Mercedes-AMG Petronas are well en route to their seventh consecutive Formula 1 world championship, both in the driver and constructor categories.
Yet again, Mercedes are the team to beat in Formula 1, and yet again, nobody has anything for them. Valtteri Bottas opened up the season with a lights to flag victory in the Austrian Grand Prix at the Red Bull Ring before Lewis Hamilton dominated the Styrian Grand Prix at the same venue and then the Hungarian Grand Prix at the Hungaroring.
The 2020 world championship “battle” is already over, if it ever existed.
Through three races, Mercedes have scored more than twice as many points as the next highest team in the constructor standings, as they lead Red Bull 121-55.
In the driver standings, things are still tight at the top with Hamilton leading Bottas 63-58, but the next closest competitor is Red Bull’s Max Verstappen in third place with just 33 — a full race win behind Bottas already.
Of course, it’s not completely fair for anybody to make such an assumption based solely on three races. Last season, Mercedes started the year eight for eight with five straight 1-2 finishes, and Red Bull and Ferrari still managed to win six of the 21-race season’s final 13 races in what was a pretty solid three-team battle down the stretch.
But this season is far different. Ferrari are simply fighting to score any points against the midfield teams, and Red Bull, even on one of Verstappen’s best days, have absolutely nothing for the Silver Arrows.
What is most alarming thus far, however, is the fact that the schedule changes caused by the coronavirus pandemic were thought to potentially given an advantage to the rivals of the Brackley-based team, and that hasn’t happened in the slightest.
The two tracks that have hosted the three races that have been contested so far this season are two tracks where Mercedes were beaten last year. Sure, Hamilton did win the Hungarian Grand Prix last year, but that was due to a late call for new tires that allowed him to outrun Verstappen, who had the car to beat.
In last year’s race at the Red Bull Ring, Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc took the pole position, and he and Verstappen combined to lead 62 of the 71 laps, with Verstappen winning. Hamilton led the other nine. In this year’s two races there, Mercedes led all 142 laps, and there were zero passes for the lead. Bottas won from pole, as did Hamilton.
In last year’s race at the Hungaroring, Verstappen led 59 of the 70 laps from the pole position. Hamilton led the other 11. This year, Hamilton led 69 of the 70, with Verstappen’s only lap led coming due to the fact that he came into the pits one lap later than Hamilton did to get off of the intermediate tires.
Last year, Mercedes led a combined 20 of the 141 laps at these two tracks. This year, they are 211 for 212, but it might as well be a perfect 212 for 212, as we have still yet to see an on-track lead change this season and have now seen three wins from pole for the Mercedes duo.
We obviously still don’t know how many races the 2020 season will feature, but it won’t matter. The championship is over. Driver-wise, the only question is whether or not this will finally be the year Bottas challenges Hamilton, but it isn’t likely. Since arriving at the team in 2017, Bottas has won eight races. Hamilton has more than quadrupled that total with 33.
Looking at the current 13-race calendar, which is expected to be expanded to between 15 and 18 events, the next two races on the schedule are scheduled to take place at Silverstone Circuit, where Mercedes dominated last year. The race after that is scheduled to take place at Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, where Hamilton has earned three straight dominant wins.
The two races after that are both races at tracks that feature a lot of straight-line speed, Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps and Autodromo Nazionale Monza. Ferrari were favored at and won at both tracks last year.
But this year, the Scuderia’s straight-line speed is horrendous, and they should be non-factors in both. Mercedes should be back on top at those two venues, where they last won in 2017 and 2018, respectively.
The race after that is scheduled to take place at Autodromo Internazionale del Mugello, where there has never been a Formula 1 race. So naturally, advantage Mercedes. The race after that is scheduled to take place at Sochi Autodrom. Mercedes are six for six there with four 1-2 sweeps.
The final three tracks on the schedule are the Nürburgring, Autódromo Internacional do Algarve and Autodromo Internazionale Enzo e Dino Ferrari. The Nürburgring last hosted a race in 2013 and Autodromo Internazionale Enzo e Dino Ferrari last hosted a race in 2006 while Autódromo Internacional do Algarve has never hosted a race.
While an upset could occur, Mercedes will more than likely be favored heading into each race weekend.
During the V6 turbo hybrid era, Mercedes’ best season as far as winning percentage is concerned came in 2016, when they went 19 for 21 (90.48%). As long as they can avoid unforced errors, they have more than a good chance to top that mark this season.