The Real Threat of Mercedes

The Real Threat of Mercedes

“Everything clicked,” says Wolff about a delicate car that is now a winner. “Hamilton feels a weight lifted off his shoulders,” he remarks. For the market, it’s “calm.”

Out of Hamilton’s 104 victories, there have been some routine ones. However, the 2024 British Grand Prix will go down in history as one of the most emotional triumphs for the seven-time champion. Ahead of the younger drivers, at his home circuit, and after almost 1,000 days of drought. Sir Lewis, at 39, had never experienced winless seasons in Formula 1 until 2022 and 2023. The dry spell ended at Silverstone, in a memorable race thanks to intermittent rain. However, isolating Hamilton’s euphoria or his engineer ‘Bono’ from the podium, there is a sense of restrained joy in the higher echelons of the team, as it is a fact that the most decorated driver in history is moving to a direct rival in 2025.

Toto Wolff, Mercedes’ team principal, does celebrate the team’s second consecutive victory, which is also the first for pure performance since Saudi Arabia 2021: “After three years without performance, everything clicked. Everything that didn’t make sense now makes sense, and the results of the development direction are there. We found performance, we put it in the car, and it translates into lap time. That wasn’t the case in the last two years. More upgrades will come in Budapest and Spa, but we mustn’t get carried away. We had a win in Austria (with Russell, who retired in England due to a breakdown) where we benefited from the fight ahead, but in Silverstone, we achieved a real win.” Mercedes is third in the constructors’ standings (221 points) behind Red Bull (373), Ferrari (302), and McLaren (295). They have as many wins as the Italians and one more than the Woking factory.

“The last three years have been very tough; we weren’t giving the drivers a tool to go for victories. Allowing Lewis to win the British GP in his last year with Mercedes couldn’t have been written better,” says the Austrian leader, inevitably happy for his old partner: “Our relationship goes way back. I’ve also tried to help him now. That’s why it’s so good that he could put aside his negative thoughts and come out with this performance. He feels a weight lifted off his shoulders.”

The step forward with the Mercedes W15 can be seen as a new factor for some drivers’ decisions in the market. Could a shorter contract for Sainz be offset by such a strong car? Could it pique Verstappen’s interest? Could it deter Toto from placing a rookie, given that this car is ready to fight for the title? “It doesn’t influence our way of thinking. We need a fast car, and then we need a driver. I think we have to stay calm, continue the season, focus on the car, and then see if the options are the same. Nothing has changed.” Wolff implies he won’t miss Lewis: “I don’t regret anything; we make decisions and go for them. That’s the most important thing. We’ll try to finish the season on a high.”

Regarding Antonelli (who won the reverse grid F2 race on Saturday in the rain) witnessing the victory in the Mercedes garage: “You see the best British driver winning the British GP, and in the garage, you have a kid who doesn’t even have a driving license, and I’m sure he thought he wants to be there someday. F2 is very tough; we see Bearman struggling a lot. Seeing him win in the rain on Saturday and being two seconds faster than the rest, there you see the talent and skill, the potential. He lifted a weight off his shoulders.”