Team and driver review and rating: Mercedes
With the season done and dusted and the holidays just around the corner, it's time for Motorsport Week's annual team-by-team review and ratings.
This week we'll run through first to fifth in the championship, starting with Mercedes, before running down from sixth to tenth next week.
Mercedes began 2018 with the fastest package but under renewed pressure from Ferrari – a near-repeat of 2017. Early setbacks compromised its prospects, and a rare double DNF in Austria was a blow, but as ever it learned from its low moments, continued to cultivate a culture of openness and honesty, and consequently reaped the rewards. It had the best car – for most of the campaign – but it would have meant little without being the best team – which it was. There were still mistakes but they were few and far between in a season of such intensity. The celebrations in Brazil, and Abu Dhabi, demonstrated just how much pressure they’d been under in 2018. And they delivered.
If they were a football team they’d be: Manchester City. They have deep resources but what they do with them is mighty impressive. Just when they appear to have peaked, they improve.
|Best Race: Japan, where they exerted a level of dominance more reminiscent of 2014-16||Worst Race: Austria, where a rare double mechanical failure struck|
It is not grandeur to suggest that Lewis Hamilton’s title-winning campaign was one of the finest in Formula 1 history. He reached a new level in 2017 and yet somehow continued to iron out the weaknesses and emerge as a stronger and more rounded driver in 2018. The chinks in his armoury are almost impossible to find. He is the best qualifier, probably the best racer, keeps cool under pressure and the best in the wet. He has fulfilled the potential that was evident during the nascent days of his career. For a couple of months mid-season he operated on an extraordinarily high plateau. Worryingly for his rivals, he still believes he can improve.
Where to improve: Starting the season stronger would be of benefit, but when he kicks in it makes any early losses irrelevant.
Surprising Stat: Hamilton’s win in Germany marked the first time since 2008 that a driver had triumphed from as low as 14th on the grid.
|Best Race: Spain. France. Germany. Hungary. Italy. Singapore. Brazil. Abu Dhabi. Take your pick.||Worst Race: Unusually subdued in both China and Canada.|
Had fortune and circumstance fallen correctly for Valtteri Bottas then he could have finished the year with as many as five wins, perhaps even more. But it didn’t, and he didn’t, and that he failed to triumph at any Grand Prix was more down to astonishing twists of fate rather than his own ability. Yes, he had a subdued season with several setbacks – and was below par through the final events – but he wasn’t that bad. He has the fortune of being at a front-running team, but the misfortune of being there when one of Formula 1’s greats is sitting across the garage.
Where to improve: Difficult one. His performance was better, but the bunched front-runners meant he was often on the wrong side of the fence. A little more aggression in battle wouldn’t go amiss.
Surprising Stat: Bottas led eight races and set seven fastest laps – without taking a single win
|Best Race: Russia. He should have won. Alas...||Worst Race: Brazil was fairly abject.|