      • Rik

        We all know they can update the engines but my question is are the engines that the “Factory Mercedes Team” races the EXACT same as the engines that McLaren (doubtful as they are afraid if Honda), FI and Williams are getting to race?

        Being that Honda is currently racing a “similar” engine in the states, they might not be that far off when they enter F1 in 15′, however, Honda is unwilling to supply more than one team for the 15′ season. Talk is that Honda has already been to the McLaren factory inspecting the Mercedes engine so one would think Mercedes would hold back their best from that team but is that what McLaren are paying for with their engine lease payments?

        I think Mercedes are racing Engine “A” and supplying engine “B” to their customer teams. Lapping up to 6th place is more than just a chassis as even RB was never even close to that dominate in the past 4 years.

        • The homologation rules are pretty darned strict, block/crank, induction/valvetrain, pressure charger (turbo), ERS component blocks. There’s maneuver room for ancillaries like exhaust, wiring, and of course actual software tuning, but that’s the purview of the team anyway.

          For better or worse, the days of lower-spec customer engines is IMO gone.

          • Rik

            With the up spring in Renault since Melbourne I think there is plenty that can be done to the exact same engine to make more or less power. I am not talking about blocks, cranks and such as those are what those are and power is generated and controlled by factors that are no physically visible to the eye.

            Funny, RB claim’d that their fuel supplier for this grand prix alone would make more power. There are so many variables that there is a fine line between good and great. Look no further than Renault and Ferrari. Repeating what we all ready know but they all have the same bore/stroke/cc combination as that was dictated by the FIA.

            When you compete against your customers who do you really want to win?

          • Absolutely, but your posit was about the Power Unit being supplied to the teams. Merc don’t tune how -H transfers energy, nor does it provide the fuel. The teams code their own software, affix the unit to their specific chassis’ constraints, bolt the bespoke ancillaries required.

            Yes, there’s much to be done on the power/efficiency front, even in this homologated formula. However, it has little to do w/ the actual 1.6L V6 Turbo nor the physical ERS components supplied; those units, as I read the regs, are pretty close to identical.

  • Rapierman

    I don’t think it’s so much the lack of Vettel as it is the prevalence of a different driver who also has potential….and is currently “in the zone”.

    • Rik

      I think Vettel had has the best race of any driver in Spain. No one went from so far back to so far forward as Vettel did this weekend. No one can say he was outraced by his teammate this weekend.

      Fastest race Lap
      11 Race positions forward
      Passed a lot of cars, some twice even.

      Maybe the old chassis is better than the newer one Vettel raced previously?

  • dude

    Too many comments, didn’t read.

    I am enjoying it so far because: Lewis is favorite driver, there is actually competition between the two drivers, wasn’t so much the case with Vettel vs Webber imo. I also like seeing how Vettel and Red Bull will struggle to get back up to the top.

  • Rik

    Well after reading Grandprix247 I think I was on to something.

    http://www.grandprix247.com/2014/05/14/red-bull-not-interested-in-switch-to-mercedes-power/

    Apparently I am not alone in thinking Mercedes will give a different power level to their customers than they race with themselves.

    • I’m pretty sure that’s bogus. They all get the same equipment. At the most, I could see the works team getting an update first if there are bottle necks, so that a customer may have to wait one race longer. However, there are still many advantages to being the works team of course as you have a lot more information about the engine and you have it much earlier. Red Bull is the de facto Renault works team, so they get all those advantages and apparently they feel that these advantages outweigh the weaker engine (relative to Mercedes).

  • Rik

    Possibly. Reading for what it’s worth stated that McLaren is getting things well after the works have them and this can have serious ramifications. Mercedes made a new compact exhaust that others didn’t get for several races. ??

    • They had the exhaust from the beginning. There were rumors that Mercedes didn’t disclose the single log exhaust manifold until right before the first season test, but then it was revealed that everyone got the specifications at the end of 2013.