F1 2017 Pre-Season Report: Mercedes
Ahead of the opening race of the 2017 Formula One season in Australia on March 26, we take a look at how each team is shaping up for the new campaign.
Mercedes have shown little sign of their dominance being hit by the rule changes in 2017. Can Valtteri Bottas provide Lewis Hamilton with a challenge?
HOW DID THEY PERFORM IN 2016?
The Silver Arrows scored an F1 record 19 wins in the season, which helped them overtake Red Bull on the all-time list as they reached 64 by the end of the campaign. Mercedes also set a new benchmark in pole positions with 20.
Nico Rosberg pipped Hamilton to the title, and then rode off into the sunset to enjoy a shock retirement.
THE 2017 LINE-UP
The three-time world champion believes reliability cost him a fourth crown last season and he will be out to prove he is the top dog once again. If Ferrari's pace is genuine, an out-and-out race between this era's two most dominant drivers is a mouth-watering prospect.
Bottas has led Williams' Mercedes-powered revival in recent years, largely through consistency rather than outright pace and race-craft, which draws understandable comparisons to Rosberg. The Finn has been unflappable in his career so far, but how he handles the pressure of absolutely having to win will have an intriguing impact.
THE TO-DO LIST
- Improve reliability. As mad as it sounds for a team that won all but two races, Mercedes regularly let their drivers down last season, Hamilton especially. The Briton suffered issues in China, Russia and Baku before a complete blowout in Malaysia snatched a certain victory away from him and put Rosberg in control of the title's destiny.
- Let them race. Bottas has plenty to prove in 2017, needing to impress if he is to keep his seat for the following year when several heavy hitters will come onto the market. The Finn has outscored his team-mate in all four of his F1 seasons so far. While a repeat might not be likely, he should get the opportunity to do his best.
HOW WILL THEY FARE?
They will almost certainly dominate again. Ferrari's pre-season pace at least offers hope of a proper competition throughout the season, although similar sentiments were being issued this time 12 months ago and fell flat.