Are Mercedes really the ‘Manchester City of Formula 1’?

The lighthearted comparison to the ‘other’ English Premier League club from Manchester is not one I can lay claim to using first. A LOT of people beat me to it when Mercedes AMG F1 went on a bit of a spending spree after deciding to not continue with the vastly improved (if mistake-prone) Michael Schumacher last October even though the seven-time champion had lost a ton of points and potentially three podium finishes through no fault of his own.

Not satisfied with luring Lewis Hamilton away from McLaren, the team snagged Toto Wolff from Williams to replace Norbert Haug and McLaren’s technical director Paddy Lowe is also due to join the team from next year.

Which certainly suggests some truth to the comparison to the free-spending club as it will now see the likes of Aldo Costa, Geoff Willis and Bob Bell be joined by Lowe in the technical department.

Costa, Willis and Bell were responsible for this year’s Mercedes W04 and have all, at some point in their careers, been technical directors at big F1 outfits at some point in their careers. Costa with Ferrari, Willis with British American Racing (which became Honda) and Bell with Renault where his cars won consecutive drivers’ and constructors’ titles in 2005 and 2006.

All of this tech (in the case of Wolff; administrative) talent surely comes at a price. Which should make the team’s budget for 2013 of some interest to F1 observers. Teams usually keep such information to themselves but it has been estimated that Mercedes spent 146 million euros last year. Which is well short of Red Bull’s estimated 250 million euro budget for 2012.

Which certainly debunks the Man. City comparison in terms of outright spending. Even with their relatively ‘modest’ budget, Mercedes were believed to have outspent Lotus F1 last year. The latter got a major boost thanks to Kimi Raikkonen’s storming comeback and outscored Mercedes by 161 points to take fourth place in the constructors’ standings ahead of them.

Although their talent acquisition spree will almost certainly reflect in this season’s budget.

Still, given the team’s underwhelming on-track performance (for various reasons) and the fact that Man. City actually showed tangible improvement due to its own spending spree (won the Premier League title last year), the case of Mercedes is something else entirely.

With the likes of Dieter Zetsche, Niki Lauda, Wolff calling the shots on an administrative level and Ross Brawn, Bell, Willis, Costa and soon Lowe on the technical side, the team seems to have an extreme case of way too many cooks in an extremely cramped kitchen.

And having to deal with the resulting broth are Hamilton and Nico Rosberg. It’s a stark contrast to the situation at the team that was briefly Mercedes’ closest rival, but has now shot way past it. I.e. Lotus.

With Gerard Lopez behind the desk, Eric Bouillier on the pitwall, James Allison in charge of the car and Raikkonen as the unquestionable leader behind the wheel, there seems to be a very solid case study in how to go about racing in F1. Especially considering the team’s modest resources as compared to Red Bull, Ferrari and McLaren; all of whom the team beat convincingly in Melbourne.

Haug and Schumacher have been skimmed out of Mercedes’ extremely thick broth, how many others before the team starts to live up to its much hyped ‘Silver Arrows’ moniker?

About Vinayak Pande

Motorsport journalist.
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