F1 teams had to balance the work on this year’s cars with the effort needed to maximize the potential of next season’s challengers.
And while Red Bull continued until the end of the season with upgrades to its RB16B, Mercedes decided to stop work on its W12 early enough to focus on its future project.
The team felt they couldn’t risk falling behind with the 2022 car, although they recognized there was a risk of being overdeveloped on the track this year.
But, although Red Bull enjoyed a phase before the summer break where he was clearly the leader, since the Belgian Grand Prix Mercedes turned the tide.
Valtteri Bottas won the sprint race at Monza before taking victory in the Turkish Grand Prix, while Lewis Hamilton won in Russia.
For Mercedes, more important than the results is the fact that the team remain so competitive – because this was the phase of the campaign where they feared they would be left behind.
Track Technical Director Andrew Shovlin said: “We had good form in the dry, and showed good rhythm in the wet, and it looks like a car that can win championships.
“If you go back to the beginning of the year with the decisions that were made on development, trying to balance the two years, one of our concerns was at the end of the year, will we still be able to hold on? the car on pole, to get a front row lockout and to control a race?
“It’s really reassuring that we are getting into the last six and we have shown that we have a package that can qualify them. [Red Bull] on a Saturday and surpass them on a Sunday. “
Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes W12, in the pit lane
Photo by: Jerry Andre / Motorsport Images
However, although the indications seem positive, the team suggested that a ‘Goldilocks’ scenario with their tires in Turkey left them aware that their pace might not be as strong everywhere against Red Bull.
Technical director James Allison concedes that Mercedes’ form in Turkey was potentially flattered that its tires were in an ideal position all weekend, rather than suffering from a handling imbalance like other equipment.
“One of our engineers this weekend spoke of the tires as being in a kind of golden loop this weekend: neither too hot nor too cold on particularly difficult asphalt,” he said.
“We knew we were very strong, but we also knew that the margins between that strength and being more average were pretty thin. A few degrees here or there and we could have been in the Goldilocks zone on the hot or cold side. .
“So it was a very good performance, the car was very well balanced, we didn’t seem to suffer as much from understeer which was quite common in the pit lane this weekend. But I don’t think that you might read that automatically in future races. “
Allison believes that a much better indication of the team’s potential against Red Bull comes from examining the trend of more recent events – her team only really lagging behind at the Dutch Grand Prix.
“At Silverstone we put a decent upgrade package on our car, and that kind of made our season a happier place,” he said.
“In the races since then I think there has only been one where we have been completely beaten and that was Zandvoort. Out of the others I think we probably overshadowed it with the car fastest and in a few places like Istanbul and Sochi we were really good, Monza too good too.
“On average I think we’ve shaded it, but in most places we’ve been the fastest car it’s been more of a draw than a guarantee. I think that is it. means that we are at least in the fight. “