Canadian GP Not the Turning Point in Mercedes' Dominance of 2014 F1 Season

Matthew Walthert@@MatthewWalthertFeatured ColumnistJune 9, 2014

MONTREAL, QC - JUNE 08:  Nico Rosberg of Germany and Mercedes GP drives during the Canadian Formula One Grand Prix at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve on June 8, 2014 in Montreal, Canada.  (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
Tom Pennington/Getty Images

It took seven races, but at the Canadian Grand Prix on Sunday a driver from a team other than Mercedes finally won.

Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo took the chequered flag for the first victory of his Formula One career. Mercedes' Nico Rosberg was second, while his teammate, Lewis Hamilton, retired with a rear brake failure.

Previously, Mercedes had been unbeatable in 2014, with the only blemish on their perfect season coming when Hamilton retired from the first race in Australia. 

In Montreal before the race, Red Bull team principal Christian Horner said, "In 2012 when we had a difficult start, we managed to turn that situation around and get ourselves back into that championship," per the Press Association's Ian Parkes via the Daily Mail.

"The task here is certainly bigger than that," Horner continued, "but nobody is giving up on anything."

Rosberg congratulates Ricciardo in Montreal.
Rosberg congratulates Ricciardo in Montreal.Tom Pennington/Getty Images

Despite the Red Bull boss's optimism, Ricciardo's surprising result at the Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve does not mark a turning point in Mercedes' dominance this year.

As the Silver Arrows demonstrated in qualifying and for the first half of the race, they are still lapping the field—literally, in many cases.

After the Monaco Grand Prix in May, where Mercedes scored their fifth-straight one-two finish, Sebastian Vettel said of the championship that, "Mathematically we are right in there," according to Gerhard Kuntschik and Jonathan Noble of Autosport.

But let's look at the math.

Even taking into account Ricciardo's victory and Vettel's third-place finish in Canada, Red Bull is still 119 points behind Mercedes in the Constructors' Championship. Even if the Bulls averaged a first- and third-place result at each of the season's 12 remaining races and we gave Mercedes an average of second and fourth, Red Bull would only win the championship by one point.

That is not going to happen. I wrote as early as the Malaysian Grand Prix that Red Bull has the second-best car on the grid, and that has not changed. They, or another team, may steal a few more races if Mercedes experiences more reliability issues, but no one is going to steal either of the championships.

Rosberg still finished second in Montreal, even without his Energy Recovery System (ERS) for half the race, which caused his brakes to overheat. One illustration of the gap that still exists from Mercedes to the rest of the field comes from the fastest laps each driver set during the race.

As usual, most drivers recorded their best laps near the end of the race, when their cars had almost no fuel remaining to weigh them down. Rosberg set the seventh-fastest lap and Hamilton the ninth, according to the FIA's timing data, but they did it before the halfway point (when their ERS was still functioning) with about twice as much fuel as the cars that set faster laps.

Next on the calendar is the Austrian Grand Prix. It is Red Bull's home race—in fact, the energy drink company owns the circuit—but it is another high-speed track, which bodes well for Mercedes.

Gremlins can strike at any time, particularly as the new power units do not yet have the reliability of their predecessors, but the Silver Arrows will still be the firm favourites.

Ricciardo's victory at the Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve has revitalised Red Bull and breathed new life into the season, but it has not changed the outlook for the championship. Something drastic would need to happen for Mercedes not to walk away with both titles in Abu Dhabi—or much sooner.


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