Mercedes have been the best at F1 for a few years now, but that just got upset at Monaco, with Daniel Ricciardo beating Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg to pole in the Monaco Grand Prix.
Back in March, at the Melbourne GP, I had the opportunity to sit down with Head of Motorsport at Mercedes-Benz Motorsport, Toto Wolff and asked how they ensure they find the right balance between pushing hard enough to maintain their top spot, without pushing into unreliability.
Since then, Mercedes has struggled, particularly with Hamilton’s reliability.
In Australia, Hamilton had a terrible start and struggled his way to 2nd. I Bahrain, he was spun by contact from Valtteri Bottas and managed to finish a 3rd position.
China was one of the worst races in years, with Hamilton managing just 7th after starting last, as a result of failing to set a qualifying time after engine problems.
In Russia, Hamilton again faulted in qualifying, making it to just 10th as a result of not setting a time after a power unit failure ruled him out of Q3.
The Spanish Grand Prix is now famous for the race where the Mercedes driver’s took each other out of the race on the first lap, With a DNF, the championship of 2016 is quickly getting away from Hamilton.
You can resolve some of these poor results as a symptom of bad luck, or wrong place, wrong time, however much of the struggle has been a result of engine issues. Formula 1 engines are amazingly complex machines and when you push things to the extreme, the margin for error is razor thin. When you push hard to stay ahead of approaching competitors, sometimes you push to far, or stretch your staff too far, so it’s interesting to hear Wolff talk about this back at the first race of the season.