It is clear – Mercedes has fallen from its pedestal. For years they were superior, bad weekends could be camouflaged by their strong engine, but that is no longer the case. It will be interesting what the response will be in the team, because Toto Wolff and Lewis Hamilton are not used to this.
I really feel for Sergio Pèrez, it was very bad luck how he lost the lead. It really was a question of who would stop first, him or Charles Leclerc. In retrospect, one of the two was going to draw the short straw. Maybe there needs to be a rule change to deal with these situations. The advantage that is sometimes gained during a safety car situation is extremely unfair. Although I think Sergio would have lost the lead in the end even without the SC, his outlap was not great and he lost a lot of time. It is clear that the Red Bull goes like a bullet with the DRS open. Max Verstappen was able to keep attacking in Jeddah, where tyre wear is not an issue. Thanks to the tyres, the clashes went on lap after lap – it was a great show. It looks as if this is going to be the main battle, and that is really fantastic, it will be very exciting.
I was less impressed with Esteban Ocon. Why would you battle hard with your own teammate in the early stages of the race? You risk your own tyres and those of Fernando Alonso, and harm your team. Totally illogical, it made no sense. I also think that someone like Ocon who has been in Formula 1 for a while now should know by now when to fight and when not to fight so aggressively.
After the incidents on Saturday I was curious about how the race would go, and it was better than I expected. Apart from Ocon, everyone was calmer. Only Nicholas Latifi’s accident was strange; he seems to make these kinds of rookie errors rather often. It didn’t even look like an F1 accident, more like he was surprised by the new cars. Let’s put it this way – he always provides some excitement. Looking at the corner where Mick Schumacher crashed, I’m amazed that the experienced architects who designed this circuit didn’t realise how dangerous that corner is. You only have to look at a few photos to see that, calculations are not even necessary.
We can say that competing for the prizes is no longer an option for Mercedes. George Russell can still handle the car to some degree. Maybe that’s because of his years at Williams where he also had to drive a difficult car. But Lewis Hamilton is not coping at all. He’s always had a perfect car, he never had to push because they were so much faster. In the race yesterday he did alright, but on Saturday he was nowhere to be seen. The car does not seem to suit his driving style at the moment. You can make an engine stronger, but you can’t get extra horsepower that easily, and if the chassis won’t cooperate you have a problem.
The championship is a long way off for them. By the time they are competitive again, Leclerc and Verstappen will be much too far away. It will be interesting to see how the team responds. And what about at Mercedes HQ and at the offices of the sponsors, they are not used to this there either. And with the budget cap it will be difficult to change course.