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Mercedes battle to match past glories

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Andrew Benson | 21:54 UK time, Monday, 20 February 2012

Red Bull have raised the bar in Formula 1 over the last two or three years, heaping pressure of one kind or another on all their major rivals.

McLaren's inability to produce a car that can consistently challenge Red Bull and Sebastian Vettel had a clear effect on Lewis Hamilton's equanimity last season, introducing new pressures into that team as the Englishman struggled to cope with his on-track disappointment and difficulties in his private life.

At Ferrari, a technical director has lost his job and his replacement has felt under pressure to take significant risks this year as F1's most famous team seeks to produce a car that can do justice to Fernando Alonso's abundant talents.

But nowhere, arguably, is the need to improve felt more greatly than at Mercedes, the team trying to make F1's "big three" into a quartet.

Michael Schumacher drives the new Mercedes W03 during testing in Barcelona on 21 February

Mercedes are hoping their new W03 car for 2012 will herald a return to the front of the grid. Picture: Getty

The German giants enter 2012 seeking a huge step forward from a season of conspicuous under-performance. Lodged in no-man's land, some distance behind the top three and some way ahead of the rest, there was not a single podium finish for either Michael Schumacher or Nico Rosberg in 2011.

Unsurprisingly, Mercedes' vice-president of competition, Norbert Haug, describes that as "not good enough". For one of the world's greatest car companies, that is something of an understatement.

Mercedes' latest venture into F1 has only been running for two years - since the company bought the Brawn team at the end of 2009 after spending 17 years as an engine supplier first to Sauber and then to McLaren.

But the current management has a lot to live up to - the company's two previous forays into grand prix racing were considerably more successful.

In the mid-1930s, Mercedes and fellow German giants Auto Union (the forerunners of Audi) dominated with their famous Silver Arrows. And in 1954 and '55 Mercedes produced a level of domination with the great Juan Manuel Fangio that makes Red Bull's performances in recent years pale into insignificance.

Mercedes' relationship with McLaren had produced drivers' titles for Mika Hakkinen in 1998 and '99 and for Lewis Hamilton in 2008, as well as near-misses with Hakkinen in 2000, Kimi Raikkonen in 2003 and 2005 and Hamilton and Alonso in 2007.

But the decision to set up their own team was based as much on the realities of the road-car marketplace as any comparative lack of success on the track.

The poor results McLaren produced in 2009, starting the season with their worst car for 15 years, were an influence. So, too, was the relative lack of recognition for the Mercedes brand in any McLaren success on the track - inevitably the case for an engine supplier, even if it did own 40% of the team.

But when McLaren decided to launch its own supercar into a market Mercedes was also planning to enter with its SLS, such close links were no longer tenable.

In the autumn of 2009, buying the team that had just won the world championship, run by a man who masterminded all of Schumacher's world titles, must have seemed about as good a guarantee of success as you could get. Bringing Schumacher out of retirement, to rejoin the company that set him on the path to stardom and bring his career full circle, was supposed to be the icing on the cake.

Except that's not how it has worked out. The cars have been uncompetitive and Schumacher - consistently out-paced by Rosberg in qualifying over the last two years, although with improving race form in 2011 - is clearly a shadow of his former greatness.

So why have Mercedes not been able to compete at the top? The simple answer is that Brawn's world title with Jenson Button in 2009 rather disguised the reality.

That car was designed with Honda money, before the Japanese giant abruptly pulled out in December 2008. Team boss Ross Brawn had kept the company alive, but had to force through a painful 40% staff cut in 2009 to keep it going in more straitened circumstances.

The car's speed owed much to its controversial "double diffuser" - and by mid-season a lack of development caused by budgetary restrictions had seen first Red Bull and then other teams overtake them.

There is some truth, then, in Haug's consistent claims over the last two years that Mercedes are a small team that, as he put it this week, "need to learn and develop" to compete with Red Bull, Ferrari and McLaren.

As Mercedes' great rival BMW proved in 2009, major car companies in F1 tend to get itchy feet if they are not winning - it poses too big a risk to their global image if they are consistently seen to be beaten. In BMW's case, a strong season in 2008 was followed by a weak one in 2009 and, with the global economic crisis gripping, the board pulled the plug.

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There is no sign of such a move from Mercedes but the pressure to perform has been plain to see. The team have been on a major recruitment drive over the last year, the biggest indication of which was the hiring of two star designers - Aldo Costa, the technical director sacked by Ferrari, and Geoff Willis, formerly of Williams, Honda and Red Bull.

There are now four men who have been technical directors at other teams all trying to work together to make Mercedes winners - Bob Bell, the man who currently holds that title at the team and who was recruited from Renault, Costa, Willis and Brawn himself.

Brawn is adamant they have defined roles and will work well together. Others remain to be convinced about the wisdom of having so many big beasts in one pride.

What this technical "super-team" does, though, is emphasise just how important winning is to Mercedes - and consequently just how critical it is that the new W03 enables the team to make a marked stepped forward over 2011.

There is no doubting the ambition.

Mercedes are the only top team to have waited until the second pre-season test to run their new car. The idea was to give them more time to find more performance in the car at the design stage, but the move carries risks. If problems occur, there is less time to iron them out before the start of the season.

Haug has been at pains to emphasise that Mercedes' current position is understandable, and that they have the time and ability to improve.

But while the form of the new Mercedes will be watched with interest at Red Bull, McLaren and Ferrari, you can be sure there will be some nervous faces in the boardroom in Stuttgart, too.

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    We get to see the new Mercedes in real action on the new dedicated channel, believe in better, not paying Jessie Wallace £250k per year

  • Comment number 2.

    Why can't we just do it like in horse racing. So based on the times handicap the cars by making them heavier........simples!

  • Comment number 3.

    Solid article Andrew. On the topic of horse-racing, Mercedes are certainly the "dark horse" for 2012 honours. Recall that they topped the times in 2 sessions at Jerez (albeit in a 2011 car), and must have gained tons of data from those runs. Also, rumours that their front-wing design is cutting-edge (excuse he pun), so thay may surprise a few of the more fancied teams this year.

  • Comment number 4.

    It's a shame many won't get to watch it or half the races since the BBC screwed all their loyal fans.

    There were rumours at the last test that Mercedes delayed their car due to a unique feature / part which they didn't want other teams to see. It would be interesting to see if this is the case but I remember McLaren doing the same a few years back i.e miss the first test only to find that their car was terrible

  • Comment number 5.

    At 2. I remember they did that to the Audi's in the BTCC many years ago in Audi's first season in the UK. I think it took 3/4 quarter of the way thru the season before the Audi's were as slow as the other teams, by then Fuller had won the championship

  • Comment number 6.

    Got to hope that Merc along with Ferrari and Mclaren have closed the gap to Vettel and Red Bull, and hopefully they may even get the odd podium for Schumi and Nico this year. I think for them to win a race the other top teams will have to run into a bit of trouble.

    Again, it's unfair that Schumacher's already being written off when today is the first time that they'll be properly using the new car. He's damned if he does, damned if he doesn't, yes, he won't reach the highs of 2000 - 2004, but how could he, he utterly dominated the sport and everyone said it was boring.

    At the end of the day, if the bosses at Mercedes didn't think he was good enough, do you think he'd be in the car?

  • Comment number 7.

    @2
    But isn't that a little unfair to constantly punish the quickest car/driver? It's up to the other teams to close the gap, and not have to rely on the FIA to artifically bring the cars closer together.

  • Comment number 8.

    "Why can't we just do it like in horse racing. So based on the times handicap the cars by making them heavier........simples!"

    That's like saying football is a fair test of a striker's talent - and so we should handicap the better defenders out there.

    In case you haven't realised, F1 is a team sport.

  • Comment number 9.

    @7.
    yeah but at least, you knwo the winning driver is the best

    I'm just saying that many fans left F1 in the Schumacher years coz it became monotonous and boring

  • Comment number 10.

    I'm hoping that Mercedes have delivered this year, on the third time of asking. It clearly looks like one of the more elegant designs.

    It can only be good for F1 if Mercedes are challenging Red Bull alongside McLaren and Ferrari. It may be a bit too much to hope that Lotus are up there too, but fingers crossed.

    It could be one hell of a year if those cars where very close in pace. And it will all be fully live and exclusive on Sky.

    I was also hoping to get the text based update today for the first day of testing in Barcelona on the BBC F1 page. But alas there is no testing as it happens like there was for Jerez.

    I didn't know that the BBC had cut itself out of that coverage too. Well at least Sky Sports has it and we can rely on them. Rather than trying to fool myself that the BBC is anything other than a part time interest in F1.

  • Comment number 11.

    @9
    But, is it his fault he was the best driver in the best car? No, of course not, it's not his fault he was (seemingly) easily beating the opposition for 5 years. It's up to the other teams to close the gap and pull thier finger out.
    If you started handicapping cars, you'd be artifically creating race wins, I doubt many people want to see a HRT storm to victory as all the cars ahead of them are carrying a sumo wrestler on each side pod.

    Would you punish Barcelona for being the best team in Europe for the past few years?

    At the end of the day, you watch F1 to see the quickest car/driver combo win that given race, you cant then say great job on winning, here's a big weight to lug around.

  • Comment number 12.

    @11 - Typical_English_No8

    Well said.

    Adding weight to handicap cars - what a ridiculous suggestion. There is a reason why the main championship is the WCC. Teams sweat blood and tears to make the fastest competitive F1 car. Why would anyone want to punish them for all that hard work?

  • Comment number 13.

    Andrew when BGP won in 2009 (under very controversial circumstances to put it kindly), the ill-famed British press went overboard about how Ross Brawn was the cornerstone of that success and what a genius the man really is. So in these two years I wonder why none of you have given him any stick whatsoever, absolving him of any responsibility for the repeated technical failures whilst looking for all sorts of other reasons. Very selective and unbalanced me thinks.



    .

  • Comment number 14.

    It was just a suggestion, as they seem to be doing all they can to ake a level playing field. If you want fans to walk away from F1, just keep going the way you are. Fans left in droves during the Schumacher era coz it was so predictable and rubbish and then when you got different teams challenging 2007/2008/2009 people started watching again.

    With regards to football, teams are being punished by the FFP, the same as in rugby. It doesn't work in athletics coz its natual ability not artificial like in F1, was Schumacher the best or did he just have the best car. I think he just had the best car

  • Comment number 15.

    @14 - swintondude

    But F1 is a team sport. Not a driver sport.

    Ferrari, McLaren, Lotus (original) are successful teams that built their names in F1 not because of their drivers but because of the team itself.

    Also F1 figures in the UK may have dropped during the 'Schumacher era' (more like the Ferrari era), but did they also fall in Germany and Italy or other countries?

  • Comment number 16.

    I'm not saying I don't want the racing to be closer, but you are never going to have a level playing field, you just aren't. You're never going to have all 24 cars in with a shout of winning are you?

    If you're saying it's all about the car, would Luizzi be world champion if he was in a Red Bull? Would De La Rosa win the title if he was Webber's team mate? I don't think so, yes the car is a huge part of it, but if you top the standings come the end of the season, you are the best driver, theres no other way of measuring it.

  • Comment number 17.

    If you want equal cars look no further than A1 GP or whatever it was called.....yawn! F1 is fine just the way it is thank you (regardless of what channel it's on)

  • Comment number 18.

    I really hope that Mercedes managed to get 'up there' with McLaren, Red Bull & Ferrari & help to mix up the front of the field.

    It take time to build up a strong team, when Schumacher joined Ferrari they didn't start winning raced straight away... it took a good couple of years to get into a position to challenge for race wins / titles. The same is / has happening at Mercedes & unlike some of the smaller teams they have a budget to really push the cars development, so fingers crossed they have finally got there with this car.

    As for the idea of adding weight to cars thats just plain daft & basicly says 'well done for beating everyone..... now we are going to disadvantage you for all your hard work' its just silly.

    I work in the world of short oval racing & personaly i would like them to follow what we do here whereas the fastest drivers start at the back & have to fight their way to the front!! It makes great viewing watching them fight their way through the pack & provides some great overtaking.
    It would also seperate the drivers from who can overtake from the ones who rely on the cars performace more.

    Finaly note aswell...... WHERE'S THE BBC COVERAGE FOR THE 2nd TEST SESSION????

    I followed it online for the first one & it was really interesting & informative but come this morning NOTHING!!!!!
    Have the BBC spent the rest of this months budget on the 'exciting' cycling world championships they covered all weekend???

    Licence payers money well spent... i think not!!!!

  • Comment number 19.

    Well it looks like we'll just after to see, coz if this year starts off like last year, you may as well go and watch you lawn grow. That'd be infinately more interesting, than watching Vettel start pole in virtually every race, and unless some kind of mechanical failure occurs or summat, he'll win most of the races and have it swen up by xmas. Yawn, yawn, yawn. Just going to get out my hovver mower! Bring back the Mansell/Senna/Prost years I saw.

  • Comment number 20.

    @18
    How does qualifying work for that though?

    @19
    "Swen up by xmas"
    Wasn't aware that the F1 champsionship ran through the winter months.

  • Comment number 21.

    @4 - The BBC screwed nobody. Which broadcaster do you think has the most money to throw at F1? Believe me, Ecclestone would have shifted F1 across to Sky in its entirety years ago if it weren't for the fact that it would cripple its exposure in one of its key markets, purely for the revenue it would generate. The BBC have done well to hold on to half the live broadcasts, and will be showing extended highlights (read: the race, without all the bits where nothing is happening or the interminable preamble) of each race little more than an hour or two after each event that Sky shows live.

    Sadly, the BBC Sport budget can't compete with the amount of money Sky are willing to throw at seemingly any sport (live speedway? REALLY?), and we are going to have to learn to be thankful for what sport we CAN still get on free-to-air TV.

  • Comment number 22.

    I think we will have to wait with regards to how Redbull will do, who knows the current regulations may have really neuterd them, Ferrari or Mclaren or even someone else may have gotten a much better handle on the new regs. the testing period is all about gathering info on the new cars could be lots of sandbagging or major changes before the 1st race.

    Handicapping in motorsport is utter rubbish

  • Comment number 23.

    @19, 20 - and who's this "Swen" bloke?

  • Comment number 24.

    @23
    I think he was going for, 'sewn up', bless.

  • Comment number 25.

    @20
    Ah yes qualifying, that would be a problem. We dont have that on the ovals as it goes on points. so if you ha dthat in F1 it could either go off championship standings, ie top scorer at the back, or you could even go for a reverse grid from the pervious race finishing order.

    To be perfectly honest i can never see it happening in F1 but it would spice up the racing more.

  • Comment number 26.

    @5 - They didn't just to it to the Audis. Weight handicaps are very common throughout Touring Car racing - they just did it to try and even out the field. It's designed to try and keep the racing exciting and even, but in truth, it doesn't really work.

  • Comment number 27.

    This new website is useless
    Bring back the old format
    or did you give it to sky?

  • Comment number 28.

    @25
    Yeah it's one of those, in theory it might work, but you can't see it happening.
    You wouldn't be able to have reverse grids and still have qualifying.

  • Comment number 29.

    I'm with @djolir why isn't the second testing session being covered live by the BBC, why bother with the 1st and not the 2nd or is it all part of the "deal", they may as well just not bother it would be better than the half arsed things we get now.

  • Comment number 30.

    Shame BBC spent all their money on awful new website
    Have created facebook group to help get things changed
    Type BBC website into facebook search and take a look, you'll find the group!
    Please join and share

  • Comment number 31.

    @18 - djolir

    I too was disappointed to see that the BBC had failed to provide any text based info on the first day of testing at Barcelona.

    But (in a theme that will be repeated throughout the year) Sky does have coverage, while the BBC provide a part time service. Check out this link http://www1.skysports.com/formula-1/news/12433/7524875/Barcelona-testing-day-one

    Current timings:
    1) Vettel, Red Bull - 1:23.343 38 laps
    2) Hulkenberg, Force India - 1:23.440 41 laps
    3) Hamilton, McLaren - 1:23.590 40
    4) Ricciardo, Toro Rosso - 1:23.618 44
    5) Alonso, Ferrari - 1:24.000 32 laps
    6) Schumacher, Mercedes - 1:24.150 34
    7) Perez, Sauber - 1:25.152 22
    8) Senna, Williams - 1:26.188 49
    9) Grosjean, Lotus - 1:26.809 7
    10) Kovalainen, Caterham - 1:27.537 9
    11) Pic, Marussia - 1:29.248 65

  • Comment number 32.

    @30 - mattlehagi

    Fully agree about the awful new website. It is hideous. The first rule of any ICT development is user friendly interface.

    The BBC website looks like someone has thrown magnetic images against a fridge and took a snap shot of it. It's chaotic and vulgar.

    At least there's a man at the BBC who is directly associated with the changes and to whom we can post comments.
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/sporteditors/2012/02/our_new_website_-_next_steps.html
    Now where have I heard that name before?

  • Comment number 33.

    @21 Speedway is much more entertaining than F1 could ever dream of being.
    Fast paced action, overtaking.......you know where someone passes someone else...sorry thought F1 fans might need that explained to them, crashes and anyone can win on any given day.

    It works on TV and as a live event. Whereas F1 works on TV although it lacks the excitement value and as a Live Event........well i wouldnt go to a race because watching one corner of a massive track with cars going past at obsence speeds is not entertaining at all.

    @30 agreed the new site is awful.

    Live Soccer and you have to manual refresh all the time is really poor indeed.

    The graphics are really poor and look like they want to dumb down for the new generation....

  • Comment number 34.

    @31
    unfortunatly i am at work & the sky sports site is block by the wonderful people at the IT department!!!

    However I have been using this site which seem to get its date from the timing systems at the track
    http://f1tests.co.cc/2012.php

  • Comment number 35.

    @33
    Speedway? Seriously.
    4 blokes sliding round a muddy oval on a Honda Cub.

  • Comment number 36.

    People complaining about Testing not being covered in full makes me think of this:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eGDBR2L5kzI

  • Comment number 37.

    @35 yes it is highly entertaining unlike F1 these days which was once a great sport.

    Your response sounds rather snobby oh dear mud! :-)

    Every meet there are amazing races, whereas F1 if you get two exciting races a year you thank your lucky stars

  • Comment number 38.

    @33
    never been to Speedway myself but oval stock car racing is much the same... you can see the entire track & you are not miles away from the action like you are on circuits.
    You typicaly get track, armco barrier, safety catch fence, about a meter 'safety zone' & then the spectator area. some races you can get over 40 overtakes per race which can be anything from 15 - 30 laps!!!

  • Comment number 39.

    @38 agreed although most people on here will say there is less skill because they just go around in a circle, at least it is 100% more entertaining

  • Comment number 40.

    Each to their own. But yes, driving on a circuit involves far more skill then constantly just turning left.

  • Comment number 41.

    Regarding #18 'Have the BBC spent the rest of this months budget on the 'exciting' cycling world championships they covered all weekend??? Licence payers money well spent... i think not!!!!' - I like watching F1 but giving taxpayers money to make Bernie E. et al richer does not appeal. At least with cycling we aren't making a corrupt organisation any richer.

  • Comment number 42.

    @40 even if the cars do most of the work for them??

  • Comment number 43.

    Well the speedway riders are propelling themselves along are they?

  • Comment number 44.

    *aren't

  • Comment number 45.

    new website is exceptionally ugly and much harder to navigate.

    giving up formula 1 coverage to make sure there is enough money to offer variety such as the tripe you find on bbc3. good call. lucky the bbc doesn't actually have to earn it's money like a normal business and can just take it off the population as a tax otherwise methinks they might be in a spot of bother by now.

    it's impossible to tell who's going to be quickest at this juncture but the thought of vettel getting pole and winning nearly all the races leaves me feeling cold.

    purists will say that they believe he is the best and therefore deserves to dominate. i don't think they are necessarily wrong but it is boring to the vast majority of sporting fans and that cannot be in debate. the argument boils down to general fans of sport vs purist fans of a particular discipline who can appreciate the sport on a level other than who is actually winning.

    my personal view is that sport is at it's finest when the competition is close.

  • Comment number 46.

    They dont even have brakes on the bikes so they are insane and use great skill to not fly off at every corner

  • Comment number 47.

    @46 please don't compare the skill of a speedway rider to that of a formula 1 driver.

    you could argue that formula 1 drivers are insane to try and overtake each other at 180mph through eau rouge or 130R.

    i think you could probably also argue that they use great skill to not fly off at every corner.

    by all means stick up for the entertainment value of the sport you prefer but using skill as a reason is just inane.

  • Comment number 48.

    I agree with @Adam, Speedway is damn good to watch, in the days of the 500cc 2 stroke bikes quite a few GP riders came from speedway or the very similar US Dirt track racing, only advances in technology has reduced the advantage of those riders. to simply blow it off as you only turn left smacks of a lack of understanding and a blinkered view of motor sport

  • Comment number 49.

    To all the people discussing handicaps/grid reversals, etc. is that the regs that the BTCC use? Isn't that a team sport too?

    @12
    Suggesting that handicapping is unfair to the top teams because "Teams sweat blood and tears to make the fastest competitive F1 car. Why would anyone want to punish them for all that hard work?" is a bit daft to be fair and would at least try solve the problem of one team/driver dominating the field.

    I also beg to differ that "There is a reason why the main championship is the WCC" -if it was truly a team based sport and the main championship is the constructors championship, then team orders wouldn't exist as the teams wouldn't care in which order their drivers finished in, as long as they were in the positions that gave the team the most points.

  • Comment number 50.

    For anyone who what to follow the testing LIVE & not just have a new report updated every couple of hours

    http://live.autosport.com/commentary.php/id/439

  • Comment number 51.

    F1 for me is a hard sport to like. When at the track in person, the atmosphere is great and the crowds are large, but you only get to see a part of the track as cars come by at high speed. This is fun for 10 minutes but after that it's pretty dull.

    On TV you lose the sense of speed so the producer has to involve you in the racing. The only problem for me is that there doesn't seem to be that much racing happening. I'm not sure what the data looks like for overtaking vs position changes as a result of pit stops... but I don't remember that much overtaking.

    I stopped watching F1 regularly some years ago as I realised that walking away from the TV for 20 minutes didn't make me think I had missed much. I guess in the same way that not watching eastenders for 3 months makes me think I haven't missed anything. The personalities remain the same, the tracks remain the same, the teams remain the same (for the most part) and the result happens. It's more like a soap opera than a sport.

    G_U_F

  • Comment number 52.

    Handicapping, good idea.
    - Blindfold the Klitschkos.
    - Put Messi in clogs.
    - Give Chris Hoy a tricycle.
    - Etc.....

  • Comment number 53.

    I wouldn't quite say Mercedes are 'well ahead of the rest', lets not forget Renaults two podiums at the start of the season.

  • Comment number 54.

    Must agree with many here, absolutely disgusting that the BBC has sold-out on F1 fans. We pay all these mindless soap 'stars' crazy wages for 'mindless drivel' programs, what do i pay my TV licence for?

  • Comment number 55.

    I hope we are entering an era of dominance by a German driver.

    Scotty Bradford

    An organisation that lobbies the government to get a funding cut for its poorer rival so that it can take over sports rights. You should believe in better.

    An organisation that records and broadcasts private conversations. You should believe in better.

    An organisation whose owners put pressure on the government to do their bidding in ways that are not in the best interests of the people who actually live in this country. You should believe in better.

    You should believe in better as should everyone else who funds and supports such an organisation.

  • Comment number 56.

    "I'm just saying that many fans left F1 in the Schumacher years coz it became monotonous and boring"

    Swintondude,

    You got any evidence to prove that statement?

    I've watched F1 since the early 1960's and Schumacher's era was one of full racetracks and worldwide television audience growth.

    If you just hate Schumacher, then say so.


    brendan

  • Comment number 57.

    Just why is it that the boards of these 'great' car companies such as Mercedes and BMW find it unacceptable to not be winning after a couple of years.

    Is it because they are arrogant overpaid fatcats with nothing else to worry about than what their brand marketing manager and his team are spouting towards them?

    Do they really assume their salaries are so big that they can waltz into F1 and win it all straight away. Just because they were good in the 50s and even the 30s for heavens sake means nothing to this changed sport now.

    They should have to get stuck in, graft away and work like crazy for years to even get anywhere near McLaren, Ferrari and Red Bull. Proving they are doing it this way will gain credibility and respect to their brand, just like RBR had done.

    Being cowards like BMW with open threats from fatcat boardmembers of must win races next year then the championship the following year is a sure fire way to fail, then they pull out of F1 so well done boardmembers, the image I have is that BMW are clueless losers who threaten their team then pull out and give up. Merc better watch out for this because even the hint their board may pull the plug based on this years performance will destroy morale. Also hiring loads of big name castoffs will not work either, especially if it is to appease the board. Neither will having Norbert H in a position where he appears to be fending off a whinging Merc board from the team performances inspire any confidence in the team itself. Wake up Stuttgart and give the team everything without threats or assumptions, follow the RBR model or you may as well pull the plug now.

  • Comment number 58.

    Good article Andrew, you appear to be single handedly running the F1 site so good effort. The new site is a mess as others allude to (another fine mess you've gotten into Ben Gallop) but mainly due to link layouts and out of date blog links in the comments and analysis section at the bottom, not down to your content.

    Sort out the links along the top in yellow one level under the F1 section, keep the blog/news etc areas in a consistent location, have a gallery/galleries in a consistent location, say launch pics, test 1 pics, test 2 pics... Make more use of your archive content if its not been sold to Sky etc.

    Gary Anderson's articles are good, real insight and obvious respect from Brawn and Schumacher. More of this please, such as comparisons on rear diffusers or exhaust exiting solutions from testing photos, or even on what the slot in the Red Bulls nose may do. Nice to see he has a proper folder loaded with notes in his hand as well, not some all for show tablet like 'ipad Jake'. Keep us up with what is going on with Renaults pull-out as well, does their chassis disappear and jump back in time leaving flaming Pirelli trails when it hits 188mph? Sounds like a serious issue!

    Looking forwards to Melbourne, shame you will not be there live BBC, 4billion a year should have covered it after the sterling efforts and audiences from last year. So I'll see it on RTL TV with 5Live for free but may join you for, if I remember to, race 3 of 2012 is it? Shame.

  • Comment number 59.

    From the initial pictures I thought Merc had gone the way of the McLaren by not opting for that horrid nose design. sigh.

    Oh well, lets just hope its faster this year so we can get another challenger for Reb Bull

  • Comment number 60.

    "We get to see the new Mercedes in real action on the new dedicated channel, believe in better, not paying Jessie Wallace £250k per year"

    @1 Scotty_Bradford how much are Sky paying you for your limp Beeb-bashing?

  • Comment number 61.

    Mercedes car looks fab. Think they'll win the championship with it? FREE predictions competition with prizes to be won here: http://www.f1predictions.net/rbrsystem/signup/index.php

  • Comment number 62.

    Just a line to say how much I enjoy Gary Anderson's input to the website features, especially the launch videos of McLaren and the latest one of Mercedes at Silverstone. It is refreshing to listen to someone who is technically knowledgable and can put the points over to the general public, satisfying the interested, like me and the curious. However he seems to be hidden from view unless one stumbles on a video or feature! Hope he is scheduled for the TV as well. Martin (now gone I know!) and David may think they know the technical side, but they often struggled to describe features. Martin's filmed features last year on technical aspects of F1 were a waste of time!

  • Comment number 63.

    @14.swintondude wrote:
    "It was just a suggestion, as they seem to be doing all they can to ake a level playing field. If you want fans to walk away from F1, just keep going the way you are."

    I think hiding F1 away behind a pay wall will do more damage.


    @21.njbh86

    The BBC had the budget, they'd allocated the money through to the end of 2014, but then decided to spend 33% more on tennis and rugby, none of which any other broadcaster had show an interest in, and pay £27 million for an x-factor copycat show called the Voice ... Fame Academy anyone?

  • Comment number 64.

    I cannot believe the live text for testing has been scrapped. Instead we get 'sportsday live' which is simply rubbish and only allows you to 'get involved' if you have twitter, which most people don't.

    By the way - I just checked out the Sky Sports F1 site and it is fantastic. Puts the BBC and their awful website to shame, although that's not hard to do.

    Cannot believe some of the things I read about the BBC's waste of funds on things like 'The Voice' and minority sports when they could have saved lots elsewhere and kept F1. Bernie may have wanted the money Sky were offering but Channel 4 were offering it as well so that's no excuse - the BBC screwed us over.

    Once more thing - has the BBC announced yet what coverage they will give to the Canadian GP? They were clear about when 'extended' highlights (should be full race re-runs, which many people are angry about) would be shown for European and Far-East races, but not North/South America.

  • Comment number 65.

    It will be interesting to see how Mercedes GP manages this year. One driver is past his prime, the other still hard to judge. The German press is already going on about Schumacher extending his contract a few more years. He'll probably stay, although, if he were so good, why are the other top teams not chasing after his services?

  • Comment number 66.

    @64. Alex

    It's not Bernie that gets the money, it's CVC and the teams, and then it's only a fraction more than C4 were offering.

    However (FOTA Executive Member) Adam Parr's very happy, six weeks before the BBC ran to Sky, Parr gave one of his 'Bernie should develop the TV rights more' speeches, saying:

    "When Murdoch buys us, it's all going to change ... (Bernie) believes that if he sells the rights to the BBC in the UK, for example, they should have the rights to everything. They can re-play it on their iPlayer system, they can do the internet, they can do everything. He thinks that's the way to maximise revenue. I think it's time that we challenge him ... We're not getting what we want ... We need to change a few things."

    And Parr got his change

  • Comment number 67.

    Well you will have all the races to watch this progress Andrew, whereas the license payers will be stuck with only half.

    Again, shame on the BBC for ruining F1 for the viewing public.

  • Comment number 68.

    @60 nothing, I just get frustrated at paying a tv licence that seems to get spent on eastenders, dr who and strictly. I don't want that rubbish, I pay for sky and pay for the bits I want, I don't need kiddy shows so I don't pay for kiddy shows! Where is the bbc's accountability for the drivel they put out, they can continue doing what they want and we the public have to pay our licence.

  • Comment number 69.

    Michael Schumacher was never good in qualifying even at Ferrari. That is why he took so long to beat Sennas record even with his in race dominance. His strong point was races. Last year he was faster than Rosberg in almost all of the races. I believe people should relaxx with Michael Schumacher. I am not saying he is 100% as good as he was before but he is still a race and title winner with the right car and on a par with the best drivers on the field. I would like the reporting standards to be higher and less biased.

  • Comment number 70.

    @68 Well Scotty, I think its time for you to wake up and grow up. The world doesn't revolve around you specifically and neither does the BBC's scheduling.

  • Comment number 71.

    The General - I think you miss his point entirely. Sky allows you to set the amount you pay more closely to what you watch. What annoys a lot of people is the uniformity of the license fee. There has to be a way of ensuring people feel like they get better value for money from the license fee. At the moment, we all pay the same no matter what our usage of BBC services is. for many people, this seems very unfair when they are only interested in a small amount of the overall output. Now we are in the digital TV era, surely the BBC could look at ways of segmenting its output so people have more choice over what they watch and what they pay?

  • Comment number 72.

    Nice blog Andrew, I think everyone is hoping Brawn can pull something special off. They need to be contesting some races this year. Schumy showed towards the end of last year that he still has something to offer I think.

    A real mixed bag of comments here! Handicaps, inverted grids..... Speedway???! Oh dear! Last year was dull in terms of the championship - and a few of the races to be fair - but steady on!

    Czar - I have been genuinely educated by some of your comments on the Sky deal over the months, but I still can't fathom why you think Bernie is blameless in all of this. Is Bernie's remit to do the bidding of Adam Parr, or to do what is correct for the sport? It's surely obvious that in his role he will come under pressure to do different things from various parties.

    Yes the BBC deserves a lot of criticism IMO, but I don't think its unreasonable to suggest Bernie should have had a bit more foresight than to negotiate for such a big contract in recessionary times. IMO this made a move to Sky inevitable when the contract ran out anyway, as they can outbid anyone else. Surely people are entitled to hold this view? Like I say, do agree with your comments though.

  • Comment number 73.

    @70 I didnt expect the beeb to organise its programming around me, I'm just saying I pay for the bits of sky that I need, however I'm forced to pay for the bits of the beeb I don't want it's not bloody fair is it ?

 

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