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Talking point: Who's more dominant - Mercedes now or Red Bull in 2010-13?

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Talking point: Who's more dominant - Mercedes now or Red Bull in 2010-13?
Jun 17, 2015, 3:38 PM

Mercedes heads into this weekend's Austrian Grand Prix with a strangle hold on both the Drivers' and Constructors' Championships and looking for th...

Mercedes heads into this weekend's Austrian Grand Prix with a strangle hold on both the Drivers' and Constructors' Championships and looking for their 19th consecutive pole position. This race in 2014 was the only one of the last 26 that they didn't start from pole.

But is this streak of dominance greater than the one enjoyed by Red Bull during their title winning years?

Since the new hybrid turbo-based technical regulations came in at the start of the 2014 season, Mercedes have held a performance stranglehold over the rest of the pack – and their domination thus far in 2015 has been even greater than last season.

Throughout F1 history several teams have enjoyed periods of sustained supremacy; most recently, Red Bull won four consecutive drivers’ and constructors’ championships from 2010-2013 – with Sebastian Vettel in 2011 and 2013 particularly crushing.

A season and a half into what may come to be remembered as the ‘Mercedes era’, how does their domination compare to Red Bull’s supremacy during the previous four years? We have crunched the numbers.

Rosberg F1

QUALIFYING

Lewis Hamilton’s pole position at the Canadian GP was Mercedes’ 18th consecutive pole, extending further their pursuit of Williams’ record of 24 consecutive poles set between the 1992 French GP and the 1993 Australian GP. Red Bull’s longest run of pole positions during their years of dominance stood at 15, set between the 2010 Abu Dhabi GP and the 2011 Japanese GP.

Mercedes’ 18 pole positions from 19 races in 2014 tied a record set by Red Bull in 2011 – the Austrian outfit’s most dominant outright qualifying campaign. However, the Mercedes poles were distributed much more evenly between their two drivers, whilst Sebastian Vettel’s 15 pole positions in 2011 set a new record for poles in a single season.

Red Bull 2013

However, Red Bull’s strongest season in terms of team qualifying was 2010, when Vettel and teammate Mark Webber secured eight front row lockouts. Mercedes achieved 12 qualifying 1-2s in 2014, matching McLaren-Honda’s tally from 1988. When Lewis Hamilton’s various reliability issues in qualifying in 2014 are factored in this record becomes even more impressive – demonstrating the outright advantage Mercedes enjoyed in 2014 over their nearest rivals.

Red Bull did however experience more ‘clean’ qualifying sessions at the height of their dominance, with their team average qualifying positions of 2.26 in 2010 and 2.55 in 2011 both surpassing Mercedes’ team average of 2.95 from 2014.

Mercedes qualifying performance in to date 2015 has set them on course to decimate their previous records though. Their team average qualifying position of 1.64 includes seven poles and five front-row lockouts from seven races, bettering both their performance at the same stage last year and any of Red Bull’s seasons from 2010-2013.

Dominant - Mercedes

Hamilton and Rosberg

RACE RESULTS

While qualifying may be a measure of absolute speed, race results are a more accurate gauge of true dominance – requiring a combination of drivers, car, reliability and strategy working together in harmony.

Red Bull’s 2010-2013 seasons saw them take 9, 12, 7 and 13 victories respectively for a total of 41 wins from 77 races (53%) across their four championship seasons. Of these 41 victories, only 12 (29%) were 1-2 finishes, with the four 1-2s secured in 2010 and 2013 representing the team’s best haul on this front. This figure, allied to the fact that Sebastian Vettel secured 34 of Red Bull’s 41 wins (83%) during this time, suggests that the team’s dominance was sustained to a certain extent by Vettel’s performance levels – with Webber failing on the whole to back the German up as would be expected in a truly dominant car.

Red Bull 2013

Since the start of 2014, Mercedes have taken 22 victories from 26 races (85%). The 2014 season saw them take 16 wins from 19 races (84%), compared to Red Bull’s ‘winningest’ season of 13 wins from 19 races (68%) in 2013.

Mercedes have also delivered 15 1-2 finishes from their 22 wins (68%), indicating that the team is enjoying a larger performance advantage than Red Bull ever did due to their ability to bring both cars home at the front on a consistent basis.

This notion is backed up by the fact that Mercedes in 2014 had an average race finishing position across both cars of 1.98 – averaging better than a 1-3 finish at each race. This year, that figure has improved to 1.79. Red Bull’s highest average team finishing position was 2.44 in 2011, again suggesting that their performance advantage was never as substantial as Mercedes’ is now.

Dominant - Mercedes

Mercedes Monaco 2015

POINTS SCORING

Red Bull won the Constructors’ championship in each season from 2010-2013, with their winning margins of 44, 153, 60 and 236 points respectively reflecting the fluctuations of their dominance. In 2010 and 2012, it’s worth remembering that for all Red Bull’s perceived dominance, the team only clinched the Drivers’ championship (and the Constructors’ title in 2010) at the final race.

Red Bull

Considering their more dominant 2011 and 2013 seasons for comparison, Red Bull scored a total of 650 points in 2011 from 817 available for a team finishing 1-2 at every race. This represents 80% of the available points total for that season. In 2013, these figures were 596 from 817, or 73%.

Within these seasons, Sebastian Vettel scored 392 (2011) and 394 (2013) points, or 83% and 84% respectively of the total points available to a driver in these seasons.

Mercedes meanwhile scored a record-breaking 701 points in the 2014 Constructors’ standings, outscoring their nearest challengers Red Bull by 296 points and clinching 82% of the 860 (including double points at the final race) total available points for the season.

Hamilton world champion 2014

In winning the championship in 2014, Lewis Hamilton scored 384 out of the 500 points on offer, claiming ‘only’ 77% of total on offer – 7% fewer than Vettel’s best season in 2013. Teammate Rosberg on the other hand scored 317 points, or 63% of the available total – well up on Webber’s best effort of 258 points (54% of the total) in 2011. Again, this figure demonstrates both the extent to which Vettel embodied Red Bull’s superiority, as he was able to exceed Hamilton’s total from last season in what was statistically a less dominant car, and the magnitude of the internal challenge Hamilton faces from Rosberg at Mercedes.

In 2015, Mercedes are on course to outstrip all of Red Bull’s previous benchmarks of dominance, having won a staggering 95% of the total available points to date. At the same stage in 2014, this figure was ‘only’ 86%. In scoring 151 points from a possible 175 (86%) thus far, Hamilton too is on course to better Vettel’s best from 2014 – and could even challenge the record of 85% of total points won shared by Alberto Ascari (1952) and Michael Schumacher (2002).

Dominant - Mercedes

CONCLUSION

Almost every metric points to Mercedes’ ongoing dominance surpassing that of the 2010-2013 ‘Red Bull era’. Of Red Bull’s four consecutive championships, two were won from the front while their victories in 2010 and 2012 were hard fought in highly competitive fields.

Mercedes F1 team

Whilst Red Bull’s 2011 and 2013 seasons demonstrated a rare degree of superiority, to a large extent this was underpinned by Sebastian Vettel. Whether the German outperformed his machinery or teammate Mark Webber underperformed is a different debate altogether, but the fact remains that the team’s domination was heavily indebted to Vettel – as illustrated by the fact that Webber finished only third in both the 2011 and 2013 standings.

Mercedes on the other hand have enjoyed a much greater overall team dominance since the start of 2014, with their two drivers statistically much more closely matched than Red Bull’s ever were. To date, all of the criteria that underpin team performance indicate that the Mercedes stranglehold since the start of 2014 is greater than that held at any point by Red Bull.

Thus far, 2015 has seen Mercedes experience an even greater degree of statistical supremacy than in 2014 – with flawless reliability allied to consistency on behalf of both drivers allowing the team to dominate to an extent Red Bull never did. Are we perhaps looking at an epochal season to match McLaren’s famous 1988 campaign? Only time will tell, but Mercedes are certainly at present outperforming all recent precedents of dominance in Formula One.
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