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Relieved Mercedes F1 team bill the third world title as 'the hardest'

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Relieved Mercedes F1 team bill the third world title as 'the hardest'
Oct 9, 2016, 9:49 AM

Mercedes clinched their third consecutive constructor's world championship in Suzuka, but team boss Toto Wolff has billed it as the hardest and the...

Mercedes clinched their third consecutive constructor's world championship in Suzuka, but team boss Toto Wolff has billed it as the hardest and the numbers bear that out.

The team has only had four 1-2 finishes this season and although they have only lost two races, there is no doubt that there have been more races where the rival teams' pace was closer than in the two previous seasons.

There is a mild sense of relief, after a disappointing Malaysian Grand Prix where Lewis Hamilton's engine blew up in the closing stages and Nico Rosberg recovered from 21st on Lap 1 to finish third.

Mercedes F1 team

In fact they have ended up being quite fortunate to clinch the title with four races still to go, as the season would have lasted longer had their rivals made the most of their opportunities.

At the start of the season Ferrari had the pace to beat Mercedes in certain races, including Australia, but failed to do so, largely through strategy errors. Ferrari can count themselves unfortunate to miss out on a podium in Suzuka as they were close to Mercedes on pace this weekend, rallying to halt what had seemed like a decline in form.

Red Bull are ending the 2016 season quite close on pace at most circuits; They have won twice and should have won in Monaco, but messed up a pit stop on Daniel Ricciardo's car. As the season comes to a close and forced to run the engine slightly off its maximum potential, Mercedes look to have a qualifying advantage of only around 3/10ths and a race pace advantage of less than that.

Sebastian Vettel set the fastest race lap in the Japanese Grand Prix, using soft tyres in the final stint, but Rosberg had the race under control and didn't have to push, so the comparison is hard to make.

Schumacher. Brawn

The third constructors' title puts Mercedes three-quarters of the way to the achievement of Red Bull between 2010-13 but only half way to achieving what Ferrari did between 1999 and 2004. Put in that context and with a major rule change for next season that could go either way in terms of changing the competitive landscape, there is still much to do.

"I have too the impression that it was harder to win this year, not as dominant a season as last year," said Wolff. "It's about diminishing returns; with stable regulations the performance gap shrinks. Someone else has decided to invent something new for next year and then it's back to square one again."

Start, Japanese GP 2016

"Big congratulations to the team, incredible success for the last three years, very proud to be a part of it and to help contribute to it – so a big thank you to everyone for all of their hard work," said Hamilton.

One of the reasons why Mercedes has made heavier weather of this championship and has achieved a relatively modest number of one-two finishes has been the shift to single clutch starts, which has led to six races where a Mercedes driver has lost five or more positions at the start of the race. Suzuka was another, as Lewis Hamilton slipped from second on the grid to ninth at the start, recovering to eighth at the end of Lap 1.

"I don’t think the damp patch had really anything to do with it," said Hamilton. "I made a mistake and then just working my way up from there was tricky but, y’know, I did the best I could."

It was a sharp contrast from last season at this track, where starting from second on the grid like today, Hamilton managed to pass Rosberg up the inside into Turn 1 and went on to win the race. It was one of 12 one-two finishes in that 2015 season. In 2014 they managed 11 one-two finishes.

Start Japanese GP 2015

Reliability has been the other factor working against them, especially on Hamilton's car, meaning that he had to come back through the field on several occasions after engine penalties sent him to the back of the field. The strategy has been good to allow him to do that and the car has had the pace to make an good recovery.

What do you think of the achievement of a third constructors' championship? Leave your comments in the section below
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Series Formula 1
Drivers Lewis Hamilton Shop Now
Teams Mercedes Shop Now