Victory for Lewis and fifth place for Valtteri in Austin was enough for the Silver Arrows to secure a fourth consecutive Formula one World Constructors’ Championship, locking down the title with three rounds still left to run.
Mercedes has joined McLaren, Ferrari and Red Bull in being the only F1 teams to have ever won four consecutive Constructors’ Championships – and it’s the first time in history a team has won back-to-back titles across a major rule change.
But it’s not just the title itself that’s provided a watershed moment for the team in 2017. The landmarks started to pile up way back in April…
When Lewis clinched pole position in China, he claimed the 75th P1 grid slot F1 for a Mercedes chassis in F1, on the weekend of the team’s 150th race start too. 11 more have been added to that figure since then.
In Spain, the team snatched its 50th fastest lap thanks to Lewis – a race that also marked the final chapter in an uninterrupted 21-race run of podium finishes (the fourth longest of all time) starting at the 2016 Monaco Grand Prix.
The team’s dominant performance at the Italian GP gave the Silver Arrows its 150th front row place in F1 and third 1-2 finish of the year – continuing a 100% record of leading every single racing lap of Monza since the beginning of the Hybrid era in 2014 in the process. How cool is that?
Success at Suzuka made history for Mercedes, becoming the first team to reach 10 or more wins in four consecutive seasons – while Mercedes-Benz power reached another major milestone, taking its 150th fastest lap thanks to Valtteri in the sport.
Arguably the most impressive stat for Mercedes-Benz engines is the streak of 172 consecutive races in the points – starting in China 2008. It’s the second longest run in F1 history and is still going strong, although there’s quite a gap to the outright record (Ford, 228 races).
So far this year, Mercedes engines have scored the most wins (11), pole positions (13), fastest laps (9) and podiums (23) of any manufacturer. It’s also racked up the most laps raced (5,681) and laps led (646) of any engine manufacturer this season so far.
Despite incredibly tough competition, the Silver Arrows have taken the most wins (11), pole positions (13), fastest laps (8), podiums (22) and laps led (646) of any team so far in 2017.
While there’s plenty to celebrate after the events of Austin, the job isn’t done just yet, with the team now fully focused on ending the season with both World Championships under its belt…
Lewis Hamilton spent the first half of the season trailing his Ferrari rival Sebastian Vettel in the Drivers’ standings, but since the Belgian Grand Prix, there’s been a remarkable turnaround.
He turned a seven point deficit into a 66-point lead by the time the F1 circus departed Austin, having moved into the top spot in the standings for the first time three races earlier in Italy.
A surprise victory in Singapore extended his lead from three to 28 points, with the runner-up spot in Malaysia helping him boost his advantage to 34 points. Victory in Japan upped that to 59 points, and P1 in the USA has now left him with a 66-point cushion heading to Mexico.
The Brit’s first victory of the season in China made 2017 his 11th consecutive season with a Grand Prix victory, putting him second on the all-time list. In fact, he’s won at least one round in every single season he’s raced in, and is the only driver to achieve that feat!
Under the bright floodlights in Bahrain, Lewis’s second place moved him ahead of the great Alain Prost in the all-time podium finishes list. He’s since upped his tally to 116.
At the Canadian Grand Prix, Lewis matched his hero Ayrton Senna’s number of pole positions with 65 and went on to overtake Michael Schumacher as the all-time record holder at the Italian Grand Prix later in the season.
The Belgian Grand Prix marked a very special race for Lewis, his 200th Grand Prix. Amazingly, he won it, which is something only three other drivers (Schumacher, Jenson Button and Nico Rosberg) have done!
Lewis achieved an incredible milestone in Japan, securing his first pole position at Suzuka – meaning he has qualified on pole at every circuit that features on the current F1 calendar (and a fair few more that don’t, too!)
That crucial pole position at Suzuka also brought Lewis level on front row starts with Schumacher at the very top of the all-time list with 116 – surpassing the great seven-time World Champion with his 117th in Austin.
There are still three rounds left to go, but Lewis has scored the most wins (9), pole positions (11), fastest laps (7), podiums (12), laps led (511) and laps raced (999) of any driver this season.
Safe to say, it’s been a pretty successful year for Lewis so far. But there’s still one thing left on his list: the Drivers’ Championship…
Joining a new team is never easy, but Valtteri has kept cool, calm and collected, and enjoyed a strong first season with the Silver Arrows so far. It’s been a big year for the Finn, ticking off some incredibly important milestones.
The landmark moments arrived early in the season. At the Bahrain Grand Prix, a brilliant lap of the Sakhir International Circuit gave Valtteri the honour of becoming the 98th driver in F1 history to qualify on pole position.
He followed that up at the Russian Grand Prix by clinching his maiden F1 victory in impressive style, making him the 107th driver to stand on the top step of the F1 podium – joining a pretty exclusive club!
He’s the fifth Finnish driver to win in F1 – the others being Keke Rosberg, Mika Häkkinen, Kimi Räikkönen and Heikki Kovalainen – and the fourth from the Scandinavian country to secure at least one pole position.
In Azerbaijan, he qualified on the front row for the fifth time in his career, and stormed to his second pole position at the next round in Austria – finishing just 0.042 seconds clear of Vettel’s Ferrari.
Valtteri converted pole at the Red Bull Ring into his second F1 victory, putting in a flying start and holding off Vettel’s charge to become the 74th driver to win more than one F1 race, and the fourth from Finland.
Valtteri’s success at the Red Bull Ring was also his 15th podium appearance in F1. A brief stint at the front in Japan meant he led his 10th F1 race, and fifth in Malaysia was his 60th top 10 finish in F1. He’s reached some impressive milestones this year, and there’s plenty more still to come…
So, how does it feel like to be world champions? Well, it never gets old, that’s for certain! No matter whether it’s your first title, or a repeat experience, every single time brings with it a unique cocktail of emotions. A mixture of delight, pride and humility – savouring an objective achieved, yet already looking ahead to the next challenge to be tackled.
As the team emerges from a night of celebration in Austin, and prepares to recognise its achievements back at base in Brackley and Brixworth, we turned to some of our leading lights to try and capture this incredible, intoxicating feeling in words.
“It is an awesome achievement – and it has been a tough year,” smiled Andy Cowell, Managing Director of Mercedes-AMG High Performance Powertrains. “Ferrari have been formidable opponents and that has been energizing for all of us. Everybody has raised their game, pushed really hard and been driven to make sure that we secure another championship. The effort that goes in at the factories – day in any day out, seven days a week – is very humbling to see, and that’s what puts this total car together and delivers these results.”
While the focus of fans and media is, quite naturally, on the battle between the gladiators of our sport, the fight between the teams for the constructors’ title is just as intense. And while a team’s effort is expressed through the car and engine it produces, the reality is that these machines embody countless hours of creativity, inspiration and diligence by a team of hundreds behind the scenes. They are the expression of a team’s desire and determination to succeed.
“Fans know this is a complicated sport,” acknowledged Technical Director James Allison. “But only the people in the teams really understand how many people have to do their job exceptionally well to make a result like this possible. And you don’t just have to do your job right once, it has to be right every two weeks for the lion’s share of an entire year.”
The challenge of 2017, of course, was magnified by the rule changes coming into the new season. They had the objective of speeding up the cars but also of shaking up the competitive order. So to come out on top after such a test of the team’s mettle is even more rewarding.
“When we set our objectives, it was to win both championships and to be the first team to do it through a regulation change like this,” continued Toto Wolff. “To achieve it here in Austin with three races to go feels unbelievable. The fact is that we have a really great dynamic in the team, we enjoy doing what we do and bringing it home feels just super.”
“This regulation change was designed to make it incredibly difficult to win again,” agreed James Allison. “So to do something that no team in the sport’s history has ever managed – to stay in the mix, and to come out on top, after a major rules change – is just the most enormous credit to everybody involved in the team from top to bottom. It is simply not possible to win a championship without their skill, dedication and, in many cases, sacrifice. It is a truly brilliant feeling to be part of a team capable of doing this.”
Not only has this been a year of accomplishment but also of profound learning. We have experienced not just highs like Austin but the lows of weekends such as Monaco. Yet they have proven a source of new strength.
“We have a motto in our team: Difficult days are the days that our competitors will regret,” explained Toto. “The painful experiences just make you so much stronger. If you keep calm, analyse what happened, and try to improve, it’s just adding to your knowledge and adding to your strength. We’ve seen that happening all through the years, particularly this year we’ve had those painful experiences, and they are part of the development of the team.”
“The team effort, the combination of Brackley, Brixworth and all the individual departments and teams, they’re all focused on one thing: making the race car as quick as possible in qualifying and over the race distance,” concluded Andy Cowell. “It is that tireless, relentless obsession that pays off and that’s what binds us together.”
Yet, while the team savours a first championship of 2017, nobody has lost sight of the fact that we have completed only half the job so far. Our ambition – and our clear intention – is to become four-time double world champions and to make sure Lewis seals his own fourth world title in style.
That quest continues in Mexico next weekend…
Lewis lost the lead off the start to rival Sebastian Vettel, but moved back past the Ferrari early on to take his ninth win of the 2017 Formula 1 season and his fifth at the Circuit of The Americas.
“Firstly, I want to say big congratulations to everyone in the team – both back at the factory and here,” said Lewis. “There has been an incredible push for this kind of performance this year.
“We really pulled together more than I have experienced and seen over the last five years to create something quite special.
“I’m really proud for everyone, especially going from one era of car to another which is something that has never been done before. It shows the strength of the team and I’m proud to be part of it.
“The race was great, it was probably one of the most fun races that I have had for a while – and there were quite a few fun ones this year. I didn’t get away to a great start, but I was kind of chilled about it, knowing from the past that I can overtake here.
“I had a lot of fun trying to get closer and overtaking. Today the wind changed 180 degrees and it made the track so special to drive; the car felt amazing going through the Esses. We have three more races left this season – and that’s three I want to win.”
Valtteri Bottas was running second well into the race, but the Finn started to struggle for pace, losing out to first Kimi Raikkonen, and then Vettel and a fired-up Max Verstappen, dropping to fifth.
“Today was a tough day for me,” said Valtteri. “In the first three quarters of the race, everything was going quite well and the pace was not bad.
“However, I couldn’t make the one-stop strategy work with all the fighting with Sebastian and Kimi in the second stint. That was wearing the Soft tyres off quite a bit, they started to go and it simply was not possible to stick to just one stop.
“I tried everything I could to defend, but it was too late, so unfortunately we had to pit again. I’m still disappointed with my race, and I will need a few moments to get over it. However, I’m also happy for the Constructors’ title. It is amazing to be part of this championship-winning team.”
Silver Arrows team boss Toto Wolff congratulated the team on an unprecedented achievement – winning across a regulation change.
“The first words today go to our team – in the factories in Brackley and Brixworth, as well as the fantastic support we receive from Mercedes-Benz in Stuttgart,” said Toto.
“I am so proud of what has been achieved: winning across a rule change, something has never been done before in the sport, and doing it because every team member has dug deeper to find performance, been even more diligent on reliability and this has come together in the most special way.
“We had the quickest car out there in the race today – Lewis did a faultless job, picking off Sebastian and then managing his one-stop strategy to perfection.
“Valtteri had a tougher time: running in dirty air meant he couldn’t convert his good pace into what would have been a deserved podium finish.
“But overall, we must be satisfied that we have got half of the job done today; one title down and one more still to win. Our target must to be to keep our foot on the gas and win each of the next three races.”
Mercedes Technical Director James Allison reckons the team proved worthy champions for a fourth time.
“You can’t argue with any race where you overtake on track for the lead and then romp off to the win,” said James.
“It was a brilliant drive by Lewis and a very welcome tonic to some of the narrative that had built in recent weeks suggesting that the momentum of the development race had shifted towards our competitors. This car, team and our drivers showed themselves today to be worthy, worthy winners of the Constructors’ title.
“For a long time, we looked to be on course for a comfortable podium with Valtteri, too. He enjoyed a strong first stint and looked set to take second place from Sebastian for a significant portion of the race.
“However, in the second stint we were not able to make the tyres last well enough to help the one-stop strategy pay off. Nevertheless, he still scored the points we needed to secure the title at the first time of asking, and he will certainly enjoy even stronger races in the future.”