In Spain, Mercedes’ mistake afforded Red Bull the opportunity to snatch victory. Just two weeks later it was Red Bull who, having dominated the weekend, made a costly error to allow Lewis Hamilton the opportunity to take his 44th race win.
Such is the speed at which fortunes can change in motorsport, pole sitter Daniel Ricciardo saw his maiden win at the Principality slip away, when a miscommunication between pit wall and garage saw him arrive in his pit-box, while his mechanics were still fumbling over which compound of slick tyres to fit.
Elation on Saturday became heartbreak on Sunday for the Aussie.
Mercedes’ Barcelona test schedule has been modified ahead of the second day’s running, as reserve driver Pascal Wehrlein has replaced Esteban Ocon, who was billed to get his first outing for the Silver Arrows on Wednesday. Mercedes have cited the fact that they wanted a “driver with race experience” to complete a programme which involves testing of development parts.
The late change is a rather telling move by the reigning champions.
Ever since F1’s regulations were overhauled ahead of the 2014 F1 season, Mercedes have been the class of the field. A brace of Drivers’ and Constructors’ titles have been achieved in dominant fashion, with 701 and 703 points amassed by the team in 2014 and 2015 respectively. While 2016 has seen Nico Rosberg claim four victories from a possible four and Mercedes secure two one-two finishes, unreliability has hindered them, particularly on Lewis Hamilton’s side of the garage.
Following accusations that the team are deliberately favouring Rosberg this season, Mercedes have written an open letter to the fans looking to quell the speculation.
The first of 63 days of competitive on-track action this season was somewhat of a teaser. Limited running in Melbourne due to inclement conditions has meant that the pecking order remains a mystery for yet another day.
As such, it is still unclear whether Mercedes will have enough of an advantage over Ferrari in order for the 2016 title fight to be a third straight tussle between Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg – a duel in which the latter has emerged as second best in both 2014 and 2015. In short, if the W07 is the pre-eminent force of the 2016 field, Rosberg must win his maiden title this year.
The first pre-season test came to a close on Thursday and early assertions in regards to the probable pecking order are being established. While the ultimate performance of many packages is yet unclear, Mercedes seem in good stead to enter Melbourne with the strongest package after bullet-proof reliability saw them complete an astonishing 675 laps over four days.
There incredible start to 2016 with the W07 has led Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo to concede that they are already out of reach – at least in the opening rounds of the season.
Mercedes have been the dominant force on track during the past two years and this week, they have managed to take a stranglehold on the pre-season discussion with an excellent launch of their 2016 challenger, the W07. An on-board video recorded and published on a filming day, followed by an inventive “hyperrealistic” drawing published online and concluding with images of the car posted online this morning marks a long W07 launch campaign.
It has been quite the build up to the unveiling of a car which Mercedes hope can guide them to a third successive constructors crown.
Former Mercedes reserve driver and 2015 DTM Champion Pascal Wehrlein will make his F1 debut in Melbourne, as he is about to embark on a maiden campaign at Manor Racing. The minnows, who escaped the clutches of administration as Marussia at the end of 2014, are looking to move up the grid this season. With Wehrlein’s talent pairing with what has become a strong and experienced team of engineers, Manor are well equipped for a marked improvement.