It’s not every weekend a team shows up freshly crowned double Formula 1 world champions, and it’s even rarer they still have something to prove.
Indeed, after their disappointing outing in Mexico, that’s exactly where Mercedes find themselves at this weekend’s Brazilian Grand Prix, but suffice to say they’re off to a good start.
Finishing FP2 with a 1-2 for the first time since Monza, Mercedes seem far from content to treat the remaining two race weekends as a test for next year, and that doesn’t bode well for Ferrari and Red Bull if they intend to spoil this extended victory lap.
With Lewis Hamilton leading Valtteri Bottas by just 0.048s, while remaining two-tenths ahead of Daniel Ricciardo in P3, the Silver Arrows seem poised for a strong weekend given their usual ramping-up on Saturdays.
Not only was this exactly what they needed after Mexico, but for Bottas in particular it’s a good sign, and hopefully one that suggests he can be a legitimate force in his own right this weekend – his last win in Austria was a long time ago now, and the pressure will only get bigger should he go win-less into 2018.
Toro Rosso Dismal Run of Luck Continues
Just when they need it most, it seems Toro Rosso’s luck seems to have run out.
Following a spate of engine problems in Mexico, Red Bull’s junior team were essentially forced to abandon FP1 after engine problems on both cars (including a failure to Pierre Gasly’s new MGU-H), leaving them decidedly behind the 8-ball.
Making matters worse, both drivers are expecting penalties heading into the race, which means the team’s chances of hanging onto their five-point advantage over Renault in the constructor’s standings are about as good as Daniil Kvyat making a Red Bull comeback.
Even discounting the championship implications, this is a particularly inopportune time to lose on-track running, given the newness of their driver line-up. Gasly has only contested three grands prix, Brendon Hartley two, and as we’ve already seen (particularly with Hartley) it takes a while for drivers to get up to speed. Assuming this is their driver partnership for 2018, the current situation is doing them no favours.
Speaking of Toro Rosso, happy 28th Birthday to Brendon Hartley – I’m sure puberty will kick in any day now
A solid overall debut for 19-year-old George Russell, who finished 0.593s behind Force India teammate Esteban Ocon
Forecast for Saturday: rain, easing off in the afternoon – will it be enough to affect qualy? Let’s hope so!