Is the Mercedes dominance over? The insiders are wondering after the last eight races, where they won only three times despite their superiority.
Lewis Hamilton and team-mate Valtteri Bottas got beaten twice by Red Bull super talent Max Verstappen (in Austria and Germany), three times by Ferrari (Charles Leclerc in Spa and Monza, Sebastian Vettel in Singapore).
Lewis Hamilton won the last race in Sochi, and that only because Ferrari sabotaged itself. By comparison, in the first eight races of the season, the two Silver Arrows won them all.
“Ferrari has overtaken us in terms of engine power,” Lewis Hamilton commented.
“And they have also improved their car dramatically. Red Bull was good on some tracks. In any case, our superiority is gone.”
Yet, despite the tribulation of the five-time world champion, Mercedes can celebrate a lavish victory party in Suzuka on Sunday. The Silver Arrows can capture both titles at the Japanese Grand Prix five races before the season end.
In the Constructors’ Championship, Mercedes leads comfortably at the moment with 162 points ahead of Ferrari. The maximum score during a race weekend is 44. Keep in mind, this season, there is an additional bonus point for the fastest race lap.
In other words, after Suzuka, Mercedes must have booked 176 points to secure the title, so a double victory would be enough, even without the point for fastest lap.
Mercedes would scoop up 43 points, even with Ferrari scoring the point for the fastest lap, or a maximum of 28 points.
The chances aren’t so bad for that to happen. This season, the Silver Arrows have already achieved that 8 times.
Unfortunately, the last time was at the British Grand Prix in Silverstone. That’s already seven races ago.
Theoretically, Mercedes could secure the driver’s title in Japan as well. For that to happen, the championship leader must only be ahead of Red Bull driver Max Verstappen and the two Ferrari drivers Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc, who seem to keep hindering each other without any help from outside.
Then, only Bottas could challenge Hamilton for his 6th driver’s championship title and that’s, as we all know, very unlikely.
But Hamilton is still skeptical:
“From the last five circuits we can only win in Austin without relying on anyone else. Suzuka, Mexico and Abu Dhabi, Ferrari has a clear advantage.”
However, what Hamilton didn’t consider: In Japan, rain could favor Mercedes. In the wet, Mercedes and Red Bull are clearly superior to the Ferrari because of their better downforce. And with that big Taifun approaching who knows?
*This article was first published in German at autobild.de/motorsport.