2014 TITLE SHOWDOWN
The opening statement from the Daimler brand website reads: Like no other trademark in the automotive sector, the Mercedes star stands for an unparalleled combination of fascination, perfection and responsibility.
Like its acclaimed road cars, the Mercedes AMG F1™ team has delivered, too. And more precisely, stayed true to the brand’s ethos. The W05 Hybrid has had no parallel on track this entire season wrapping up the Constructors Championship with a huge gap to second-placed Red Bull Racing.
Their drivers, who are the lead characters in the title showdown this year, have played the roles to perfection. Being true brand ambassadors they’ve adhered to the brand’s guidelines like a dream.
Looking back at their rivalry through the season, they’ve provided top notch drama and entertainment on the motorsport’s greatest stage. Through retirements, misjudgements and colossal mistakes they’ve still come through to set up a grand last act. An unparalleled combination indeed.
Before the lights went out at Melbourne, it was interesting to anticipate who Mercedes would prefer as their Champion for the new millennium. Lewis Hamilton’s outright pace and star quality was evident. He is listed among the Top 10 most recognisable sporting faces in the world. He has finished 2013 with more points than Nico Rosberg. But Nico is German. And has been with the team since its inception in 2010. Though he out-performed the great Schumacher for three consecutive seasons, would he have the same effect the seven-time world champion had on the brand in worldwide markets?
Hamilton snatched pole at the very first Saturday of 2014. But on race day, he retired with a misfiring engine. Rosberg began with a head start.
In Sepang, Hamilton claimed pole again but this time with no gremlins, ran away with a win. At Bahrain a fortnight later, it was Rosberg who reigned supreme on Saturday. But Sunday gave us the best race of the season so far with Hamilton proving he hadn’t lost any of his race craft from those sensational karting days!
At Shanghai it was the same story with the momentum strongly on Hamilton’s side of the garage. A lights to flag finish was recorded in Spain, too. And just when the season began to tilt Hamilton’s way, a twist occurred at Monaco.
After claiming provisional pole on the earlier lap a questionable lock-up by Rosberg at Mirabeau, brought out the yellow flags and destroyed Hamilton’s attempt. More than the drivers and team themselves, the world of F1™ fans fell apart. One side crying foul and the other maintaining it was a normal racing incident. Importantly though, for the sport it made the Hamilton-Rosberg rivalry fascinating!
This rivalry now moved to Canada, a Hamilton favourite. Nico stole pole from him with a near perfect lap. This was a huge blow for Hamilton and things only got worse during the race when a brake issue led him to retire. Rosberg continued a psychological attack on the Briton with a successive pole and victory in Austria, the next round. He was now 29 points ahead.
A bit of good luck swept by Hamilton in his home race when Rosberg pulled over with a mechanical issue. His first retirement of the season. But Hamilton’s flawless drive saw him bite back into the title chase. It was down to just four points now and at Hockenheim, Rosberg was perfect again. Claiming all 25 points. A German winning his home grand prix in a German car.
Everything seemed perfect for Mercedes with their drivers dictating the pace all season but at Hungary neither driver won. Hamilton disobeyed team orders to hold back Rosberg. It may have cost them the win but the team later accepted it was best for the championship. A brave acceptance that maintained a perfect connect with race fans.
Again at Spa, neither driver won. This time, Rosberg let the team down with an unnecessary collision on Lap 2 ending his teammate’s race and a possible 1-2 scenario for Mercedes. Senior management woke him up to the responsibility of the Constructors Championship that was paramount to the returning German marque.
It was clear that Mercedes would allow both their drivers to genuinely race against each other. This by itself was a huge victory over other teams and manufacturers who don’t accommodate this. The dressing down that their German star received behind closed doors and the subsequent booing from fans in the following races began to affect Rosberg’s performance on track. Hamilton stuck to his racer’s instincts and won five races on the trot!
Monza, Singapore, Suzuka, Sochi and Austin. At Singapore though, Rosberg suffered his second DNF and this turned the championship on its head and back in favour of Hamilton.
Rosberg has returned to his perfect weekend form just in time with a storming display in Brazil, and a few hours ago taking pole at Abu Dhabi for the final round that will decide who will be champion.
The responsibility for a clean and fair fight lies solely in the hands of the two contenders. Will they continue to fascinate with a show of Mercedes perfection? It’s their last performance of the year for their fans and the brand.
A brand that demands – the best or nothing.