‘All dynasties fall don’t they, and that’s what has happened at Mercedes’

Michelle Foster
Lewis Hamilton ahead of Mercedes team-mate George Russell. Bahrain, March F1 2023.

Lewis Hamilton is followed by his Mercedes team-mate George Russell. Bahrain, March 2023.

Losing to a customer team in what Simon Lazenby called a “quite frightening” result, the Sky Sports presenter reckons Mercedes are in a “transitional phase” as they recover from the loss of key personnel.

Mercedes had hoped to build on their recovery in the back half of last year’s championship as the lights went out at the start of the new season but it was not to be.

Lewis Hamilton was fifth in the grand prix, a whopping 50s ahead race winner Max Verstappen, with George Russell a further five seconds down in seventh place.

Worse yet, both Mercedes drivers were beaten by at least one Aston Martin with Fernando Alonso overtaking Hamilton and Russell on the track as he worked his way onto the podium. Lance Stroll, despite recovering from broken bones, also beat Russell.

It was, Toto Wolff declared, “one of the worst days in racing” with Lazenby not surprised that’s his opinion given Mercedes were beaten by one of their engine customers.

“It’s quite frightening when you think it’s a customer car, isn’t it?” he said on the Sky Sports F1 podcast. “It’s a customer team effectively beating the works team.

“I think that’s one of the things that got Toto so much on Sunday saying is was the worst day of his racing career and all that.”

But while he understands Wolff’s frustration, he’s a bit perplexed that Mercedes are already talking about ditching the current car and going in a new direction.

“But for them to just abandon the concept,” he continued, “we thought they might take until Imola before they abandon it.

“But they threw it away after qualifying, it felt like he’s just was conceding defeat early, ‘I’ve had enough of this, we’ve got to move on’.”

“I thought it was really, really early, and kind of a statement from Toto that he’s just run out of patience.”

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Mercedes’ current form is in sharp contrast to their results from 2014 to 2021 where they won seven championship doubles on the trot. They retained the Constructors’ Championship in 2021 but then lost that to Red Bull last season.

Lazenby has billed them as a team in “transition” given the loss of big name personnel in the past few years.

“All dynasties fall, don’t they?,” he said. “That’s what has happened at Mercedes.

“Who they’ve lost over the last two or three years and what they’ve got left, having got the concept wrong and Red Bull getting it right, I don’t think that helps matters.

“You’ve lost James Vowles, you’ve lost Andy Cowell, you’ve lost James Allison. And more than that they lost about 15 engineers to the Red Bull Powertrains project.

“I think they’re in a transition phase. Mercedes are definitely a team in transition.”