M ercedes sets a new record. And that in the fourth race of the season. Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton celebrated their fourth double victory in a row in Baku. Nicely distributed with two wins each for both drivers, so that there can be no unrest within the team.
This broke Williams' record from 1992. 17 years ago Nigel Mansell also won the fourth race of the season, but his loyal adjutant Riccardo Patrese threw his car away in the rain of Barcelona after 19 laps. A certain Michael Schumacher came second in a Benetton-Ford.
For Mercedes everything went according to plan again in Azerbaijan. And the Silver Arrows were still 1.5 seconds behind Ferrari in the third practice session, and engineers and drivers puzzled as to where the time had fallen.
Team boss Toto Wolff assured: “We did not specially convert the cars for the qualification , we just decided that we would give the race more weight in the set-up than a fast lap in training. ”True to the motto: If we can't win one, we'll concentrate on the other.
And then suddenly two Silver Arrows stood in the first row. Which was the first key to success on Sunday. It would have been more difficult from the second row.
Mercedes simply reacted better to the falling temperatures in the late afternoon hours of qualifying. The secret: More front wing adjustment to get the front tires to work better in the cold. Ferrari had inflicted this drop in temperature on itself. Charles Leclerc's accident and the clean-up work caused the delays. So the Q3 slipped further and further back. The fastest timeswere driven at 6:53 p.m. local time with a cool 15 degrees outside temperature.
Mercedes with better tactics
Wolff almost had to justify the fact that his cars had already won again. “We don't deliberately badmouth each other. Ferrari was stronger than us in the free practice sessions. Leclerc was the fastest driver on this track in the race. ”
In fact, Mercedes also diligently benefits from Ferrari's involuntary support when winning. Favorite Leclerc shot himself out of the race with his training accident. The idea of wanting to start with the medium tires turned out to be a mistake on race day. Ferrari was lucky that Sebastian Vettel was forced to switch to soft tires after Leclerc's crash.
Mercedes deliberately kept its hands off: “If you start from the front on Medium, you run the risk of soft tires - Force starters with an undercut to pit earlier than intended. You only have good cards with a late SafetyCar. If we had done it, it would only have been with a car. To send both cars out in Q2, on a track with lots of yellow and red flags, borders on suicide. Ferrari exposed itself to a risk that was not necessary given their speed. ”
In retrospect, it was too wrong to give Vettel a free ride in Q3 rather than slipstream. Of course, these thought processes can backfire at the end of the day, but if it was luck, then Mercedes has the luck of the capable at the right time.
Mercedes does not have the best car in the field, but more than anyone else, it is able to almost always achieve its full potential. “This season we have always managed to put the pieces of the puzzle together correctly,” admits Wolff. In terms of vehicle set-up, strategy and drivers. Everyone else makes a mistake here and there. All in all, that's enough to lose a race.
Harmony among Mercedes drivers
The best example of the self-confidence in the team is the behavior of the drivers. That's a much less explosive mix than atFerrari. Bottas and Hamilton went through the first three turns in a parallel flight. Both left enough space. There would have been a crash in many other teams. Later, the Mercedes drivers almost drove themselves to death.
Although Sebastian Vettel and Max Verstappen moved closer from behind, there was no stable management in the last laps either: “We have our drivers once at the beginning of the second stint told them to take care of their tires because we didn't know if they would hold up. But we promised them that they would be able to fight freely in the final laps. Of course, we allowed them to do that, ”said Wolff.
This kind of openness goes down well with the pilots. Hamilton honestly congratulated Bottas on his victory. The Englishman was the faster man, but paid for the lost duel on the starting lap. Hamilton swallows the defeats with unusual composure. As if he knew that he had this Bottas under control for the long term. And that his actual opponents Vettel, Leclerc and Verstappen are already far behind.
And then the race was neutralized at the most critical point in time. Who had the least problems warming up the tires after the VSC phase was lifted? Right, Mercedes. Wolff asserts that one surprised oneself here too. “The fastest driver on the medium tires was Verstappen. You just have to look at how much time he's caught up with us. And then he of all people is missing the grip at the restart. ”
It's a method that Mercedes does everything right more often than the competition. A Mercedes engineer draws a comparison with Ferrari: “Our core team has been together for 18 years. Ferrari has restructured the team around Binotto again. It doesn't help if he's been with Ferrari since the beginning of time. Because restructuring creates unrest. With us, no jobs are questioned. There is a basic level of trust that creates a solid basis on which you can dare to experiment, like now in the qualification when it got colder. Everyone on the team knows that the structure underneath works. Therefore we can react faster to unexpected things. “