As Mercedes sign off the season with a record 12th 1-2 finish in Abu Dhabi, Will Gray asks if Nico Rosberg can put up a fight in 2016, is the Ferrari-Haas deal fair… and should Fernando Alonsohead for the exit?
SHOULD HAMILTON BE WORRIED ABOUT 2016
Nico Rosberg has been on fire since Hamilton won the title; in Abu Dhabu he claimed his sixth consecutive pole and third successive win. It’s a radical switch in form and it shows how finely balanced Mercedes could be in 2016.
So, should Hamilton be worried?
The world champion insists he has been trying as hard as ever since winning the title – and it’s hard to believe that is not the case. But a change to the car seems to have upset his scintillating form.
Rosberg has dominated every qualifying session since the change, which came about when the FIA re-defined the rules on tyre pressures ahead of the Singapore Grand Prix. And now he’s got the hang of winning again, he is bossing Hamilton in races too.
Hamilton claims the set-up changed ‘drastically’, making him uncomfortable with the balance. And it’s put him on the back foot.Hamilton (Mercedes) – GP of Mexico 2015 – Daimler AG
The way Mercedes plays its strategy game, all things are equal and the lead driver gets all the benefit, taking the pick of the pit stop timings and forcing the trailing one onto a less than optimum strategy.
The complete switch in form suggests that the car is on the edge in terms of suiting each driver’s driving style. And the smallest change can have a significant influence on who comes out ahead.
In 2014, we saw just how much of a difference car set-up can make to a driver when four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel was comfortably beaten by his new ‘rookie’ Red Bull team-mate Daniel Riccardo. The car had been modified due to a regulation change, and Vettel was nowhere.
So the big question, with such narrow margins, is will the 2016 Mercedes work for Hamilton or for Rosberg?
For the sake of F1 and its fans, let’s hope it works for both.
TIME FOR ALONSO TO TAKE A SABBATICAL
It’s been a tough season for Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button.
The two world champions have been pedalling around in a car with around 20mph deficit on the straights, making them sitting ducks. Alonso has been vocal in his criticism, calling the Honda a “GP2 engine” in Japan then signing off the season in Abu Dhabi by telling his team over the radio: “If we don’t get a safety car I will retire the car.”
It’s not the way to motivate – and perhaps that is why Ron Dennis decided to make last weekend very difficult for the Spaniard.
McLaren needs all the positive energy it can get in the winter. It needs commitment from the top down. There are signs that Honda are finding a way out of their disaster, but if they don’t then there needs to be some cool heads who are in it for the long term.
Alonso has a long-term contract, but clearly Dennis doesn’t want him sticking around if he’s going to be a bad egg. Nobody does.circuit in Abu Dhabi on November 27, 2015 ahead of the Abu Dhabi Formula One Grand Prix – AFP
Dennis’ offer of a sabbatical, it appears, had been discussed behind closed doors but was not supposed to be dragged into the open.
It makes sense – to the team at least.
Button, a supportive, positive and committed long-term driver could just about handle another development year as he tops up his pension fund. And the team has some good fast youngsters in the wings they need to blood in for the future.
If Honda comes out with another dud, and Alonso’s involvement can be deferred for a year so they still have him in place if they eventually manage to create the tools he needs to show his talent.
But for Alonso, it is perhaps not so clear-cut. Sure, it’s not fun at the back but developing the car to his liking so he has it just where he wants it once the engine makes the grade seems to make more sense.
So perhaps Dennis was playing a political game to get more out of his superstar when he wants it…?
THE FERRARI-HAAS RELATIONSHIP: NOT CHEATING, JUST CLEVER
It’s been the subject of private mutterings all season, but finally Ferrari’s blurred relationship with the incoming American team Haas has been brought into the open.
The Italian giants have raised their game this year and Sebastian Vettel, who won three races and was the only non-Mercedes winner all season, has declared it “a miracle” – but it now seems clear there was a little more than divine intervention.
Ferrari will supply Haas with engines and other approved listed parts next season. They have also seconded some of their team members to support the development process of the new team this season as part of that deal.One GP next November 15th – AFP
It is claimed that arrangement has been used to circumvent wind tunnel and CFD limitations that are imposed on teams that race, but not on non-racing teams. And it seems likely that Ferrari’s own car has benefitted both through this year and, crucially, for 2016.
Mercedes were the ones to question the relationship and boss Toto Wolff said that although Ferrari and Haas didn’t “operate outside the regulations” they interpreted the rules in “the right way.”
But the relationship will also upset the midfielders because Haas will have benefitted from Ferrari knowledge to create their car – and should come straight into the midfield fight.
The FIA has now cut out the loophole – effectively confirming it was an unfair advantage – but cannot do anything about what has been done.
So should the two teams be allowed to use the parts they appear to have developed together?
Well, yes. Why not? Given the opportunity, any team will exploit a loophole when they find it. It’s not cheating. It’s just clever and opportunistic