Formula One’s managing director of motorsport Ross Brawn has tipped Mercedes to extend its advantage at the front of the field next year.
Since the introduction of the current engine regulations in 2014, Mercedes has won four consecutive championships and 62 of the 79 F1 grands prix. A change of aerodynamic regulations between 2016 and 2017 saw the team come under threat from Ferrari this year, but Mercedes still finished the season 146 points clear at the top of the constructors’ standings.
The Brackley-based team also weathered the surprise retirement of Nico Rosberg over the winter as well as a major shakeup at the top of its technical department with Paddy Lowe leaving for Williams and Jame Allison joining from Ferrari. Brawn, who was the architect of the team’s rise to the top during his time as Mercedes team principal between 2010 and 2013, is concerned his old team could restore an even bigger gap over its rivals next year.
“They’ve got a great group of people, but my slight worry is that they will get even stronger now,” he told ESPN on the red carpet at the Autosport Awards. “They’ve had a change of senior management — Paddy Lowe left and James Allison came — and that was in the middle of a car [regulation] change, which is not easy.
“By their own admission, the car they had this year was a bit of a diva and I strongly suspect that’s not going to be the case next year. So I just see — unfortunately in many ways — a continuation of the steamroller. Let’s hope I’m wrong!”
While Mercedes dominance has often been cited as a turn off for fans, a lack of wheel-to-wheel racing at the final round in Abu Dhabi was also a cause for concern. Brawn believes the balance of the season was not bad from an overtaking perspective, but has promised to introduce regulations that help contribute towards better racing.
“We have to keep a balanced view. We had some great races this season, so Abu Dhabi wasn’t the greatest, but we had some great races this year. I think it’s a combination of the circuits, the cars we have, the drivers and how competitive everyone is, so I’m optimistic we can have a very strong year next year.
“But in terms of changing the cars, in terms of tuning the circuits and in terms of perhaps developing the tyres to help the racing, that is going to take some time. But I think you will see over the next few years that every decision will be made to move in that direction, whereas before that was not always the case. I think I can make a commitment that every sporting and technical decision we take will be in the direction of improving the racing and improving the show.”