Formula 1: Has Mercedes' dominance come to an end?
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The 2019 season domination of the Mercedes Formula 1 team was finally snapped in Austria.
The circumstances may have been unusual but the simple fact is the team was beaten, fair and square.
That domination has been the subject of criticism amid accusations that the team is ruining the sport by succeeding far too much.
That censure, in itself, is preposterous as they are the ones doing the best job and the rest of the grid should be criticised and accused for not being able to beat them.
The team are simply supreme, despite the slight hic-cup in performance.
This weekend we arrive at the former RAF World War 2 bomber base of Silverstone but it was thirty years ago, the 16th July 1989, when the Honda Marlboro McLaren Formula 1 team was in the throes of it’s own extraordinary period of dominance having won both the drivers and constructors world championship in 1988 (and all but one of that years Grand Prix) and would go on to clean sweep those titles in 1989 / ‘90 and ‘91.
It was also a race where the bitter divide between the top two drivers of the day, both driving for McLaren at the time, was in full swing.
Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna had seriously fallen out at the San Marino Grand Prix with Prost accusing Senna of disrespecting a pre race agreement.
It was a feud that was to rumble on until the 1993 retirement of Prost from F1 driving, after Senna signed to drive for the Williams team, the team that Prost was driving for, for 1994.
A feud that saw these two multi millionaire, world famous, heroic racing drivers, fighting a cold war over the use of the bathroom in the McLaren motorhome, or only speaking to one another through a third party.
Prost left the team for Ferrari at season’s end.
With all of this going on, there was still a feeling within the team of invincibility.
We were the best and we knew it!
As in all things however, that dominance would eventually pass into the record books as the rules and the circumstances changed.
The baton of superiority passed to the Williams team for a while then on to the Scuderia Ferrari and Red Bull teams to the present day Mercedes team.
But what that history teaches us is that dominance does not mean permanence.
The pendulum will swing in another direction at some point, as it always has.
However, in the past the rules of the game were not so absolute in engineering terms as today.
Teams were able to develop new ideas and new systems to gain advantage far more economically and with far more latitude than is possible in this present era.
With the exception of power units, it is difficult to see where the next single team innovation in design is coming from as the restrictive rules around the chassis design leave very fine parameters for invention, much less revolution.
The legendary single engineer / designing leaders of the past, Colin Chapman, John Barnard, Rory Byrne, Patrick Head and the like are now swallowed up in huge design ‘departments’ and it seems that Adrian Newey of the Red Bull team may be one of the last of the breed.
At some point - hopefully in the near future - the rules and regulations for the coming years will be published, giving a chance that they will allow different interpretations of design.
Sadly though I fear they will not be wide enough to allow another Brabham ‘fan car’ or six wheel Tyrrell or even the likes of the three pedal McLaren.
Those sorts of innovations have gone the way of Formula 1 driver’s freedom from ‘PR Speak’.