Morning After: Mercedes crisis of confidence deepens

Presented with his first real chance at a win since the 2016 Spanish Grand Prix, Max Verstappen made sure not to waste it when he cruised to victor at the Malaysian Grand Prix.

For any other driver, the notion that a second career victory at 20-years-old had been a long time coming would be a strange notion, but as we know, Verstappen isn’t just any other driver. He first showed us that by taking the same car Daniil Kvyat liked to park in the rear of Sebastian Vettel to the top step of the podium – now he’s reminded us with a very Vettel-like victory.

Just as the wunderkind before him liked to snatch the early lead and never let go, so did Verstappen in Malaysia. Making short work of Lewis Hamilton (and that itself is something you can’t say often), he enjoyed an essentially unfettered drive to the flag. It could hardly have been more different from his maiden victory, and certainly no more impressive.

As the Dutchman himself alluded to afterwards, the win has made a difficult year all the more palatable. At the same time, his own expectation will be that he won’t have to wait as long for his next one, and that is sure to put the pressure on Red Bull heading into 2018.

Mercedes Crisis of Confidence Deepens

Lewis Hamilton’s unlikely victory in Singapore may have temporarily disguised it, but Sunday brought back into focus the unmistakable fact that Mercedes are struggling.

Legitimately outpaced by the Red Bulls and Ferraris this weekend, the team has only been able to maintain competitiveness through the singular brilliance of Lewis Hamilton.

Speaking after the race, both Hamilton and team boss Toto Wolff conceded the W08 has been inferior to its rivals, with Wolff hinting the car struggles to keep tyre heat inside the optimal operating window.

Of course this is nothing new for Mercedes, having experienced similar issues in years past when racing in the Malay peninsula, and it seems to be something they’ve just come to accept.

The funny thing is, this all means far more to Ferrari than it does the presumptive champions. With the Silver Arrows’ struggles, the Scuderia could’ve hardly picked a worse time to start having reliability problems, which barring something miraculous, has doomed them for 2017.

Quick Hits

  • Interesting to see what could be interpreted as a bit of self-preservation from Hamilton and Vettel on Sunday. Both drivers had chances to get their elbows out with the Red Bulls but opted not to – maybe the performance wasn’t quite there, but both drivers would know the value of avoiding DNFs at this stage.
  • He hasn’t exactly covered himself in glory this season, but Sergio Perez’s P5 in the Malaysian heat while battling a virus was an impressively gutty performance from the Mexican
  • Nice to see Lance Stroll do his bit for the FIA’s road safety campaign, showing why you shouldn’t text and drive