Mercedes No Longer Considered A Top Team?

2024 Chinese Grand Prix, Friday - Lewis Hamilton
2024 Chinese Grand Prix, Friday - Lewis Hamilton

Mercedes can only “partially” claim to still being a truly top Formula 1 team, according to former grand prix winner Ralf Schumacher.

The German marque utterly dominated the sport throughout the initial ‘hybrid’ regulations era between 2014 and 2021.

But three consecutive seasons of sub-standard performance in the current rules era have now cost Mercedes the services of Lewis Hamilton, who is moving to Ferrari from 2025.

However, Schumacher told Sport Bild magazine that Hamilton’s slump is not all Mercedes’ fault.

“Obviously he’s no longer the youngest,” said the former Williams and Toyota driver, “and it shows. Like many older drivers, he no longer seems to engage with the car and adapt his driving style.

Schumacher thinks Hamilton’s departure may even help Mercedes.

“As the saying goes, a new broom sweeps clean,” he said. “It seems as if a little trust has been lost over time, but now we’ll see who gets that cockpit.”

Wolff’s teenage protege Kimi Antonelli has been testing the 2022 Mercedes car at Imola this week – which was the first sub-standard car amid the current slump.

“Only partially,” Schumacher told Sport Bild when asked if Mercedes is still a top team.

“They have one of the best, if not the best, engines in Formula 1. And yet they are not capable of winning because there are problems in other areas such as aerodynamics. That’s why their customer teams like McLaren are currently beating them.

“This is not the fault of Daimler CEO Ola Kallenius,” Ralf added. “It’s Toto Wolff’s responsibility to ensure that everything is working.”

Mercedes will unveil key car upgrades this weekend in Miami, but even Wolff is not sounding very optimistic.

“We don’t really know what to expect because it’s been a tricky season so far,” he said at a promotional event in New York. “Let’s see what the stopwatch says.”

When asked if it’s too early to write Mercedes off, Schumacher agreed: “That will become clear when the team makes the first improvements to the car in Miami.

“But slowly, you lose faith and trust that they really know what they’re doing. It starts with the development of the car but it’s also about the strategy in the races and other things.

“Mercedes is in a very critical situation,” the 48-year-old added. “We’ve often seen dominant teams that lost their way and couldn’t find their way back.”

Even amid Red Bull’s worsening internal situation at present, it certainly doesn’t seem likely that Max Verstappen will leap at Toto Wolff’s offer of a 2025 cockpit.

“It depends how the power struggle at Red Bull develops,” said Schumacher, “but Mercedes is still an attractive alternative and possibly the best one.

“Toto Wolff can offer him a princely salary, but also lucrative contracts for the time after his career. Mercedes’ engine helps as well, but the immediate sporting perspective will be even more important for Verstappen.”

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