Formula One heads to Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya on Sunday, and that will dredge up some bad memories for Mercedes-AMG Petronas, which had its worst race of 2016 at the Spanish Grand Prix. But those recollections, painful as they might be, actually should help lift some pressure off the defending world champions’ shoulders.
Given that Mercedes’ two drivers spent more time in the garage on race day last year than in their cars, the Silver Arrows essentially would have to actively try not to improve on its previous result.
Neither Lewis Hamilton or Nico Rosberg made it past Sector 1 in Spain during the 2016 race, as the two took each other out in the braking zone for Turn 4. The incident partly was the result of Rosberg’s car being in the wrong engine mode, but it mostly was due to Merc allowing its pairing to race each other at will, something it’s more reluctant to do this year.
Although Scuderia Ferrari and Red Bull Racing occasionally were able to put pressure on Mercedes in qualifying, their race pace rarely was good enough to challenge for wins. This year, however, it’s essentially on level pegging with Ferrari during every session throughout race weekends.
With the Prancing Horse posing a constant threat, Mercedes now often puts its lead car on a preferred strategy if it feels a win is in jeopardy in the middle of a race, rather then letting Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas duke it out on-track.
Combine that with the stricter rules of engagement team boss Toto Wolff implemented in response to the wreck in Barcelona, and we’d be shocked if Mercedes — which has won the last three constructor titles — can’t at least complete a lap in the 2017 Spanish Grand Prix.