In his usual brash style Helmut Marko has come out and accused Mercedes of colluding with Ferrari, hence the reason why the Maranello outfit has made such huge strides since last season and now is second only to Mercedes in the Formula 1 pecking order.
Marko said recently, “It is difficult to prove, but I am sure that Mercedes helped Ferrari. And we all know why.”
The Red Bull consultant is not the only one to believe this, with elements in the German and Italian media reporting already on the possibility of some sort of collaboration between the two marques.
Formula 1 folk like to deny the existence of the so called Magic Button, but I personally believe it has been in F1 since the first season back in 1950, albeit in different forms and guises – be it aero or horsepower or whatever. For sure Mercedes found a Magic Button last year.
I recall Colin Chapman, of real Lotus fame found, the Magic Button in the early seventies (when I started following F1) and again in the late seventies. Then Patrick Head found it for Williams, before McLaren became custodians of it, first with John Barnard and later with Gordon Murray. The latter first finding it with Brabham in the early eighties.
Adrian Newey found the Magic Button for Williams in the early nineties, Ross Brawn and his crew had it in the mid-nineties with Benetton, before Newey and Head got it back for Williams.
Then Newey cheekily took the Magic Button to McLaren for the last two years of the previous century, before Brawn and his crew discovered it and clung on to it for five years in a row at Ferrari.
Renault claimed the Magic Button to end Ferrari’s greedy streak and what followed was a couple of years of no one really having that elusive Button.
Brawn’s eponymous team found it in 2009, before Red Bull discovered it with Newey and clutched on to it for four years. And now, as mentioned, Mercedes are clearly in possession of Formula 1’s holy grail.
Problem is that times have changed and dominance in sport is no longer admired, but rather scorned upon as we live in a time when everyone is a winner…
So instead of the Silver Arrows being applauded for their mighty achievement, they are villified for ruining the sport. Bernie Ecclestone even had a stab when he declared, “Toto can have a lovely inscription on his gravestone that says: I helped to kill Formula 1.”
So the way I figure it is: Wolff, and his pack, in possession of their Magic Button first try help out the Mercedes B-team, namely Williams, who find a surge of competitiveness in 2014 which lifted them from the doldrums to second in the F1 pecking order.
That was an easy move for Wolff as he has shares in the Grove outfit, his wife is their development driver and their young Finnish Valterri Bottas star is managed by him. Problem is no one cares any more that Williams challenge Mercedes. It is still Mercedes versus Mercedes, so the street-cred is pretty much zero for the nouveau fan.
What was needed is Mercedes beating Ferrari – concluded the wise men of Stuttgart – but it must be a close contest. Thus I can imagine a scenario where Wolff and his pack sit at a round table and agree not to give the Magic Button to Ferrari, but at least give them the road map to help the Maranello men find it.
Hence I imagine a Gmail account being created and a map to the Magic Button (maybe there are two) is sent off anonymously to firstname.lastname@example.org and eventually it ends up on James Allison’s desk.
And presto Ferrari are up there slugging it out with Mercedes. Example: this year during China qualifying Sebastian Vettel was shy of pole by a mere 0.042 of a second. A year earlier Fernando Alonso was 1.777 seconds off the pole time… Lewis Hamilton and Merc were on pole on both occasions.
Of course Ferrari are not going to let the cat-out-the-bag and acknowledge help from the Silver Arrows, but Wolff is struggling to keep his mouth shut of late and, like no other team principal ever, is playing up a rival’s resurgence every time he can.
Recently in Bahrian Wolff hailed Ferrari’s effort in qualifying, “Ferrari has done a great job and they are snapping at our heels.”
Prior to Bahrain, Wolff warned, “The Ferrari looked the quickest car out there. Very stable quick tyres… quick lap times.”
“We can see from GPS that their engine is very powerful and the car is very good. I think it’s only a matter of time before they reach us, because Ferrari as a team has everything you need to do that,” said Wolff during preseason testing.
Wolff is desperate to show that his team is beating a resurgent Ferrari, and he knows that the fact that Ferrari is challenging for wins is a big boost for the sport. Love them or not Ferrari are the sport’s pre-eminent race team, and their fortunes impact the sport in a major way.
So the “we all know why” Mercedes have helped Ferrari declaration by Marko perhaps is not merely a mean way of deriding the current situation. In other words there may be truth in it all.
Maybe because I am naive, I for one am not 100% convinced that Mercedes has shown Ferrari the way to the Magic Button, and tried hard to reason against it but as this piece confirms I am finding it hard to argue against Marko’s theory.
What next? Mercedes badge on a Ferrari!
Inside Line by Paul Velasco