Mercedes are currently a team in transition. Having endured three largely disappointing seasons since becoming a manufacturer team in its own right, the Silver Arrows have invested heavily in securing some of Formula One’s most talented personnel.
The main talking point is the marquee signing of Lewis Hamilton, who joins the team as a replacement for the retired Michael Schumacher. Vast change has also occurred in the Mercedes management set-up, with Toto Wolff replacing Norbert Haug as the team’s Head of Motorsport and Niki Lauda joining as non-executive chairman.
It is hoped that these new arrivals will bring improved results on the track this season after the team ended last year struggling to score points. The year started well enough, with Nico Rosberg scoring the team’s first win since buying Brawn in 2009, but that proved to be a false dawn in terms of things to come, and an overreliance on the double DRS system led to Mercedes falling behind in the development race with its rivals. As a result, the team ultimately dropped to fifth place in the constructors’ championship.
Despite setting very impressive times in the final pre-season test at Barcelona, Mercedes still appears to be slightly behind its rivals on overall race pace, and with the team working flat-out to produce a car worthy of challenging when the new V6 turbo era begins in 2014, they may have to wait until then before Hamilton shows his true potential with his new team.
9) Nico Rosberg
After years of failing to take the chequered flag, Nico Rosberg finally achieved his first Grand Prix win last year when he won the Chinese Grand Prix.
Rosberg has consistently performed well since making his Grand Prix debut with Williams in 2006, yet despite outperforming Michael Schumacher in the three years they were teammates at Mercedes, doubts still remain over how fast the German actually is compared to the rest of the field.
With Lewis Hamilton joining Mercedes as his teammate, 2013 offers Rosberg his best chance yet to silence his doubters and prove to the world just how good he is, and with three years under his belt with the Silver Arrows, he has a very good opportunity to compete with the young Brit.
Rosberg showed in China that when Mercedes give him a car capable of winning, he is able to deliver the goods, and if the team can produce a machine that challenges on a more regular basis, you can bet that the 27-year-old will be right up there.
10) Lewis Hamilton
If you’d asked four years ago whether Lewis Hamilton would ever be in the position of leaving McLaren and joining another team you would have found it hard to believe, such was the Englishman’s status at the team with which he won the World Championship in 2008.
However, the relationship between the pair never surpassed the levels of that year and Hamilton has taken the brave step to move to Mercedes and attempt to turn around the fortunes of the Silver Arrows.
Widely regarded as the fastest driver in the world on raw speed, Mercedes offers Hamilton the perfect opportunity to show that he can take a team to the top, and if he can combine his blinding pace with consistent racecraft then a second world championship will not be out of the question during the Brit’s stint at the team.
Although 2013 may be too soon for Hamilton to challenge for the title, with Mercedes working more towards the new rules in 2014, you can bet that if he gets a sniff of any success, then he will grab the opportunity with both hands.
Hopes for the season
Despite the optimism surrounding Hamilton’s move to the team, 2013 looks to be one year too early for Mercedes to launch a full-on battle for the world title.
The Silver Arrows ended last season off the pace, and with very little regulation changes over the winter, it is unlikely that the team will have found enough team to challenge for honours this year.
However, in Hamilton and Rosberg the team has arguably the strongest driver line-up and in races where conditions are not ideal both men were very capable of challenging for podiums and victories.
With the top four teams all appearing to have had good pre-season campaigns, fifth looks to be a realistic aim for Mercedes once again.