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What Mercedes must do to recover from recent disasters

What Mercedes must do to recover from recent disasters

F1 News

What Mercedes must do to recover from recent disasters

What Mercedes must do to recover from recent disasters

Zero points. That is what F1 champions Mercedes scored at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix despite neither Lewis Hamilton nor Valtteri Bottas retiring from the race.

Granted, Hamilton had podium-worthy pace but a costly mistake - his second of the season after Imola - dropped him behind both Haas drivers in the race classification. Bottas, however, struggled all weekend and finished only 12th.

The preceding Monaco Grand Prix was another difficult outing as the team only scored seven points. As a result, Toto Wolff has described the current period as his "toughest moments" as team principal of the eight-time champions.

So just what has happened to what last year was an all-powerful team that had monopolised the sport.

Tyre problems critical for the team

The recurring factor is the tyre warm-up for the W12. Let's not forget this team was dominant in Portugal and Spain in races three and four of the campaign.

But the tyre warm-up at street circuits, in particular, seems to be causing the team problems. Being public roads, the complexion of the asphalt surface tends to provide less friction and therefore generates less temperature across the surface of the tyre.

Why Mercedes struggles are worse than other teams is what the team will aim to discover in double-quick time.

Whilst Hamilton's set-up direction salvaged some sort of form for him to qualify on the front row and challenge for the lead in the early stages of the race in Baku, he was ultimately unable to put sufficient pressure on Red Bull, all after struggling to seventh in Monaco.

Bottas' two weekends almost mirror Hamilton's. After running well in third having found a trick with set-up in Monaco, the now infamous pit stop problem cost him dearly but in Azerbaijan, he was overtaken by an Alfa Romeo on merit.

As Wolff described post-race, Mercedes' current form is "unacceptable".

Mistakes have to be eliminated

The big talking points from both Monaco and Azerbaijan as far as Mercedes will be concerned are two glaring errors on each side of the garage.

As mentioned above, Bottas was the victim of a 36-hour pit stop with the front right wheel being machined to the axle, something that was a mix of driver and mechanic error after Wolff revealed the Finn was off his pit marks.

With a top-two berth - and potential win - within his grasp, Hamilton erroneously hit a 'brake magic' switch on his steering wheel, pushing the brake bias forward and forcing a colossal lock-up into turn one at the restart for the two-lap sprint to the end.

Hamilton had already gotten away with a mistake at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix when a red flag, ironically triggered by team-mate Bottas, had allowed him to regain a lap on his way to finishing second.

In contrast, the only mistakes Max Verstappen has made hitherto have come in practice.

The cost of the mistakes from Mercedes has meant Red Bull has outscored the Silver Arrows 62 points to seven across the two street races. That is a championship-critical disparity.

Will Mercedes bounce back?

To give a short answer, yes. There will be challenges along the way, with the mind immediately wandering to medium-to-low speed circuits with sudden changes of direction like the Hungaroring as difficult events or even the new, unknown quantity of Jeddah's street circuit.

Wolff would have been punching the air in delight at the cancellation of the Singapore Grand Prix, with the track a notoriously difficult hunting ground for Mercedes. This event would no doubt have been a Red Bull and Ferrari stronghold this season.

Added to the early Christmas present, there is a nice run of old-fashioned, fast and open European racing circuits coming up in France, Austria, Belgium etcetera.

There may be a potential 17 races to go but the French Grand Prix feels a must-win for Mercedes. The gap at the top is only 26 points but as history dictates, a championship-leading Red Bull team will not relinquish its advantage, at least not without a fight.

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