Mercedes is now known as one of the best teams in Formula One. They have 8 titles over the last decade alone. What is the team’s track record and what have they achieved so till date?
The team is currently having problems with the car’s performance. Can Mercedes come out of these issues and start winning Championships again?
Mercedes made their Formula One debut in 1954 under the name of Mercedes-Benz. They had Juan Manuel Fangio, who had already won a World Championship with Alfa Romeo. Fangio and Mercedes had success almost immediately. This was before the introduction of the World Constructor’s Championship.
Fangio won the WDC in 1954 by almost 17 points. This was a huge margin at the time. Ferrari’s Jose Froilan Gonzalez came in second place. Fangio’s teammate, Karl Kling finished in 5th place with 12 points. In 1955, Fangio once again won the Championship by 17 points. This time, however, his new teammate, Stirling Moss, came in 2nd place.
After the 1955 season, the team withdrew its name from all motorsport events, including Formula One. This was mainly due to the 1955 Le Mans Disaster which occurred on June 11th. The disaster took the life of Mercedes Driver Pierre Levegh along with 80 spectators. This was one of the saddest moments in Motorsport history.
The Return of Mercedes
Mercedes made its return to Formula One in 2010 out of the ashes of Brawn GP, which was owned and managed by Ross Brawn. Ross Brawn continued to manage the team even after it was rebranded as Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team. The team was not able to maintain the driver they had as Brawn GP in 2009 which was Jenson Button and Rubens Barichello. Instead, they got Nico Rosberg and 7-time World Champion Michael Schumacher who came out of retirement to join the team.
The team was not nearly as competitive as Brawn GP in 2009. The 2010 season proved that the team had a lot of work to do. Coming out of retirement, Schumacher was not nearly as quick as he was before his first retirement. However, he played a huge part in giving feedback about the car to the team to improve. A driver with that much experience will always know what a car needs and what a car does not need.
The team came in 4th position in the WCC during the 2010 and 2011 seasons. In the 2012 season, they finished 5th behind the Lotus F1 team. During the 2012 season, Schumacher announced his second and final retirement from Formula 1. This left Mercedes with an open seat for the 2013 season.
Mercedes signed World champion Lewis Hamilton from the 2013 season onwards. This would prove to be a vital move for the team. Mercedes had a few wins during the 2013 season and placed 2nd in the Championship. This was a huge improvement for the team compared to where they were a year back. Toto Wolff was also brought in to lead the team from the 2013 season onwards.
Domination of the Silver Arrows
The 2014 season marked as the beginning of a new era in Formula One – The Turbo-Hybrid Era. From the beginning of the season, it was clear that Mercedes had the best car on the grid. Mercedes won 16 out of the 19 races in the 2014 calendar. The other 3 races were won by Daniel Ricciardo in the Red Bull. They won the championship finishing 296 points ahead of Red Bull in second place. This was the biggest winning margin of any team in F1 history. Lewis Hamilton took the driver’s Championship for the 2014 season.
The 2015 season, showed a similar gap between Mercedes and the other teams. This time again, Mercedes and Lewis Hamilton took home both championships with Mercedes 275 points ahead of Red Bull, and Hamilton 59 points ahead of teammate Nico Rosberg.
The 2016 season was dominated by Mercedes. However, the Driver’s Championship was not so easily decided. During the 2016 season, the rivalry between Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg escalated. The battle between the two drivers was like tossing a coin. No one could predict what the outcome would be during each race. The Championship battle had gone over to the last race of the season, which saw Nico Rosberg win his first World Championship.
Shortly after winning the Championship, Rosberg announced his retirement from Formula One, stating that he had accomplished everything he wanted to and he now wanted to spend time with his Family. This meant that there was an open seat on the team once again.
For the 2017 season, Toto Wolff decided to go with Valterri Bottas who raced for Williams in previous years.
During the 2017 and 2018 seasons, Mercedes faced a challenge from the Ferrari team who had Sebastian Vettel behind the wheel. Sebastian Vettel was the only man who was able to challenge Lewis Hamilton in the 2017 and 2018 seasons. Although Vettel came close to putting a stop to Hamilton and Mercedes’ winning streak, he was not able to achieve so.
Mercedes vs Red Bull
Mercedes and Hamilton dominated the sport again for the 2019 and 2020 seasons. In 2021, Red Bull was surprisingly able to keep up with the pace of Mercedes. This saw a few close battles which were at some times clean, and at some times dirty, between Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen. We saw the 2 come together at Silverstone taking out Max Verstappen from the race. We also saw the infamous crash at Monza which took both drivers out.
The championship battle could not be decided until the end of the last race of the season. Before the final weekend, we saw Lewis Hamilton drive incredibly during the Brazilian Grand Prix and in Qatar. At this point, Hamilton had the momentum with him.
The opening lap of the Grand Prix saw Hamilton take the lead from Pole-sitter, Max Verstappen. Hamilton had built a good lead from Verstappen in 2nd place. But an unfortunate safety car near the end of the race saw Max Verstappen right behind Lewis Hamilton with fresher tires. The race was ready to resume with just one lap to go. As the race resumed, Max Verstappen was able to overtake Hamilton at turn 4. We did see Hamilton try to fight back and regain the place at turn 7 but was unable to do so. Max Verstappen had finally put a stop to Hamilton’s streak. However, Mercedes was able to win the WCC making it the 8th consecutive title for the team.
In the end, it went right down to the *very* end
Max Verstappen passes Lewis Hamilton on the final lap of the final race of 2021, to claim the title 👀
What a season
— Formula 1 (@F1) December 12, 2021
The 2020 season also marked the end of Valterri Bottas’ stint with Mercedes. He had moved on to Alfa Romeo. Mercedes had hired George Russell to replace Bottas. Russell is one of the young and talented drivers on the grid.
Dark ages for Mercedes
The FIA introduced a lot of regulation changes going into the 2022 season. The regulations made it easier for teams to follow closely to the car in front. This would offer better chances at overtakes and would be more entertaining for the fans. The 2022 regulations also saw an engine freeze which would be applicable until the end of the 2025 season.
Mercedes was not able to cope well with the regulation changes. Red Bull and Ferrari, however, were able to build a fast car. This put Mercedes in a spot they had not been in a while. Mercedes was now the team that was chasing, not the ones that are being chased.
Towards the end of the season, they seemed to have made some progress in catching up to the Red Bulls. They even won the Brazilian Grand Prix with George Russell. This gave fans some hope going into the 2023 season. But the team had again fallen behind for the 2023 season. They are again behind Red Bull and Aston Martin, who have made a surprise appearance at the top of the points table. The team is hopeful that they will be able to develop the car and compete for championships soon.
There is no doubt that Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes have achieved great things over the last decade. It will take some time for a team and driver to achieve something similar again.
The above table shows the list of accomplishments of each driver with the Mercedes team till the end of the 2022 season. Lewis Hamilton had been the star driver for Mercedes.