There’s been a lot of speculation and gossip about the future of the Mercedes team since the start of the 2017 season. After three successive F1 title doubles, rival Ferrari has started to pull ahead of the team, most recently evidenced in Sebastian Vettel’s victory at the Monaco Grand Prix. The mood might be grim, but is it being made even worse by some claims that they’re not long for the world of competing in F1?
One man that might be the source of all the noise buzzing about Mercedes’ possible exit from the sport is the pundit, Eddie Jordan. Once a team owner and hands-on boss, there are few voices in the world of the sport whose words hold as much weight. That may be the one reason that the speculation has achieved any kind of traction. When asked if Ferrari’s Vettel would make the move to the team, his response was “Mercedes will probably pull the plug at the end of 2018” going as far to say that he would do the same. Since then, Mercedes have been reaching out to Formula 1 news sites saying that Jordan’s words are “baseless”. Merc boss Toto Wolff even went as far as calling the claims “mischievous speculation”.
But what prompted Jordan’s claim in the first place? The reasoning behind it is that Mercedes have already reached the pinnacle of the sport and won everything, so the only place to go is down. The idea that Mercedes might quite the sport isn’t entirely isolated to Eddie Jordan, either. As Dieter Renken states in a piece for Autosport, last year, manufacturers come and go in the sport. Some of it might be down to the controversy regarding the performance the W08, which has been called a “diva” by pundits like Mark Hughes due to unpredictability and the comparatively increased weight. The W08 is a new beast and might take some time to fully working out, perhaps even handing an advantage to Ferrari for some time to come.
The performance of the W08 has already raised some eyebrows with Lewis Hamilton’s latest result with the new car at Monaco. Hamilton was saying that he had the “most unusual” feeling during the Monaco Q2. Mercedes chairman Niki Lauda was quick to praise Valtteri Bottas’ performance instead, blaming the other result on complications with the set-up on Hamilton’s car. Not the greatest test of Mercedes’ latest tool in Formula 1, with them falling behind both Red Bull and Ferrari.
So right now, a 2018 exit from the sport might not look like a certainty. In fact, Mercedes can still take plenty of lumps after the three initial F1 title doubles of 2017. But there are plenty of doubts of how the team is handling the challenge of Ferrari and Red Bull’s lead at Monaco, their new vehicle, and shifts in public perception. Whether or not they do or do not drop out, this is looking like a rocky year for Mercedes already.